THE IMPORTANCE OF VACATIONS IN EDUCATION
I was in Edinburgh University in 1987-88 to do M Sc in Applied Linguistics. I was on British Council scholarship. During this period, apart from doing my course work I was able to observe the education system there from close quarters.
School education there is free. The government bears the cost. If I had taken my children with me they too would have got free education. The parents, therefore, don't spend a penny on their children's school education. At 18, one finishes school and becomes an educated responsible citizen. He or she is ready to either enter life and take a vocation or go for university education. They are deemed fit to take their decisions on their own. For example, before 18, they cannot smoke, they cannot drink. After 18, they can, if they wish to. Nobody can stop them.
If they choose to go for university education, they can do so. But they have to be on their own. They don't depend on their parents. This means that those who do go for higher education have proper motivation to pursue education and thus improve and enhance the quality of life for themselves and, if possible, contribute to society, country and humanity. They go for higher studies because they want to and not because they have to (which undesirably and unfortunately is the case, particularly in India, in the sub-continent and, perhaps, in other developing countries).
In an academic session there, there are three semesters of 10 weeks each. Each semester is followed by a four week vacation. At the end of the third semester the undergraduates go for a 14 week summer vacation. The postgraduates who have qualified themselves through project works and written exams are allowed to write dissertation. Generally, they have to write 3 projects, 2 portfolios (equal to 1 project) and take two written examinations.
During the vacations, the students (both boys and girls) go out to seek work to earn enough money to be able to pursue studies on their own. They work part time/full time in restaurants, shops, airports, petrol pumps...anywhichwhere...that gives them money. The girls don't hesitate to work in pubs, the boys, too, do hard work like gardening or baby-sitting.
Thus, the ratio of 30 week work and 22 week vacation is very constructively utilized.
Here, it should be appropriate to relate that during semesters the classes are held 5 days a week. On Mondays and Tuesdays, a one hour lecture is followed by an hour of pre-tutorial and that is followed by an hour of tutorial. The tutors, too, listen to the lectures and are thus prepared for the tutorials. In the pre-tutorials the students in their tutorial groups select the problem areas in the lecture and prepare for the tutorials. In the tutorials, the tutors guide them to sort out specific problems, if any. On Wednesdays, there are no classes. The students go to the library to finish off with the inputs of the lectures that were truly followed by pre-tutorials and tutorials. Thursdays and Fridays are like Mondays and Tuesdays, except that on Fridays, they have lectures by visiting professors instead of tutorials. On Saturdays, the students can go to the library. What is noticeable, here, is the fact that the follow up of the lecture input is more than three times in respect of time duration.
The evaluation of the students' work during the year is done internally. Two teachers in the department evaluate the projects and the portfolios and the written examination scripts. They cannot fail a student but can recommend failure. There is one external examiner appointed for all the universities for a subject every year. This external examiner checks the cases of recommendation for failure. The external examiner can call the candidate for interview to make sure that no injustice is being done to the candidate.
In 87-88 only two candidates failed in the department, one in Applied Linguistics and one in English Language Teaching.
After the external examiner's report, a committee investigates why the candidate failed. The committee's report is sent to the sections concerned like Materials Production (related to curriculum/syllabus design, testing and evaluation, teaching, accommodation, etc) to get to know the cause of failure so that it can be rectified in the next session.
They understand the importance of education and work culture that accommodates work and leisure. The students, too, understand how to convert leisure into resource to pursue higher education.
Their syllabuses change every year according to the needs of the students. The students record their wants and expert educationists analyse their wants to find out what, in fact, they need. This is known as want-need analysis.
They have small and honest syllabuses to follow. Therefore, they get honest and big results!