For students in Dubai, those weeks during the summer holidays is a period to just kick back and enjoy some well-deserved me time. Or is it? No doubt there will be plans on the roster to include trips abroad, play dates, visiting family… But many education providers in the UAE offer summer courses as well. Should students be sent on these courses then, or should summer be one long, unbroken session of fun? Education experts say that while such courses do offer benefits, achieving balance is crucial.
“There is a plethora of research to support the opinion that it’s important to keep young minds busy over the long summer holidays,” says Erika Elkady, Head of Secondary at Jumeirah Baccalaureate School in Dubai. “I’m influenced by Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, in which he proposes that the main factor in educational disparity is not a lack of resources but instead a difference in the amount of learning time. Students who are fortunate to be able to enjoy summer camps and extra subject classes are more likely to be successful than those who are not because they have been able to dedicate more time to learning and to the retention of information.
“Summer holidays in the UAE are notoriously long and as an educator I notice the difference between those students whose brains are kept engaged over the break compared to those whose haven’t — their reading and thinking speed is significantly lower. We call this the summer slide.”
AN UNSOUND MODEL?
Mark Steed, Director of Dubai’s Jumeirah English Speaking School, agrees. “Nine weeks out of school is not an educationally sound model — it’s too long a break from learning, and can mean children slip back.”
Elkady cites a primary benefit of subject enhancement courses as an opportunity to either avoid falling back or to catch up if improvement is required. If students attend a course in a subject in which they are struggling, she says, the resulting improvement in performance can boost confidence, as can being up to speed on their return to school in September.
Again, Steed agrees. “Enhancement courses may help consolidate school learning and mean there is less lost learning over F the summer period,” he says. However, he notes this learning — and therefore consolidation — doesn’t necessarily have to come from scheduled courses.
“There should be no real educational need for young people to enrol in enhancement courses over the summer; schools can easily set summer work, and there are many online platforms that can consolidate learning,” he explains.
Summer courses are a popular choice for parents with children following the International Baccalaureate curriculum, Elkady finds, and she notes benefits beyond the curriculum.
“There are a wide range of quality subject enhancement courses abroad that offer a fantastic opportunity for our older students to have a taste of living semi independently in a different country. Students normally enrol in these prior to finishing their IB diploma and starting a university course; they have the unique opportunity to see a different part of the world and meet people from other cultures, while remaining academically focused.” So It’s easy to understand why parents might consider subject enhancement courses for older children, particularly those struggling in key subjects or preparing for exams.
So, does this mean all parents should be signing their children up for the summer? A holistic approach is best, says Steed. “Children need opportunities to rest, to iStock Summer can be a great time for students to cover up deep-seated learning gaps in their curriculum The gap between school years is a long one — is it better for children to spend it their own way, or on structured study? Teachers tell Mark Steed JESS have time free from pressure to perform, and to organise their own play and activities as this develops important socialisation skills,” he explains. “This doesn’t happen if they are forever subjected to adult-directed and adult-supervised activities.”
Elkady agrees. “I’d highly recommend students participate in subject enhancement courses if family circumstances allow, and students want to,” she says. “However, I’d also be mindful that it’s important young people get a chance to rest over the holidays too. Brains need a break and a chance to switch off. Young people need to engage with unstructured time without turning to technology; boredom is important to foster creativity. It’s all about getting the right balance for a student’s well-being.”