Readers Questions: I want to know the economic reason behind:
Summer/Winter vacations in school?
or: Why we have summer/winter vacations in school.
This is an interesting question, especially as I have just finished teaching for the year and begun the long summer holidays myself.
Possible economic reasons
Non-monetary benefit for teachers. Generally, teachers pay is relatively low for the standard of their qualifications. Teachers with good degrees could probably choose a career with higher monetary benefits (and less stress) if they moved to the city or something like that. Most teachers are paid by the government, so pay is not dependent on market forces, but government’s tight budgets. Giving teachers a six week summer vacation could be seen as a non-monetary benefit to compensate for the relatively lower pay. I’ve heard some teachers say the long summer holidays are one of the best perks of the job. I’m sure if the summer holidays were just one week, there would be an even bigger rush to leave the profession, and the government would have to raise salaries to attract teachers. The government wouldn’t want to have to increase teachers pay, so it’s easier to leave the long holidays.
Education has little short term productivity. Education is not like a factory producing cars. A car factory couldn’t afford to have a six week summer break because output would immediately fall, and average costs rise (less output, less economies of scale). However, education is very different. If students take long holidays, there is going to be little change in long-term productivity of the economy. In the short term, there will be no change in the productivity of the economy. Education does not directly increase GDP. Therefore, long school holidays do not directly reduce real output.
More productive use of time. You could argue that long summer holidays are a useful opportunity for students to work in temporary summer jobs – helping the tourism industry. Summer holidays also enable teachers to work marking examination papers (I did this for a few years before I could take it no longer)
Diminishing returns from teaching longer hours. If we switched from 6 week to 2 week summer holiday – would we really get a more productive and highly educated workforce? I doubt it. Students are hard to teach by the end of May, let alone trying to teach them into mid August. Teaching students for long hours has diminishing returns. Increase the number of school weeks by 10%, may only give a 1% increase in the standards of education.
Therefore, extending the school year would have little benefit to the economy in terms of improved education standards and higher productivity.
Reduce costs / gain income. There is little economic benefit to a longer school year. But, also having longer breaks helps to reduce maintenance costs. Some schools, especially private schools may rent out their property to summer schools to gain extra revenue. This means the school is used more profitably for the summer months.
There would be no immediate economic benefit from extending the school year. However, there would be significant costs. Importantly, no one involved in education really wants a longer school year. Students don’t want it, Teachers don’t want it. Perhaps some boffin in the Ministry of Education has a crazy idea that if we extend the school year into August, Britain will become better educated, more productive and will be able to become more competitive internationally. But, that isn’t going to happen. We might as well save costs, give teachers a break and let students go and get a summer job. Yes, students have already forgotten everything in September, but I’m sure they could forget everything after a two week break too. 🙂