We've made it through another year and the lazy days of summer beckon us into the great outdoors. At least, that's what the cartoon characters Calvin and Hobbes would have us believe is supposed to happen. 'Happy holidays,' says the Hong Kong teacher, 'See you next week!' Almost every school-aged child in this city will undergo some kind of formal instruction in the weeks between now and September because school here is never out. Given that Hong Kong's summers are hot, humid and often rainy, some degree of organised activity is probably a good idea. At least it will keep the children away from the boredom of matchbox-like apartments or 24-hour online gaming. But how much 'school' is 'too much school' during what is supposed to be holiday time? At some stage, we all need to be able to manage our leisure time and to find pleasure in self-directed activities, an important life skill. Parents need to consider the various holiday options. For children who've had a stressful academic year, a creative or an adventurous programme could put some balance back into their lives. For those who've been bored and under-challenged at school, the holidays could offer extension and enrichment opportunities. For those who've endured personal suffering, a relaxing and rejuvenating experience is needed. Unfortunately, this is not the way that most Hong Kong parents will decide on summer programmes. Most of their decisions will be based on dates, dollars, duration, and direct academic 'pay-off'. 'More of the same!' is the Hong Kong mantra. If a child is not doing well in a subject such as mathematics or physics or music, then their holiday fate is sealed. Many parents see the summer holidays as a time for their youngsters to boost their collections of certificates and fatten up their curriculum vitae. A well-known first aid certificate, which might do wonders for a child's self-esteem, probably will be bypassed, because there is no obvious one-to-one academic pay-off. If that same first aid course were to be taught in English, would that make a difference in parental thinking? It might for a few, but most Hong Kong parents will opt for 'English-straight' rather than 'English-light', when given the choice. If boosting children's English is really a holiday priority for parents, then I can't stress too highly the longer-lasting benefits of learning to do something they'd really enjoy through the medium of English. Isn't that what EMI schools are all about? They want to enrol children who can learn through the medium of English. Learn sailing in English. Learn basketball in English. Learn pottery in English. Learn computer skills in English. Why not learn some mathematics in English? A child who has had to use English to tap into an expert instructor's knowledge and experience in an activity that they already enjoy, is a child who will experience 'double happiness' in their summer holidays. It is not necessary to send one's child all the way to Canada, the US or the UK to 'immerse' them in English. Too often, they will just link up with other Cantonese-speaking children. English immersion is quite possible right here in Hong Kong. As consumers, Hong Kongers are experts at finding 'two-for-one' bargains. This economical approach can also be taken in the selection of summer courses. I know that if I were interviewing a child for entry into an EMI school, I would be far more impressed with the young lady who could tell me, in English, about the drama workshop that she attended in the summer holidays, than the near-mute who might present me with her laminated grammar certificate. Pauline Bunce teaches humanities subjects at an international school.