Extended Breaks Threaten Learning, Says Union Chair Skip to content

Extended Breaks Threaten Learning, Says Union Chair

By Ragnar Tómas

iceland education
Photo: Golli. An elementary school student in Borgarfjörður Eystri (photograph not directly related to the content of the article).

The Chair of the Teachers’ Union warns of educational setbacks due to the rising trend of extended school breaks for students. A high teacher turnover rate calls for better support and improved working conditions to retain educators.

Extended breaks becoming more common

In an interview with RÚV published today, Magnús Þór Jónsson, Chairperson of the Iceland Teachers’ Union (Kennarasamband Íslands), maintains that extended school breaks for compulsory schoolchildren (primary school) can strain both the children and their educational progress; it is now more common for parents to take children out of school for several weeks. He emphasised the importance of children continuing their studies during such breaks.

“Increased instances of students missing school for weeks underscore the importance of maintaining continuous educational engagement,” Magnús Þór stated, adding that modern technology makes it possible for students to maintain studies and contact with schools from anywhere in the world, although that responsibility rests on the shoulders of parents and students.

Read More: Iceland’s School System Explained

School principals may report significant school absences due to family travels to child protection authorities if it affects the child’s education.

Magnús Þór also noted a similar trend among upper secondary school students, where such breaks could delay their graduation. “Secondary school has been condensed and involves significant effort,” he remarked. “If you’re aiming to graduate in three years, we’re expecting students to work overtime every week, so any break of a week or more means a lot of stress and hard work.”

A Trend of Early Departures Among Teachers

As noted by RÚV, a recent survey indicated that over a quarter of kindergarten and elementary school teachers do not foresee staying on in their positions in five years’ time. In this regard, Magnús Þór highlighted the importance of better supporting newly graduated teachers to help them settle into their roles. “We are seeing a number of teaching students who only stay briefly,” he observed.

Magnús Þór stressed the necessity of creating a better work environment for teachers to prevent dropouts from the profession. He noted that it’s becoming more common for teachers to leave their positions after only a year or two.

“We’re seeing people come into the profession, work for one to two years, and then leave, and this is a new development,” he stated. “It’s not enough just to increase the number of teacher students if they don’t stay in the job. We need to ensure that the environment is welcoming and that we better support our newcomers.”

Magnús Þór also stressed the importance of improving the framework of the teaching profession. The complex makeup of student groups at all educational levels requires more support: “The biggest task is better integrating students arriving from abroad. We need greater support in that regard.”

Interacting with parents can be challenging as students have diverse needs and challenges, and student groups are larger than before.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get news from Iceland, photos, and in-depth stories delivered to your inbox every week!

* indicates required

Subscribe to Iceland Review

In-depth stories and high-quality photography showcasing life in Iceland!