Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, highlights an interesting research by Johns Hopkins University sociologist Karl Alexander. Alexander demonstrated that the reading scores of the wealthy kids jumped high after their long summer breaks whereas the reading scores of the poor kids dropped after the holidays. Poor kids may out-learn rich kids during the school year. But during the summer, they fall far behind. Gladwell says, “When it comes to reading skills, poor kids learn nothing when school is not in session. Virtually all of the advantage that wealthy students have over poor students is the result of differences in the way privileged kids learn while they are not in school.” In a nutshell, poor children lag behind their wealthy peers during long breaks.
In the times when everything else is changing, are we going to continue with the same hundred-year-old school system? We need to rethink our schools and question the assumptions. Should we have long summer holidays or could we spread those out across the year and have small school breaks? It is not a difficult change to make at the policy level.
While we wait for such a top-level policy change, schools, parents groups, and NGOs can conduct summer learning camps, library programs and digital learning programs especially for financially and socially backward children. That’s the least we could do in the direction of equal opportunity.