Summer Learning Loss

Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.”  – Isaac Asimov.

Every year millions of students all over the world eagerly look forward to the long summer holidays.  In the tropics they are more likely to be called the long holidays.  When I was a boy, at the start of these holidays we would sing variants of the song: ” No more Latin, no more French, No more sitting on the hard school bench,” as we anticipated a couple of months of freedom to go to the beach, play all sorts of games, and have all kinds of fun.  It was one of our favourite times of the year.  However, both then and now, it is not a good idea to spend the entire summer vacation just having fun and watching television every day.

Empirical evidence shows that many students forget substantial portions of what they learned during the school year, over the summer holidays, if they are not involved in summer learning activities.  They definitely lose some of their reading and mathematical skills.  Various studies also indicate that this summer learning loss is worse among students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.  Probably because there is less intellectual stimulation and fewer learning resources in their homes.

Students need to maintain a viable level of academic engagement over the long summer holidays.  This prepares them for the higher demands of the following school year.  This helps them to keep pace with new curriculum requirements instead of falling behind at the start of the new school year.  Various studies suggest that students lose two to three months worth of learning during the summer if there is no academic stimulation.  The greatest learning loss occurs in mathematics.

To prevent or minimize summer learning loss, experts say that students must practice reading, solve a few mathematical problems and participate in enrichment activities for a short time every day during the summer holidays.  They recommend about thirty minutes of reading and a few (less than five) mathematical problems per day.  They also recommend regular visits to the library and museums.  Academic summer camps or programmes and educational tours can be very helpful.  Of course, parents and guardians must monitor or supervise these activities to ensure that students are really engaged.  In some cases a tutor may be useful.

Students can be allowed to choose some of the reading material.  Parents can question them about what they are reading.  Let them write short essays or stories from time to time.  For the mathematics parents can buy workbooks at the appropriate grade or form level.  Let the students work with the books which will be used during the next school year as soon as they become available.  There are many free online lessons and programmes in various subject areas and online educational games.  Students should be encouraged to spend a short time, on a regular basis, reviewing previous notes and corrected work.  They should focus on improving their weak areas.

The practices mentioned above are recommended by many educators and will keep students’ scholastic skills sharp over the long holidays and reduce or eliminate summer learning loss.  They will also help students to take responsibility for their own learning.  Fortunately, they will still have a lot of time left every day to have fun.