Santokh Singh
Tue, May 20, 2008
The New Paper
School principals, give yourselves a break

DEAR principals, please give yourselves a break.

And in the process, give your teachers and other staff a break.

More importantly, give your students a break.

And, most importantly, give us parents a break.

After all, that is why the Ministry of Education (MOE) include the school holidays in the school calendar - to give everyone a break.

In fact, in some education circles, it's called a term break.

In other words, a break from the usual routine of getting up early in the morning, packing the kids off to school where they follow a routine time-table and then attend remedial or enrichment classes, followed by their co-curricular activities (CCAs).

My appeal comes on behalf of hundreds of parents of thousands of kids and dozens of teacher friends.

Trust me when I tell you that they all want a break.

Let me share with you some of the conversations I've had with all of these quarters, starting with my own family's planning process for a vacation during the upcoming school holidays.

And the way discussions have gone the past two weeks, it looks like our family vacation is not going to materialise.

No thanks to a daughter who is sitting for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), and two sons who are heavily involved in either the school's hockey squads, community involvement programmes or enrichment classes.


The girl has either English or Mother Tongue remedial classes for almost the whole of the first and fourth weeks of the holidays.

A friend argued that the decision to send the girl for the classes was mine to make. I beg to differ. It is the girl's to make, and being the obedient school prefect who believes in leading by example, she does not want to skip school.

And the wife, who's a teacher, made a valid point.

"If the teachers can make the effort to plan for the lessons, sacrifice their own holidays and conduct the lessons, the least the student should do is to attend those classes," she argued.

And the same should go for the coaches and teachers-in-charge of the younger boy's hockey squad. Facing the challenge of the schools national tournament immediately after the holidays, he is determined to join every training session - three times a week throughout the holidays.

And the missus has her own holiday classes, structured almost similar to the term time-table.

Which means that we still have to finalise our holiday plans, barely two weeks away.

The consolation is that we are not the only ones.

Speaking with friends who are either parents or teachers, it seems to be an issue with quite a few, especially those who are converts to the establishment's pro-family policies.

A teacher-friend's telling comments seem to be representative.

He said: "It all boils down to the principals. There are quite a few schools that do not have structured holiday lessons.

"They trust their graduating pupils to do their own studying in the holidays. It is an enlightened approach. Sadly, we don't have enough of them in the service."

I agree.


That is why I made an appeal last year for the MOE to shut all schools down for at least two weeks.

But I had forgotten then that the Ministry, in the light of autonomy, leaves such decisions to the school leaders.

So now, I repeat the appeal to principals.

Please give the kids, their teachers and parents a break.

In the process, please give yourselves a break.

You deserve it for all the hard work you put in during the 10 weeks between the holidays.

This article was first published in The New Paper on May 18, 2008.

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