As a teacher at an international school in Thailand where the British curriculum is followed, I read with dismay Michael Gove's thoughts on longer school days and shorter holidays based on a supposedly South East Asian model (www.tesconnect.combigedblog). He thinks that these students have better mathematical skills and overall attainment as a result of longer days and tutoring. But at what price?
First, the tutors and the teachers who work with the students during the school day are rarely the same people. Our day starts at 8am and finishes at 2.45pm but is followed by cross-curricular activities. The majority of teachers will at that point go home. Every student, however, goes on to a tutor at a "crammer". They are invariably taught in their mother tongue and often repeat the day's maths, science and business lessons without the practical, creative and group work. Do they benefit from this? On the whole, no. They are exhausted, stressed and overworked. In school, they are encouraged to think, question and research while developing their English language skills; outside school, rote learning is the norm.
The children rarely see their parents and are chauffeured between school and tutoring sessions as the parents try to earn enough for school fees and astronomical tuition costs. Is this what Mr Gove is advocating? I teach some lovely students but they are as emotionally needy as some of the children from city slums. Rich, yes. Happy, no. They have missed a childhood.
Sandra Collins, Head of music, Thailand.