Impact of the new school calendar on the education sphere

21 September 2021 | Education

Windhoek ∙ [email protected]

The ministry of education, arts and culture announced a change in the amount of terms for the 2022 school calendar. The new approved school and hostel calendar follows a semester approach, instead of the current trimesters.

This does not affect the amount of school days in comparison to previous school calendars and also does not affect the December holiday.

This change was motivated by the rise in Covid-19 infection rates amongst learners and teachers during winter and the challenges schools faced with children having to walk in the dark to school during the winter months of June and July.

“The change in the 2022 school calendar was necessitated by the increase of Covid-19 pandemic cases during the 2020 and 2021 winter seasons. In order to avoid the high infection rates and the possibility of school closure, a winter holiday was considered appropriate,” said Sanet Steenkamp, the ministry’s executive director.

“It must be emphasised that prior to the approval of these changes, public input, comments and suggestions were sought through draft calendars advertised in local newspapers,” she further added.

This would mean that the school year will be split into two semesters, starting on 10 January 2022. The second semester will start on 25 July 2022.

“It could seem as if the semester system is now longer than usual, which could translate into more in-depth teaching and better quality instruction, though the number of school days remains the same,” Steenkamp said.

Windhoek Gymnasium Private School said that as a school community, they welcome this change. “It allows us to structure our calendar into four quarters, each with an equal amount of school days. As we partake in many sporting events in South Africa, this calendar will make us more flexible in this regard,” said Luanne Bekker, the human and public relations manager of the school.

“We have received very positive reactions from our parents and teachers. Both learners and teacher will benefit from our calendar with four quarters and equal amounts of school days. When we look at the broader school community of Namibia, we believe that learners who have to travel far to school will benefit from a longer school holiday in the cold winter months,” Bekker added.

Hage Geingob High School also welcomed the change and said this will lessen the burden on teachers.

“This will allow more teaching and learning time. Six months is enough time for you as a teacher to cover the content, do proper assessment and examination and allows learners with more time to comprehend content. More vacations and holidays disrupt learning and focus,” said Selma Kambonde, the commerce head of department at the school.

One of the concerns raised by parents is the impact of this change on learners who are struggling academically.

“If your child is a below average or only a 60% student, you had at least three semesters to assist the teacher and your child to master the grade. In the first semester a child might struggle and maybe not even pass a subject. With the old system you were able to use the second semester to get assistance and extra classes for your child to improve and come third semester you pass with flying colours,” said Chantel van Wyk, a concerned parent.

“Where it’s only two semesters, you are not guaranteed that your child will master the grade and that can put a lot of pressure on teacher, child and parent,” she added.

Steenkamp, however, added that this new system will provide learners with more time to complete challenging assignments, learn theories and generalisations as oppose to merely learning facts, because shorter frequent breaks allow for adequate time which is needed for learners to absorb new concepts.

“The revised calendar will also benefit learners in cases of absence due to illness or any other reason, because they will now have more time to catch up. Longer holiday would also enable teachers more time to prepare for next semester,” she said.

Impact on examination

Steenkamp said that the continuous assessment forms used by teachers for various grades will need to be adjusted and aligned to be compatible to new school terms. The number of assessment tasks may remain the same, except end-of-term tests.

“Learners will use marks of their final grades (NSSCO/NSSCAS) for August/September mock examinations to apply to institutions of higher learning, and a week or two can be planned for that,” she added.

Schools preparing learners for NSSCO/NSSCAS exam usually arrange holiday school or contact classes to benefit learners.

Steenkamp believes that the expanded timeframe will provide additional study time and increased interaction between learners and teachers while allowing or more in-depth quality teaching and learning.

Tertiary admission

The Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) said they are confident that the introduction of the new school calendar with only two semesters will not have an impact on the applications and admissions of high school learners seeking to further their studies.

“This is because high school learners will sit for a formal internal examination at the end of the first semester, and the marks from these examinations may be used for the university application process which will remain open until 30 September 2022,” said Nico Smit, the acting public relations officer at NUST.

“NUST traditionally extends its application period to the end of October 2022, to ensure that all prospective students have ample time to submit their applications. High school learners will sit for their final examinations during October/November 2022, and our expectation is that the results from these examinations would be available in December 2022 or early January 2023,” Smit added.

He further said that it is important to bear in mind that the school calendar, as proposed by the ministry, will essentially run parallel with NUST’s academic calendar.

“Teaching and learning activities at the institution commence roughly around mid-February until mid-June when our mid-year recess begins. As a result, we foresee that students obtaining results from their final examinations in December 2022 or early January 2023, would still be able to submit those final marks to NUST for admission for the 2023 academic year.”

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