Who says school has to last all day?

There is nothing sacred about going to your workplace soon after you wake up in the morning and staying there until late afternoon, five days a week. Around the world, things are done differently.

A close friend lived in Argentina, and has just returned from a visit there. I will see her this weekend, which reminded me of the ordinary yet surprising way things are done differently there. When I visited her family in Argentina, I never saw the kids in the morning – they had gone out long before I surfaced – school starts at 8am in Argentina.

But they were back home by lunchtime! In Argentina, it is normal that children do either morning school or afternoon school. That is how it works. In the afternoon, my friend’s kids would do homework, go out to music or language classes, hang out with friends, or just hang out. It varied.

I don’t know the reasons for this Argentine system – probably something to do with sharing out of public resources, and something to do with national tradition, and nothing at all to do with notions of a shorter working week (and it caused obvious childcare headaches for adult friends of the friends who did have full time jobs). But it seems to me a very interesting way to teach from an early age that work is not the whole of life and that you have to learn how to use your flexible time, as well as an interesting and little-known example of a different way of doing things.

My own kids, having heard about Argentine half-day school, now think their own full school days are deeply unfair. They also ask me pretty well every Friday  whether I have succeeded yet in my quest to campaign for a three day weekend for all. Better get on with it.

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One thought on “Who says school has to last all day?

  1. It’s not just Argentinian schoolchildren who enjoy a shorter working day. The recent Disobedient Objects exhibition at the V&A had a screenprint from a rail union’s successful struggle in 2004 for a 6 hour day. Their slogan: “Less work so we can all work”.

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