UAE summer holidays: School heads urge students to beat 'summer regression'

Principals, teachers recommend reading, online learning, family field trips, and other fun and engaging activities to keep students' minds stimulated


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Tue 30 May 2023, 7:11 PM

School heads in the UAE are advising students to be mindful of “summer regression” as they prepare for an upcoming two-month summer break, which will commence in less than a month for most schools.

Principals emphasise the importance of recharging one's energy through restful activities after intense periods of study, but they also express concerns that indulging in complete relaxation for the entire duration of the break may place students at a disadvantage, resulting in what is commonly referred to as "summer slide" or "summer learning loss" when they resume school in September.

This decline in academic abilities tends to be more pronounced among older students, with higher grade levels experiencing a greater extent of learning loss.

Albertha Huyser, Principal/CEO of GEMS Cambridge International Private School – Sharjah, says, “To combat learning regression, there are several strategies we can employ. Encouraging students to engage in activities that foster continued learning and intellectual growth is essential."

Huyser lists three ways in which students can keep their minds stimulated:

1. Reading: "Reading books, both fiction and non-fiction, can help expand their knowledge and vocabulary."

2. Educational programmes: "Participation in educational programmes or attending summer camps with educational components can provide valuable learning experiences outside the traditional classroom."

3. Online learning: "Exploring online learning platforms and resources can offer a flexible and engaging way to acquire new skills and knowledge.”

He adds, “One key challenge we often face is the loss of academic momentum. After several weeks of relaxation, it can be difficult for students to regain their focus and motivation for learning. This is particularly crucial for our Post-16 students as they are at a critical stage of their educational journey.”

To tackle these challenges, educationists encourage establishing clear academic goals, implementing study routines, and providing access to resources and guidance that will help overcome the post-summer hurdles.

Games, puzzles and hands-on activities

Principals reiterate it is also the responsibility of the students and their parents to maintain an academic mindset and prevent any setbacks in learning progress.

Abigail Fishbourne, Director of Learning, ISP – Middle East says, “I recommend that students keep up with their reading on a broad range of subjects and interests, take time to record in a way that they enjoy - this could be writing, drawing or digital recording - and they should explore some personal interests or topics of study.”

Dr Jay Teston, Principal, Nibras International School says, “The summer holidays are the perfect time to catch up with our readings and our journaling. I usually recommend these two activities to our students to prevent the summer slide. Reading our favourite books keeps our minds fully engaged and actively imagining. Journaling, on the other hand, not only enhances writing, most importantly, but it keeps us thinking critically and deeply. When our students are cognitively busy during the summertime, it is a lot easier for them to return to the discipline of schooling after the break.”

They underline the key is to offer a positive attitude towards learning and to make learning fun by incorporating games, puzzles, and hands-on activities.

Among younger children, curiosity can be fostered through exploration, messy play activities, and gardening. The entire family can be involved too.

“Engage everyone by taking field trips to museums, parks, and other attractions. Encourage older siblings to work alongside younger siblings or challenge the family to learn new skills or complete a project. It could be learning new recipes, building a large Lego figure, or helping decorate a bedroom. These challenges provide a sense of purpose and help maintain focus, as well as creating a learning culture at home that can have a lasting impact,” says Naveed Iqbal, Principal/CEO of GEMS Metropole School – Motor City.

Principals say that schools can also play their part in reducing the impact of the “summer dip". Interesting projects linked to real life applications can be given by institutions to students during the summer break to engage them in creative work.

Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO - Principal at Credence High School, says, “These projects are specifically designed by the teachers and school leaders in such a way that the student will apply the knowledge of the concepts learnt in their previous term. Some children need some time to settle down and to pick up the pace of learning while some quickly pick up the pace from the beginning itself. Our teachers are well trained and experienced to provide the necessary support needed to help the students come back to the school environment and the required learning pace after the summer break.”


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