Broadcast: July 1, 2004
This is Faith Lapidus with the VOA Special English Education Report.
Last week, the Education Report discussed schools that operate all year round with shorter holidays in the summer. This week, we report about another public school change, a shorter school week.
In most of the United States, students attend class for five days each week -- Monday through Friday. Schools are required to hold classes for about one-hundred-eighty days a year. Recently, schools in some areas of the country have begun investigating the idea of holding classes for four days a week. Classes would meet either Monday through Thursday, or Tuesday through Friday. Some schools in twelve American states are now using that schedule.
The students still have the same number of total hours in class as before. But they attend school for a longer time on each of the four days. In the western state of Colorado, schools on the four-day week hold classes for seven-and-one-half hours a day for one-hundred-forty-four-days. Traditional schools meet for six hours a day for one-hundred-eighty days.
Many schools on a four-day schedule offer special programs for students or teachers, trips or sports competitions on the fifth day. Officials say this gives students even more time in class than on the traditional schedule. Students do not have to miss school to go to the events. Students can also go to doctors or other appointments on the fifth day.
The main reason for shortening the school week is an economic one. Small school systems say they can save money by not providing meals or transportation for students on the fifth day. And they say research shows that students are not harmed by the shorter week.
Opponents of the four-day school week say the research is not clear on this. They say the four-day week has not been shown to improve students’ learning. And they say that three days off from school each week is too long a time away from class.
Financial pressures seem to be leading to a shorter school week in many parts of the world as well. Japan and Israel are changing from a six-day school week to a five-day schedule. South Korea will make the change next year. And some areas of Canada have already shortened their school week from five days to four.
This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Faith Lapidus.