Monday, July 19, 2004

St. Lca: Cutting August holidays short

The Education Ministry last week announced that school summer vacation would be drastically cut. Vacation, which normally spans from about mid-July to early September, roughly eight weeks, is to now end on August 30.

The reason?

“The ministry has, in the past, noted the negative impact which events such as Carnival and the departure of teachers to mark CXC Examinations are having on the education system,” a June 29 press release from the Ministry of Education read. “It is clear that instructional activities wind down significantly after June 30 each year, as a consequence of the aforementioned events.

“In order to achieve maximum instructional days, the ministry has reconfigured the 2004/2005 academic year to commence on August 30, 2004 and end on July 8, 2005. Principals and teachers are hereby informed that the week commencing August 22 be designated for planning and professional development for the coming year.”

Not only did the bad news disappoint kids and parents eagerly awaiting a long sabbatical from the hassle of those endless school days, the teachers weren’t having it either!
According to Urban Dolor, president of the St Lucia Teachers’ Union, there were many other options, besides cutting vacation time, available to the Education Ministry.

“The minister ought to have consulted us on a matter of legislature. The work plan published last year indicated that the next school year would begin on September 6. Everyone—parents, teachers and students—made plans with the knowledge they would have to return by early September to begin the school year. In fact, the ministry even gave teachers permission to be away from the state until August 29. There is also a course sanctioned by the ministry that ends somewhere around August 12. Teachers now have a one-week period for vacation. The teachers are complaining that they cannot be expected to return on August 22, and I agree with them.
The Eucation minister, whoever he is, needs his head examined. This is a bad decision all round, especially for those teachers who go to mark CXC.

CXC exams are marked over a very intense and draining two-week period in July. Teachers usually leave just a day after the school year that ends, in July, to mark CXC. There's no pause for unwinding. Standardization of marking begins the after arrival, in whatever country in which one will mark exam papers (marking for the various subjects is spread all over the Caribbean), and extends from 8AM-4PM. Marking occurs six days a week during those same hours.

At the end of the marking period, all one is good for is vegetating, and the August month is too short a time to recuperate from both the school year AND CXC marking.

Somebody in the Ministry of Education needs his head examined if he thinks he'll get a more hard-working teaching staff by shortening the vacation period.

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