Though Alberta has one of the best education systems in Canada and the world there is always the need to improve. Two leading countries in education are South Korea and Finland. The two countries stand at opposite ends of the spectrum as to the length of the school year.
The South Koreans school year begins in March and goes to February with a break in August. The school year is 230 days long with students attending from 8:30am to 4:00pm
Finland’s school year begins in the middle of August and concludes in June. The year is 190 days with the day beginning at 8am and ending at 2pm. Unlike South Korea students actually spend less time in classes than any country in the developed world.
Both countries do however hold teachers in high esteem. Finland requires all their teachers to hold a Masters in the subjects they teach.
Individuals that have been researching the factors that make an effective school are beginning to believe that extending the school day may be more effective than extending the school year.
There are a number of indications that a longer school day results in more learning time than extending the length of the year. Extending the school day can mean adding up to the equivalent of 35 extra days of schooling. Surveys taken indicate that 83% of parents and 72% of staff prefer a longer day to a longer year. Finally longer school days appear to be less expensive than longer school years.
A few years ago Our Lady of Mount Pleasant Catholic School in Camrose switched to a four-day school week by reducing lunchtime to 30 minutes and extended the school day to end at 3:50pm instead of the usual 3:15 or 3:20pm.
After three years the school community have accepted the format and like the advantages the format brings.
Students have discovered the additional class time allows them to work longer with teachers, have more time to do homework over the extended weekend, and in many cases an improvement in grades. Students thought the lunch break was too short, they felt tired by the time Friday rolled around, and they tended to become more “chatty” near the end of the extended periods.
To date the school has reported that academic results have remained constant, behaviour problems have reduced in number, and parents have reported an increase in quality time on weekends.
Will an extended school day or school year become the norm in the future? As more and more schools adopted an alternate school year and as parents adapt to the change in the format of the school year it is likely that the trend will continue to grow in acceptance particularly if student progress is maintained or increased.