Once again, Michael Gove is posing as the ‘moderniser’ . He now wants to persuade us that we need to bring the length of school holidays in line with those in Asian Pacific economies like Singapore and Hong Kong. So as to ‘raise standard.
As argued in The Great Reversal, Gove’s attempt to cherry pick policies from elsewhere is highly selective and a little dishonest. For example, high performing, but league table free Finland, a country that after featuring in earlier policy statements has been gradually dropped as a blue print for reform, has 11-week summer breaks. Students and teachers in neighbouring Sweden struggle along with just ten!
Most teachers would also welcome the relaxed atmosphere of Finland’s classrooms rather than the rote learning and fact regurgitation, not to mention the stress and parental obsession that is associated with school systems in many Asian Pacific countries.
There are many other reasons for the high growth rates in the Asian Pacific economies that have little to do with their education programmes – including differences in wage levels, employment laws and labour rights for example. In fact there is no conclusive evidence about what sort of education systems produce the most economic growth and development.
Getting back to the issue of holidays. Independent schools in England and Wales, which have longer summer holidays certainly don’t feel the need to reduce them or increase their hours for that matter, while at Oxford and Cambridge universities, students attend for less than half the year. There’s a debate to be had about whether all school terms should be the same length and on how school buildings can be made more available for community activity during school holidays. But on this one, Gove really takes the biscuit.