Minister for General Education V. Sivankutty on Thursday said that summer vacations that usually begin on April 1 will begin on April 6 in 2024.
The change in the schedule is to ensure that students get 210 instructional days in the current academic year.
The Minister pointed out that the Kerala Education Rules and the Right to Education Act stipulate the minimum number of working days or instructional hours in an academic year. Last year, the State could not achieve it. The academic calendar for this year would provide for 210 instructional days.
The Minister also released the academic calendar at the State-level Pravesanotsavam. As per the calendar, there will be 13 working Saturdays this academic year. Some of the important dates in the academic calendar are: SSLC examinations in March; SSLC model examinations in February; Plus One and Plus Two HSE examinations from March 6 to 26; annual examinations of class 1 to 9 in the first week of March; VHSE theory exams from March 8; school first-term examinations from August 17 to 24; second-term examinations from December 14 to 21; and State School Arts Festival (district level) from November 6. The Special School Arts Festival will be held from November 20.
However, the decision to reduce the summer vacation days took teachers’ organisations by surprise.
Even at the recent Quality Improvement Programme (QIP) monitoring committee meeting convened by the Minister, the consensus was to have around 204 instructional days.
The organisations had opposed the government move to have 28 Saturdays as working days to achieve the target of 220 instructional days.
They were unanimous that not more than five consecutive working days be allowed in a week. Even if the plan for a sixth consecutive working day was dropped, it would be possible to get additional 12 Saturdays in the year as working days, they had argued.
Teachers’ organisations said there had been no official discussion on trimming the holidays, though a suggestion had been made ahead of the QIP regarding this. There were also practical difficulties in implementing such a decision. Teachers would need to be given leave surrender benefit if they were to work till April 6.
There were indications that this was also intended to push back the examinations and evaluation a bit in the wake of criticism of the way the annual examinations were conducted by the government.
The Kerala Pradesh School Teachers Association condemned the decision, terming it unilateral. It was a practice to discuss with teachers’ organisations before taking such a decision. QIP meetings too were called. The schedule for summer holidays that had been in vogue for long had been changed at one go. If the government failed to re-examine its decision, the KPSTA would launch strong protests.
The Aided Higher Secondary Teachers Association said they had urged the Minister to exempt higher secondary from the order to work on Saturdays. Even with the current 192 working days, the higher secondary timings from 9 a.m. to 4.45 p.m. ensured that they realised 1,290 instructional hours.
High school classes might need to work on Saturdays, but it should not be made mandatory for higher secondary. Any decision to reduce the number of vacation days was unacceptable, it said.