School and Learning in Germany

“All-day Schools Are Good Training Grounds”. An Interview with Rimma Kanevski

Schüler in einer Ganztagsschule; © Südpol-Redaktionsbüro/A. ZickgrafPupils at an all-day school; © Südpol-Redaktionsbüro/A. ZickgrafAs far as the emotional development of young people is concerned, all-day schools are clearly superior to half-day schools, suggests the study “Peers in Networks” (PIN), which education scientists at Leuphana University in Lüneburg carried out on teenagers. Boys in particular who attend all-day schools are more sensitive to other people’s feelings and are more likely to resolve conflicts with humour than with their fists. spoke to education expert Rimma Kanevski.

Ms Kanevski, during the course of the PIN study you analysed the relationship behaviour of some 400 adolescents from Brandenburg who had moved up to secondary school after six years together at primary school. The 12- to 14-year-old half-day and all-day school students were surveyed at the beginning and at the end of year seven. What changes for the youngsters when they move up to their new school?

When pupils first move up to secondary school with their friends from primary school, they embark on new projects and school clubs together, deal with everyday school life together and familiarize themselves with new structures. As the school year progresses, teenagers become more independent of their old contacts. They form new relationships and undertake more activities with new friends.

Friendships become closer

Rimma Kanevski; © privat How do relationships with students of the same age develop at all-day schools? Are there differences as compared to half-day schools?

On average, adolescents have eight or nine supportive relationships with young people of their own age, as well as two or three close friendships. We have found that young people at all-day schools forge more supportive relationships and, in particular, more close friendships during the course of a school year than students at half-day schools do. This is an important finding.

Friendships are very close relationships, emotionally speaking. Although they take more time to develop, they are lasting and based on trust. Friends help one another, at times even in very personal matters. Fewer close relationships are nonetheless important for the development of young people. Teenagers do a lot with their mates, but this does not mean that they have to trust them a great deal. Casual relationships give adolescents an important sense of belonging to a larger group of people their own age.

Relationships fade

Are contacts and friendships lost outside all-day schools?

This is something we were able to observe in both the all-day school and the half-day school. Such losses are quite normal, however, as interests diverge over time. Old friendships from primary school fade. In time, teenagers concentrate more on the people they know at their current school.

What role do friendships play for people while they are at school?

Youngsters at school; © ColourboxYoung people face specific development challenges together – their future development will depend on whether or not they are able to overcome these challenges successfully. These include physical changes during puberty, having a romantic relationship with a partner and formulating a set of values, a gender role concept and an identity. Adolescents encounter one another on an equal footing, which is why they can understand one another well and in many areas can give each other a different kind of support to that provided by adults.

When a young person explains something he or she has learnt in class to a friend, the friend sometimes understands it better than when it is explained by the teacher. Even more important, however, is the emotional support young people give each other by talking about their problems and giving each other advice. Adolescents with friends they can trust run less risk of becoming depressed or going off the rails. To overcome their development challenges, teenagers also need social and emotional skills.

Social behaviour is important

What is the difference between social and emotional skills?

Youngsters at school; © ColourboxIn principle, these skills are very closely related and affect one another. We describe young people as having good social skills if they are confident about their own ability to resolve problems and if they are able to forge relationships like friendships in the first place. This requires social behaviour.

Young people with emotional skills notice if a friend is annoyed or upset – and know what to do if the friend wants to be comforted. That is something that has to be learnt. In this area, young people develop a sort of dictionary of emotions, and can develop such skills best in relationships with people of their own age.

Should educators exert influence over teenagers’ relationships?

The long school day must not be excessively planned and organized by adults. Young people need space in which to organize things together and in which to negotiate things with one another.

Students at all-day schools have better strategies

So are all-day schools superior or inferior to half-day schools?

Generally speaking, the all-day school is developing into a good social training ground. When it comes to the ability to resolve social conflicts constructively, students at all-day schools have better strategies. They deal with their interpersonal problems with more humour, and are perceived by their classmates as being less aggressive.

What is more, pupils at all-day schools appear to cope somewhat better with emotions, both their own and those of others. One positive aspect that was noted is that boys at all-day schools catch up more during the course of the school year with girls, who as a rule are further advanced – at half-day schools the gap between boys and girls tends if anything to widen.

Rimma Kanevski was born in 1966 and studied physics at the State University of Rostov-on-Don in Russia from 1983 to 1988. From 2000 to 2001 she did teacher training at Leuphana University in Lüneburg. In 2007, Kanevski was awarded a doctorate on the subject of “Do all-day schools foster social relationships among young people?” Since 2001, she has worked as a secondary school teacher and as a research associate on various research projects.
Arnd Zickgraf
works in Bonn as a journalist specialized in science and current affairs.

Translation: Chris Cave
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
September 2010

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