THE year-end holidays for 2016 were the shortest compared to previous years. They began on the last week of November and end in the first week of January.
The year-end holidays were shortened last year to enable extra days for teachers and children to celebrate Hari Raya Puasa, Chinese New Year and Deepavali. Unlike previously, these extra days need not be replaced.
Soon after Christmas most schools started preparing for the new academic year. Teachers were sent notices and SMS-es requesting them to be back in school to draw up timetables and others. Some schools even held long meetings last week.
Many teachers had to cut short their holidays or reschedule their plans, to attend the meetings. Having meetings in the last week could disrupt holiday plans and family gatherings.
In the 1970s and 80s, teachers were hardly recalled to school during the holidays. They only returned to school on the first day of school and there was a lot of camaraderie, laughter and goodwill in the staff room as teachers and head teachers reunited after the long break.
Meetings were held on the first week of school during or after school. Books and stationery were dispensed to the children during the first week. School prefects were told to take charge during staff meetings that usually took less than an hour.
Registration of Year One and Form One students took place on the first week of the school term. Parents could come any time during the week to register their children.
Children were given much time during the first week to mingle and communicate with one another and share their experiences.
Formal lessons would only begin in the second week. There was so much fun and it was a wonderful feeling for teachers and children alike.
Today, there is a lot of stress and tension placed on teachers and children from the get-go.
Two years ago, there was a report about a kindergarten teacher who collapsed and died in her classroom during the first week of the new term.
There is no fun in going back to school. It is all structured and rigid. When formal lessons begin on the first day, it is not surprising to see small children yawning and falling asleep in class.
Children are not machines or robots; they need to be given space and time to digest new knowledge and information, and to slowly adapt to the school system.
There are over 200 school days in the academic year. There is no need to rush the children and teachers on the first week of school.
Many of us came from the old system which worked well.
Make children run to school and walk home and not walk to school and run home. Bring the fun back in school for both teachers and children.