A Footnote on School Calendars

Coming up on Thursday evening is the first community conversation about the school calendar. On the agenda is a comparison of school calendars “around the world and in the United States.”

Earlier this week, I ran into a woman with first-hand experience of a European school calendar—she and her family spent a school year in Germany—who wanted to make the point that school calendars cannot be taken out of their cultural and social context. European countries have different traditions that affect the organization of time in school (for example, in the United States we don’t have a two-week vacation for Carnival in February or early March) and, just as importantly, have different social supports in place. For example, European countries offer their people significantly more paid vacation time, and offer significantly greater government subsidies for child care. Here’s a comparison of the United States and several major European countries in these two areas (click images to enlarge):

Government Child Care Subsidies (2000-2001 data)

Child Care

Paid Vacation Time (2007 data)

Vacation time

Her point was that cultural and social factors—including the limited flexibility American parents have to take vacations with their school-age children, and the expense of child care—need to be taken into consideration when thinking about whether a European-style school calendar (or any modified calendar) will work for Northfield schools.

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