"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Recess as a Favorite Subject" May Sound Funny, But Seriously, It Is Important

With increasing focus on reading, writing and arithmetic, schools may be forced to emphasize these subjects. Of course, advocates from the arts, music and social studies likewise highlight the importance of these disciplines in early childhood education. For a holistic approach, structured physical exercises (physical education) are also required. Instructional hours can be lengthened to add more learning activities. All of these aim to provide higher quality education to children. It is true that this could be overdone such that parents may start needing to make an appointment just to see their children. In countries whose students do very well in international standard exams, especially the Asian ones, there is a concern that students are being overworked in schools. Some students in these countries not only spend most of their time inside schools on academic subjects but also at home with extensive tutoring.

Children do need a break. Children need to experience childhood. In the poor neighborhoods of developing countries, children are forced into labor while in the middle class neighborhoods of developed countries, children become slaves to highly structured daily routines. It would really be sad to see a world where all children have been deprived of their childhood.

School children in the Philippines doing laundry during their break
Some children are even less fortunate. These children work when they are not in school, and in school, these children also do not get the break that they badly need. The overcrowding of some schools in the Philippines has forced multiple shifts. Triple shifts are now possible because instructional hours have been reduced:
From Rappler: Based on the curriculum guide provided by DepEd, the incoming grade 1 students will be taking up 6 subjects for an entire school year. Each subject will be taught for a maximum of 40 minutes per day:
Reading and Writing in the Mother Tongue - 40 minutes
Oral Fluency in Filipino - 40 minutes
Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao (EsP) - 30 minutes
Mathematics or Arithmetic - 30 minutes
Araling Panlipunan (AP) - 30 minutes
Music, Arts, Physical Education, Health (MAPEH) - 30 minutes 
When the second half of the school year comes, a 7th subject, Oral Fluency in English, will be introduced. This subject will be taught for 40 minutes.
Thus, with the oral fluency in English added in the second half of the year, the total instructional time per day is 240 minutes or 4 hours. This information can then be combined with the following schedule found in schools that employ triple shifts:
It's shortly after dawn, but the youngest pupils in overcrowded Ilugin Elementary School in Pasig City are already in class. Ilugin's grade one students are part of the first shift in a school that needs to schedule classroom use in three shifts to accommodate all 1,800 of its students. The first shift begins at 6 a.m., ending at 10 a.m., while the last shift starts at 2 p.m. and ends at 6 p.m. - GMA News report:
Each shift is four hours long. Of course, a 12-hour day can only be divided into three 4-hour shifts with no breaks between them. Physical Education is part of MAPEH, so students probably go through some physical exercise once every four days since MAPEH rotates around music, arts, physical education, and health. Not only does the new curriculum excludes science, and reading and writing in English, it does exclude Recess.

At the end of the last year, concerned that education reforms in the United States may be overemphasizing the academic side of education, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement on "The Crucial Role of Recess in School":
Abstract
Recess is at the heart of a vigorous debate over the role of schools in promoting the optimal development of the whole child. A growing trend toward reallocating time in school to accentuate the more academic subjects has put this important facet of a child’s school day at risk. Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical beneļ¬ts that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education—not a substitute for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.  Pediatrics  2013;131:183–188

Some children are not taught science. Some children are not taught how to read and write. Some children are working when they are not in school. Some children do not have Recess. Some children are indeed less fortunate.




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