IN RECENT years, I have observed that students are spending increasingly longer hours in school for scheduled lessons and co-curricular activities (CCAs).
While I agree that CCAs are an important aspect of our students’ education, it is perhaps time to review the amount of time students spend on this pursuit.
My daughter studies at an independent secondary school. She is required to stay back after school for her CCA three days a week, each time for up to four hours.
If there are forthcoming performances or competitions, she may need to stay back on additional days for practice.
Many of her schoolmates who take public transport wake up as early as 5.30am to make it in time for school at 7.20am.
Lessons end around 1.30pm and, following lunch, CCA starts at 2.30pm and ends at 6.30pm.
Taking public transport home sets them back by another one to 11/2 hours and some manage to reach home only after 8pm.
Following a quick dinner and wash-up, they start on their heavy homework load or revisions after 9pm. By the time they go to bed, it is way past midnight or 1am.
They wake up a few hours later at 5.30am, with barely five hours of sleep, to start another long, tiring day.
Most of us are aware of the long-term health risks of sleep deprivation.
While these students are young now and thus seemingly able to withstand such long hours of activities, they will suffer the ill effects later on in life.
In their quest to excel in not only academics but also CCAs, some schools may have imposed gruelling hours on students.
In the process, students, and the teachers who stay back for equally long hours, get caught up in a system that drains them mentally and physically.
The primary purpose of CCA is to develop the interests and talents of students; winning accolades is secondary and this should not be done at the expense of students’ health.
I urge the Ministry of Education and the Health Promotion Board to look into this issue.
Perhaps a good starting point would be for the authorities to set a maximum CCA time limit, say nine hours a week, and mandate that all school activities should end by 5.30pm each day.
Left to their own discretion, schools may impose differing CCA standards, which students have no choice but to adhere to.
Lee Hui Ling (Madam)