Classes, camps and other creative holiday activities
July 22, 2004
LAST year, Nigel, a lad who had performed moderately well at the SSEE tests, gained a place at a high school in the City, and in the first term, showed promise. Unfortunately, by the end of the academic year last month, Nigel (not his real name), was averaging just 35 per cent in most of his subjects. Undaunted, Nigel’s mother with the assistance of overseas relatives, enrolled her son in ‘summer’ classes at an educational facility in Georgetown. And in less than two weeks, Nigel’s quality of work has shown all-round improvement. What’s more, when Nigel comes home from ‘summer’ classes, he hastens to have his snack and do what few chores are assigned to him so that he could complete his homework and also prepare for the next day’s learning sessions.
To the casual observer, Nigel does not really have a learning problem. His seeming inability to perform creditably in the formal learning system could be rooted in that system’s failure to sufficiently engage his intellect, challenge his thought processes and afford him an opportunity to express his ideas and impressions about the world around him. And this is understandable. Many teachers in the public education sector are unable to give each child the level of attention and tutoring that might be required to elicit the necessary responses for creative learning. Burdened more often than not with scores of active and hyperactive children, some teachers expend more time and energy on techniques of class control than on the finer points of teaching. Having to deal also with a rising groundswell of opinion against various forms of discipline as well as the opposite extreme of teenage students threatening physical violence against authority as represented by the class teacher or form mistress, some educators can hardly be blamed for choosing the least line of resistance in the schoolroom. This may mean that they just go through the motions of teaching, and those who are interested in acquiring knowledge and understanding respond by listening attentively, and doing their assignments and homework. The pupils or students not interested in the learning process would just ignore the orders of the teacher, and, consequently, drift through the education system.
A generation ago, the notion of someone going to school during the month of August was one that elicited guffaws. Today, however, the long school vacation from early July to early September (now described as ‘summer’) is increasingly viewed as the perfect period in which slow-learners, and those, who have to repeat classes or forms could, like the little bee in the poem, “improve each shining hour” by putting in extra sessions of studies. The July/August holidays also offer excellent opportunities for children and teenagers to participate in various camps. While 30 years ago, most of the youths going to camps were members of the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides or Cubs and Brownies today there are camps to meet a range of expectations. Better still, the camping arrangements offer adequate accommodation away from home without the drudgery and hardships of primitive camping. Children and teenagers are monitored through programmes of activities designed to sharpen their mental faculties, teach them useful skills, and encourage teamwork and the development of leadership abilities. Outings, especially those sponsored by churches, inculcate a sense of moral values, while sensitising older teens to the critical choices they would have to make in order to achieve career goals and meaningful lives.
For those families, which, for one reason or another, opt not to send their children away from home for days or weeks, there are also one-day camp sessions conducted by churches and church-related groups in various neighbourhoods. At these activities, children participate in group projects to sing, dance, perform dramatic skits, and to produce items of handicraft and works of art. At the end of each day, the participants emerge from their activities with their minds stimulated and ready for the next intellectual and physical engagement. These are just some of the creative ways in which children like Nigel could improve their learning and increase their skills during the long school vacation.