No School on Saturday

One regret I have from my childhood is not having spent enough time with my parents. I thought I would get all the time in the world to be with them once I finish my school. I didn’t see this coming. After school came college and then came my job and in between I lost my stepfather. Now I only get to meet my mother for less than a month each year. Soon life will be over.

The cycle continues with my daughter. She is in school six days a week and returns home exhausted. We wait for her till afternoon on Saturdays to go anywhere. Sundays are full of activities, mostly going around and before we figure out how to make smart use of the lone family day in a week she will be gone to college. Then we will be gone.

Can we not have school on Saturday? So that by Friday evening we feel so relaxed and for the next two days children can do the real things in life. Even children in hostel could undertake various vocations or visit home and do real things that really matter in life. Across the world, in all countries known for their best education systems children don›t go to school on Saturdays. In fact children are not given homework during the weekends.

Ever since Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk took office as the new Education Minster I felt a sudden gush of energy in the Education Ministry. People are motivated and therefore things are going to change. Many positive changes that are on dusty paper are finally going to flow into schools. But often in the name of change we push for more. It’s the natural way but did it work so far? We have overloaded schools with news things when they haven’t figured out how to do the old thing very well.

For once could we try lesser in the name of change? Because we have never tried that, let›s take away Saturday from the school week. It will avoid school-fatigue in students, and the lesser they get to be in school the more they will appreciate their time in school. Moreover, since we talk a lot about youth issues perhaps we should give them more family time to sort things out. School is taking lot of family time away from them, and perhaps we should stop thinking that the school has all the solutions. We don›t, it›s proven.

As for the teachers, they are exhausted and often frustrated people and so they deserve good rest over the weekend just like any civil servant, if not more, which actually should have been the case. They need time with their own children as well. What›s the use if at the end of the day your own children are deprived of everything you boast to have given to your students. Therefore there can be no greater incentive than Saturday with their own family

In Finland, the number one education system in the world, teachers only work for 570 hours in a year, half that of the United States and third of ours. Our teachers work 1,440 hours in a year. But where are we in comparison? Therefore less is more. If anything should be more it should be the salary because in Finland (again) teachers are paid almost Nu.5,600 per hour. They earn our monthly salary in half a day. So let’s forget about the salary, and concentrate on Saturday because it›s possible.

Other civil servants who have their Saturdays off don›t really get to relax because they have to prepare their children for school and drop them to school. Then wait till afternoon to go anywhere. So even when so many offices are closed on Saturday we still see traffic jam because the schools are open.

I had this on my mind for the longest time but now it seems the right time to share because of the optimism that has come with the new minister. So I hereby request the Education Minister to consider removing things from our system instead of adding them and in this spirit let Saturday be the first thing to be removed.

By Passang Tshering

The writer is a Teacher at the Royal Academy in Paro

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