Yet again, school opening and vacation timings have changed. Academic session this year will begin from the first day of February, more or less.  Teachers will report to schools on  February 1 and students on February 3. This means schools will open early; winter vacation will be shortened by two weeks and summer break lengthened to a month.

This decision that was made at the National Education Conference in Phuentsholing, however, is not popular with many teachers and parents. They find it, the change in vacation timing, utterly senseless. It is argued that the change is made to give our teachers, who are heavily overworked, some breathing space, and to allow students to spend meaningful and quality time with their families during the summer vacation.

The argument does not hold water, at all. The change in vacation timing will not make our teachers any less burdened. Despite change in vacation timing, they will end up working more or less equal number of days. In fact, they will be compelled to rush to cover the syllabus, which will only affect teaching-learning process. Also, what will be taken away from our teachers is precious little time they get to update their skills and knowledge. They will have no time to attend workshops and training.

It is hard to agree with education officials who say that more than the teachers it is children who need long break. More than students, our teachers need “long break to get fully recharged”. Tired and burnt-out teachers do not perform. They do not stay. Losing teachers is one thing; losing seasoned and dedicated teachers is a thing entirely apart. Implications can be serious.

We are also told that change in vacation timing was made to allow students to go back home to parents in summer so that they can help with paddy transplantation. When the schools break for summer vacation, however, most of the farm works will have been done and there would be nothing pretty much to do.

What we need instead is a strategy to engage our young people gainfully, however short or long vacation they have in their hands. We have summer and winters programmes for students. We could have more. We can do more. The real challenge we face today is engaging our youth productively, particularly in towns and cities. Just a change in vacation timings cannot make this happen.