For the love of God, someone put me on a panel or committee so I can come up with ludicrous conclusions and get paid a bucket-load of money for it. I would be SO great at that job. There was an article in the paper this week that stated, “Findings presented at the Australian Council for Educational Research’s annual conference yesterday claim NAPLAN results show a solitary day off can lead to a decline in academic performance. Unsurprisingly, principals have been quick to warn parents against taking children on a holiday during school term.” I don’t even know where to begin…
What “findings” and who presented them? Who did the research? I’m assuming whoever conducted this study did some kind of comparison between absenteeism and NAPLAN results. How many schools were in the sample? Were they Private? Public? Selective? Religious? Primary School? High School? What socio-economic areas were covered? Were country schools included? Considering how many other factors come into play with the NAPLAN exams themselves, I just can’t get my head around the connection. NAPLAN tests only two subjects; some schools spend weeks teaching to the NAPLAN topics and format; some schools actually ask their ‘less academic’ students to stay home; some parents won’t allow their children to even sit for NAPLAN; some children will be so nervous they ‘choke’. The whole premise is just rubbish.
And it’s interesting that the only connection made was taking kids out of school for holiday trips. What about when they’re sick? After absolutely no research, I guarantee at least 75% of children have at least one day off a year for colds, gastric bugs and whatever else happens to be going around at the time. Apparently they will all be academically disadvantaged; bereft of all hope of ever catching up on those six lessons they missed. My son was absent from school for over a week when he had his appendix removed two years ago but is somehow still managing to do exceedingly well. What about when the kids go away to camp and DON’T DO LESSONS FOR A WHOLE WEEK? Schools should now recognise what irreparable damage they are doing and cease such activities immediately. This point also serves to show how hypocritical it is of some schools to frown upon taking children out during term but are quite happy to send them off to school camps.
We’re very lucky our son attends a school which is very accommodating in that regard especially if it is an overseas trip. Beyond the academic, their stated mission is to send well-rounded young men into the world and what classroom could be better than the world in helping to achieve that aim. If you look at everything as an opportunity to learn, even a trip to Disneyland can be viewed in terms of cultural exploration, a chance to practice social skills or a means of conquering fear. (Stomach-churning rollercoasters anyone?) At the opposite end of the spectrum, one of my girlfriends lived in London for a few years and the primary school her kids attended was reform-school strict. Her mother was quite ill and to take them out one week early to return to Australia almost required production of a doctor’s certificate to confirm the gravity of her illness. Ridiculous.
Who better than Albert Einstein, who was not too shabby in the brains department, to provide the last word: “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.“