Summer Vacation in the Southern Hemisphere

Summer is in full swing, which means kids in the US don’t have to go back to school again until September. But did you know that schoolchildren in the Southern Hemisphere won’t have their summer vacation until December?

In most countries, schools close for an extended break during the hottest months of the year. In the US and other countries located in the Northern Hemisphere, those months are June, July and August. Depending on where you are in the Southern Hemisphere, however, those months tend to be December, January and February. So in countries like Australia and Brazil, students have their summer vacation from mid-December to late January.

While summer vacations were originally instituted in the US at the turn of the 20th Century to save money, avoid student burnout and protect children from poorly ventilated classrooms during heatwaves, other countries close their schools for a variety of reasons. In Barbados, for example, the educational system still operates according to colonial traditions based on the European school calendar. Other countries time their school breaks to coincide with harvesting season, so that children may be utilized as a cheap source of labor. Religious holidays can also dictate the timing of summer vacations.

Over the last several decades, efforts have been made to put an end to extended summer vacations in the US. Groups calling for year-round school point out that the medical reasons for instituting summer breaks are no longer relevant; after all, most school buildings now have perfectly functional ventilation systems, and physicians no longer believe children are too weak to handle year-round instruction.

Nonprofit organizations like the Johns Hopkins Center for Summer Learning even argue that long summer breaks can actually hinder the learning process. These groups also point out that students in other first-world nations have significantly longer school years than the 200 days we allow for instruction here in the US. If kids in Japan can handle 243 days of school a year, they argue, why can’t American students do the same?

That said, the financial case for summer vacations is a strong one – and may be one of the main reasons why US schools will likely remain closed from June to September for years to come. Between teacher salaries and maintenance costs, those extra three months of summer instruction could put an unbearable amount of pressure on our already under-funded public school system.

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