It’s no secret that educational outcomes are very unequal for young people in our society. The reasons why are complex. Some people are naturally more academically gifted than others. Some find it easier to sit still and pay attention in class. Yet study after study shows that factors such as social background and family wealth all play a big role in educational outcomes. Teachers and educators generally do whatever they can to even the playing field, but it’s not easy, and inevitably some kids come up short.
Research indicates that the long summer holiday can actually exacerbate educational difference. Children from more affluent families typically attend summer camps and sports activities and may be taken to museums and have other educational experiences during their family holiday. Conversely, less affluent children from families that are struggling financially are much less likely to have the opportunity to experience such activities, and much more likely to spend a large amount of time in front of the TV or engaged in other generally not very educational activities. It’s important to stress that none of this is really anyone’s fault. The simple fact is that families with fewer resources are more likely to experience a situation whereby mum and dad have to work long hours at a job that doesn’t pay very well, have less time off, and simply don’t have the funds to pay for expensive extracurricular activities. However, the result is that whereas the more affluent children return to school in September having experienced a range of learning activities, children from less well-to-do backgrounds often haven’t. Research shows that the gap in educational attainment between these two cohorts of kids tends to grow over the summer.
So, what can families with fewer resources do? First of all, mums and dads who are struggling financially shouldn’t blame themselves. However, they can get together with other families in the same situation and try to arrange outings to local museums and parks so that kids can benefit from the same sorts of educational experiences as their better off friends. Collectively, we can all also petition our government and our local communities to encourage and foster affordable summer camps, sports activities and more that can be accessed even by families with few resources. The outcome for children who might otherwise be left behind can be notably increased levels of educational attainment. This in turn will enhance their resilience, improve their confidence, reduce average differences in ability from children from diverse backgrounds, and contribute to a more equal, more successful society overall.
The summer holidays have always been supposed to be a time of excitement, adventure, and opportunity for children who spend so much of the year at study. Let’s work together to ensure that this is the case for all of them!
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