Vacation time! What now?

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Summer vacations have arrived. No more butterflies in the stomach over algebraic equations or periodic table sequences, just fun and laughter with one’s peers.

For some the break means travelling, others prefer to spend time at home watching TV or playing outdoor games. However, in urban centres, summer camps are gaining popularity, thanks to parents who want their children to make the best of the two-month break.

But does this defeat the very purpose of a vacation, which in education circles is defined as a relaxing time after 10 months of continuous lessons? Deccan Chronicle takes the views of experts including psychologists.

“Learning stress is a common problem observed among students. It is very important that the student is left alone to do what he likes. It is a common trend to see parents sending their children to study camps,” Dalia C. Jose, Jr. Consultant (Documentation & Communication), National Rural Health Mission, told Deccan Chronicle.

“Summer camps in their true sense should focus on providing an ambience in which the child can develop his or her recreational or hobby-oriented skills that are not provided during regular school days. For some it may be their talent like singing for others it may be games like cricket,” said Dr C.J. John, chief psychologist at Kochi’s Medical Trust Hospital.

However, most summer camps today are meant to cater to the needs of parents and act as places where students are engaged during the two-month long period. There is generally a course or activity fixed and children are forced to do it whether it’s their first choice or not.

Working parents have no time to be at home with their kids and they want them to be occupied till they return from office,” he observed.

The expert recollected a case in which the parents of a child wanted her to use the summer vacation to get expert training in maths, which was her weak subject. “All that her guardians thought about was how to make her acquire knowledge, and it did not matter if she would have preferred to attend a dance class or a karate class,’’ Dr John said.

Meanwhile, some camps have made a concerted effort to be different from the pack. “We are holding a camp for just 15 days with the main focus on de-stressing the children. We conduct activities like outing and try to discover the kid’s natural talents and fields of interest.

Besides we’ve specialists like speech therapists, audiologists and psychologists to boost the confidence of children.

We were surprised to find that 40 per cent of the students have behavioural, hearing and stress-related problems. We also have orientation sessions for parents and teachers at the end of the programmes,” Manoj Krishnan, chief guidance officer, the Compass Team said.

Another camp, an initiate of actor Manu Jose, in Thrissur is all about organic farming and trekking into rural areas.

“The whole aim is to help children from nuclear families start to interact with different sections of society and give them a refreshing experience away from their text books,” he said.

All the experts agree about one point – that camps should not be an extension of school and should be of a short duration, a maximum of one month perhaps.

The main focus should be to make the kids happy so that they are mentally fresh by the time class starts again.

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