Early burnout, stress, and nervous breakdowns — this is what experts fear Mumbai children will suffer from if schools deprive them of their two-month-long summer vacation by starting the academic year early.
The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights recently asked schools to let children enjoy their summer break, a request educators and child development specialists in Mumbai are keen to enforce.
Parents of high school students raised concerns over Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Indian Council of Secondary Education (ICSE) schools holding classes for the new academic year during April or May. They said this will deny children the opportunity to enjoy, relax, refresh, play, and acquire extra-curricular skills.
Acting on behalf of these complaints, the commission on April 22 issued immediate orders to Kerala schools, asking them to stop vacation classes. It asked the principal secretary of the state school education department to examine the issue of vacations in the context of child rights. It also ordered schools to fix the maximum days during which summer camps and workshops can be held.
The commission said vacations enable a child to develop skills that are essential for healthy and meaningful life. Such skills cannot be found between the two pages of a book, it added.
“The concept of a vacation has always been integral to the education system,” reads the order. “It was well recognised that a child must be given opportunities, not only for formal learning at school, but informal learning to develop life skills, to interact and socialise with others and nurture a talent for arts, sports,” it continues.
Terming this a ‘landmark order in child rights’, educators and child specialists in Mumbai said it should be made applicable to the entire country. “Schools across India are cutting their vacations short to complete the syllabus. It is just as important that they get a sufficient break from academic pursuits,” said Dr Dhaval Mody, psychiatrist and clinical psychologist with Vrudhi Research Foundation.
According to Mody, loss of holidays can lead to psychological and psychiatric issues. “Close to 50% of mental health-related issues manifest themselves between 14 and 17 years of age, while 75% occur between 18 and 24 years,” said Mody. “This happens because of exhaustion and mental pressure,” he added.
On the other hand, schools said that while many of them consciously try to give students longer summer breaks, the purpose is defeated as parents sign them up for coaching classes during that period.
“If we don’t hold summer classes, parents send children for tuitions, which is a big menace. We often advise against it, but parents do not listen to us,” said Zeenat Bhojabhoy, principal, Jamnabai Narsee School (ICSE), Vile Parle (West).