Quarters vs Semesters

Today is the first day of Quarter 3 at my secondary school. Without Covid, it would have been the first day of Semester 2 instead.

So, which is better?

Of course, that is a very subjective question! The change to quarters was made to minimize the number of in-person contacts that students have on any given day, thus reducing the chances of catching/spreading the virus. At my school students see at most a class and a half a day, plus whomever else they spend time with outside of classes of course. Some students do have 3 different courses in a quarter though, so they are in contact with more people.

Each class is longer than it would be in a semester situation, but not double the length, so the resulting course covers less curriculum than in a non-covid year. Students are usually assigned more homework in each of their classes, and the courses move more quickly. (If you need help, we have teachers available to meet with you online! Email us at booking@tutoringteachers.ca to set up your first session.) In a semester system the students have double the number of classes, but those courses move more slowly.

In the quarter system, students don’t need to remember the material for as long, but it may not stick with them for as long either – this will make it more difficult to take the subsequent class next year. A student taking Math 9 in Quarter 1 this year, may not have math again until Quarter 4 (or Semester 2, if this pandemic ever ends) next year.

Having a shortened day, and having students home for half the quarter in each course, this does allow students time for a job to help with the family income if needed. As well, the reduced workload is ideally helping reduce some stress as everyone deals with the anxiety of a world-wide virus.

Thankfully, at my school, at least so far, the two exposure events have not ended in transmission between students. Limiting in-person contacts by using the quarter system, wearing masks most of the day and cleaning the desks between students, does seem to be working.

I think I would still vote for the semester system once life returns to normal though. Which would you choose?

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