Face Off: Is Hong Kong’s “early summer break” a good move for students?

  • Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a showdown that does not necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint
  • This week, they debate whether moving up the summer holiday for coronavirus testing will be helpful for the city’s teens
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Many students were upset when the government announced it would move up summer break to start in March, instead of June or July like usual, in order to use school campuses for mass coronavirus testing. Photo: Dickson Lee

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For: Victoria Kong, 15, Yew Chung International School

There is no doubt that the early summer break has helped prioritise the physical and mental well-being of students.

During the past two years, students have been learning online for long periods of time while being subjected to tight restrictions on social gatherings.

Stress among Hong Kong’s students and teachers has risen to worrying levels during the pandemic, according to news reports.

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With the early summer holiday, the government can use school campuses as testing and vaccination venues to tackle the worsening fifth wave of infections.

You might say, why not continue with online learning during the mass screening drive?

But a Hok Yau Club study that measured pupils’ stress levels ahead of last year’s HKDSE suggested the pandemic had taken a heavy toll on their mental health.

The respondents said the health crisis had affected their motivation and concentration, adding that they believed the switch to online learning had a negative impact on their studies.

Schools had already shifted online before the government made the announcement about summer holiday. Photo: Shutterstock

Therefore, an early summer break can help reduce their stress levels and prepare them for upcoming school exams.

In addition, teachers will not be allowed to return to campus during the Covid-19 testing drive because of the risk of being exposed to the virus.

If online learning continues as the government conducts mass testing in school premises, it will put teachers in a difficult situation. They will not be able to return to school under any circumstances, not even to retrieve their materials, or any other important matter. This could disrupt students’ learning.

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Parents might be concerned about their children being denied a proper education because of the early holiday.

Yet, according to Secretary for Education, Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, the new arrangement only shifts the learning order and should not reduce the overall learning hours of students.

Our health should be given priority before anything else, as can be seen from the way the early summer holiday helps safeguard students’ and teachers’ safety.

Everyone deserves a break!

Students and teachers say bringing forward summer holidays will disrupt their learning

Against: Hannah Wu, 16, Island School

Amid the worsening fifth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government announced last month that schools must start their summer holiday from early March and resume classes after the Easter holiday ending on April 18.

Students from international schools are exempt because our curriculum is different to that of public schools. We are allowed to have online lessons until the Easter holidays, which is a huge relief to students who will be taking public exams within the next few weeks.

From a student’s perspective, an early summer break is one of the most disruptive measures implemented during the pandemic.

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Although for some students, external or public exams may not be a concern, the change in the school calendar could have major ramifications for our studies. For example, when the academic year is cut short for an early summer break, teachers have to accommodate this change by finishing the curriculum early, or stopping it halfway. This could result in students not being able to understand topics properly and falling behind in class.

To many students sitting for public exams this year, the early summer break could be disastrous for their future prospects. Public exams are very stressful and any reduction in teaching hours could lead to lower grades.

Outside school, an early summer break can affect students’ extracurricular activities and opportunities for higher education as well.

Students and teachers have said that the move could have a serious impact on their learning and teaching schedules. Photo: Dickson Lee

A normal summer holiday from June until the end of August doesn’t just serve as a break for students; it is a chance for them to take part in voluntary activities or other programmes and workshops that could help them when they apply for university.

As the early summer break was announced with little prior notice, organisations may find it difficult to arrange activities for secondary students.

The problem lies not with the early summer break itself. It is a good policy to tackle the raging pandemic, but it coincides with some of the most crucial times in the academic calendar which can hinder Hong Kong students’ learning.

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