Extending The School Day: The Great Debate
The great thing about education is that we are always looking for ways to improve upon it for the sake of our students. Education will always attempt to transform to meet the dynamic needs of society. It is a constantly changing entity. I have personally seen a dramatic transformation in the education system over the last few decades. Such changes include the rise of virtual learning, blended learning, experiential learning and the increasing focus on differentiated instruction. Essentially, the list can go on for pages, but these are some of the more prominent ones which have taken place. However, there is one aspect of education and schooling which has been very slow to change…that is the structure of the school day. Indeed, there is currently a push to alter the typical school day by making it longer. As always, there are many points which can be made on both sides of the issue. By looking at this question in a balanced manner we should be able to determine if changing the structure of the school day would not only meet the needs of society, but more importantly, the needs of our students.
Increased Emphasis On Other Subjects: The curriculum and expectations of the education systems around the globe are quite challenging and extensive. There is no doubt that a huge emphasis is placed upon language and math. Many may argue that this focus comes at the expense of other subjects such as the arts and physical education. A longer school day would therefore enable schools to devote more instructional time and emphasis on the other subjects as well. This could in turn help our students to become more well rounded and even improve their overall development and well being as their creativity is developed and active living lifestyles are pursued.
Extra Support For Students: A common complaint for teachers is that there just never seems to be enough time in the current school day to help all the children. This is especially true for students who may be struggling or have special needs. Many teachers will welcome an extended day as it provides more instructional time which can be used within the timetable to help these children. This would also in turn address the inequity which is often inherent in the education system. Those parents who can afford it will often pay for tutoring for their children. Those who lack the funds for this see their children fall further behind. This could “level the playing field.”
Meet Societal/Family Needs: In many districts across the globe, school tends to start around 8:00 a.m. and ends at 3:00 p.m. This is a structure which has been around for eons and can be traced back to being developed in order to match an “agrarian schedule.” In today’s society it no longer really meets our needs. Adults are working longer hours away from their children. Also, both parents are now working in numerous cases which means children can no longer come home at 3:00 to a waiting parent. A longer school day can truly begin to meet the needs of a changing society and provide our students with extended supervision and instruction which will better prepare them for an increasingly complex society.
Financial Costs: Whether we like it or not, finances play a huge role when it comes to what happens with education. Extending the school day would come with a rather extensive list of new costs and expenses. For instance, teacher compensation would be increased, building facilities would have to be upgraded in many instances, and the utility operation costs for schools would soar. Considering the current cutbacks to schools which we are seeing worldwide right now, I am not sure how feasible incurring any new costs would be.
Less Time To “Be A Kid”: Many would argue that more time our kids spend in school means less time for them to do the extra activities outside of school time and “be a kid.” This could include the loss of organized events such as sports, music or special interests. It could also include just spending time with their friends and hanging out, thereby stunting the critical development of their social skills. Of course, opponents of this point would say that more time in school would mean extra time for teachers to run extracurricular clubs. There certainly is no guarantee of that however and the kids could end up losing out.
Organizational Change: As was pointed out at the outset of this article, changes to the structure of the school day have typically moved along at a snail’s pace. One of the overriding reasons for this is due to the sheer magnitude of the change. For instance, society has tended to “work around” the traditional setup. Business and tourism relies heavily on the current organizational structure. Also, with the increasing costs of post-secondary education, students rely on the shorter days and holiday vacations to earn extra money. Changing the current structure of the school day could impact both quite drastically. As well, there would need to be consensus amongst the education workforce. Many are already feeling overworked and underpaid and may not respond very well to proposed changes which would lengthen their current working day.
Society has changed…there is little doubt about that. The demands being put upon educators to adapt and prepare our students for this altered and challenging society have evolved as well. Nevertheless, the reason the structure of the typical school day has taken so long to change is due to the very complex nature of the task. There simply is no “one size fits all” for this question. Things may change…but it is still going to take time and will utlitmately be based upon the needs of various locations and jurisdictions.
I would love to know your thoughts about this issue. Just hit the comment link at the top of the page and send them along!
Boyd, Hannah. What’s to Gain with a Longer School Day? http://www.education.com/magazine/article/Kids_Need_More_Time_Learn/
Garrett, Rose. Forget 8am-3pm: Here Comes The Longer School Day http://www.education.com/magazine/article/School_Days_Longer/
Bean-Mellinger, Barbara. Pros vs. Cons of Extended School Days http://education.seattlepi.com/pros-vs-cons-extended-school-days-1571.html
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