| 10.2°C Dublin

When will our children ever learn if the schools keep shutting up shop?

Ah, God love them. They belatedly dragged themselves back to their desks after an extended Christmas break and now, just a few short weeks later, they're due another spell of downtime.

No, I'm not talking about our political leaders. I'm talking about schoolchildren.

Most of them have put in all of five weeks since their Christmas holidays, which were prolonged by the wretched weather, finally ended.

Now that the poor mites are entirely worn out, it's time to kick back for mid-term. Some will get a few days off, others the full week.

All, however, will be allowed to absorb the lesson that work is something that's required of them only in very short, sporadic bursts.

Finding geometry a bore? Never mind, dear, it'll be going away soon.

Anyone would think we were raising this entire generation for a leisurely life in Dail Eireann rather than the demanding, globalised workplaces of tomorrow.

Forget the squawkings you hear about our need, as a nation, to sharpen our competitive edge so that we can build a smart economy.

It's just not going to happen, unless all of us who are able, knuckle down to a lifetime of learning, and then re-learning as our old knowledge becomes obsolete.

Hands up all those who are working now in the exact same way as they did 10 years ago? Thought not.

It's a good bet future workplaces will continue to change rapidly.

That means our children must devote their adult lives to keeping on top of new ideas, skills and ways of doing business.

Are our schools preparing kids for such sustained learning by shutting their doors every few weeks? Hardly.

Meanwhile, the notion that schools would somehow make up for time lost to the cold snap seems to have been quietly binned.

One mum bemoaned the fact that her daughter's secondary school was closed for several weeks after the roof was damaged by winter storms.

She was delighted to drop her daughter at the newly repaired building, but the smile was soon wiped from her face.

Her daughter arrived home with news that, yes, the remainder of the usual schedule was unchanged. The school would be closing for a week, same as any other year. Mid-term break, don't you know.

In my own family, I was quietly pleased by a text announcing that a half-day pencilled in for the local secondary school had been cancelled.

"Great," I said to my resident scholar. "So they're finally making up for those extra days off after Christmas, eh?"

The response was one of those what-is-she-on-about-this-time glances.

Actually, the half-day had been set aside for staff training, but that had to be cancelled because whoever was leading the training couldn't be there.

"Right. So, about making up the lost days...."

Shrug. "No one's said anything about that."

Silly me.

Sorry, but isn't a break by definition supposed to be a break FROM something? If you've only been back at work a little more than a month, what exactly are you resting from?

The abandoned schools would be slightly less infuriating if students were sent home with a nice, long project to work on during the break: a detailed look at the life cycle of the honey bee, perhaps, or the role fermenting grain may have played in the hysteria that led to the Salem witch trials.

Instead, I will bet you my life savings right now that they'll have no homework whatsoever.

Learn something, during mid-term? The lyrics of Taylor Swift's latest hit, maybe. Anything academic -- why, the very idea is downright quaint.

The one thing you can say in favour of this year's mid-term break is that, by school standards, it's relatively short.

Our kids will be whisked back to class in jig time, to expand their minds for, um, a further five weeks.

After that, it's time for--you guessed it -- the Easter break. Only this time, they'll have "earned" TWO weeks off.


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