Writer: Francesca N.
Visual: Erica N.
Editor: Norbu D.
Walking bleary-eyed to the first period and sitting through lectures make the idea of shorter school days a no-brainer at first glance. It’s certainly understood how important a factor time is in learning the skills and topics we need to fulfill the projects we need to earn our IB (or partial-IB, or regular) diplomas… but with our student body’s high levels of exhaustion in some classes, do we really need as much school as we have?
Here are some “questions” related to our school days that seem perfect when taken at face-value – but now, let’s evaluate:
Can school start later than 7:30?
The most obvious issue about our school days is the brutal start time of 7:30 am, and the accompanying early wake-up times. Some argue that teenagers should just sleep earlier, but according to Sleepfoundation.org, teenagers have different biological clocks that encourage “night-owl” behavior with later bedtimes. As a result, an 11pm (or later) bedtime means that many students get less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep. Senior Bryan B. admitted to sleeping at 2am in the morning, and seniors Ishani S. and Ava M even admitted to a system schedule which consisted of “sleep from 6-9 after getting home from school, waking up to work on homework until 2, and then wake up at 6 again.” Having such an early wakeup time only exacerbates students’ poor sleep quality.
However, there are big issues that come along with a later start time: namely, the Manila traffic. Students such as senior Ianna C., who lives in Alabang, would experience an exponentially greater amount of traffic with a later starting time. She says that “I’d have to leave home the same time anyway since you’d have to add an hour of traffic if I left at 8 am or something.” The system would then be even worse for bus riders, as well as bus drivers and marshalls who would receive exponentially greater working hours.
Can we just take out tutorials?
Another way school days could be shorter is to eliminate tutorials and study halls. Essentially, students would be able to study outside of school in their own time rather than have an imposed hour in the middle of the day. However, there are big issues in taking out the elective of study halls: namely, the current block-scheduling system. The different combinations of schedules, as well as each day hosting a different combination of letter-blocks, would make it nearly impossible to work out a holistic system to accommodate both the students who were and weren’t taking electives. Additionally, many students find study halls and tutorial sessions extremely helpful. Although junior Hadia K. has a D block study hall, allowing her to arrive at school at 9:00 on Fridays, she chooses to go to school early anyway because “I focus more during a study hall than I would if I were given free time.” Several other students, including senior Bronson W. and junior Iraj S., expressed the same sentiment. “It helps that study halls and tutorials are set in the middle of the day, too, so it kind of breaks up the steady stream of class-class-class,” senior Ishani S. adds. In a way, the inclusion of study halls and tutorials act as their own combat against student stress.
Can classes just be shorter, then?
The case against shorter blocks is clear: the IB is a challenging program. A lot of information is needed to be taken in by students, and it is important that they are provided adequate learning time to collaborate with classmates and ask teachers questions. This is especially notable for subjects with labs (the group 4s) as well as subjects with setup and preparation like the group 6s.
However, considering how often we find ourselves spending a good chunk of each class doing independent work that could be accomplished at home, as well as the little bits of time students go off-task, not all of our class’s 70 minutes are necessary to fulfill each lesson. If each class was shortened by even 5-10 minutes, school days could squeeze in all 3 rounds of A-H blocks a week whilst following the timeframe of late-start Wednesdays (which is already shown to work well transportation-wise!). This would not only free up more time for after school commitments, but it would also decrease late afternoon-evening traffic. Even Huffingpost.com noted that lengthier school hours increased overall fatigue, weakening immune systems and preventing students to utilize their full mental capacity: a 5-10 decrease in each class period would be barely noticed, but would cause a significant decrease in student and staff levels of exhaustion.
Unfortunately, there are other factors that prevent this solution from becoming reality, namely: the IB. According to an ISM teacher, Ms. Hartley, “we have to have a certain number of teaching hours as [prescribed] by the IB – which we already find it hard to achieve.” More specifically, the IB regulations PDF recommends around 240 hours for HL courses, 150 hours for SL courses, and 100 hours of TOK (over a two-year period). If ISM were to abide by these teaching times while shortening class blocks, school days would be shorter… but there would be more of them!
The final consensus
The epidemic of worn-down students is no secret – neither is the idea of shorter school days and all the benefits they are associated with. However, the school’s location and curriculum would add even more difficulty to scheduling adjustments. Unfortunately, the best thing we can do as students is to work within our own means to find ways to mitigate our stress overload. In simplest terms, this comes in the form of better organization. We can use planners or note-taking apps, for example, to fine line our own schedules. We can employ better time management skills, so we end up wasting less time and getting more sleep. More so, it’s important for us to know our own boundaries: not putting too much on our plates so that we can achieve a healthy balance between work, play, and rest. We can filter our commitments and usage of time through the lenses of our individual priorities: what activities do we feel most deserve our time, and when does our own health come first? Often, the biggest cause of our own exhaustion is not how much of our time school takes up, but how we choose – or don’t choose – to use it.