Pro: Less instruction boosts performance and mental health


Having a three-day weekend every week could become the new reality for students.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been a labor shortage, with CNBC stating that “some workers are feeling more empowered to prioritize their own well-being above their employer.” In April 2021, 4 million people quit their jobs in what is known as the great resignation because they believed that they could find higher pay, more accommodating hours and better working conditions elsewhere. In light of this, and wanting to catch up with other countries that mandate vacations for all workers, Democratic lawmakers in Congress endorsed a bill proposed by Rep. Mark Takano, on Dec. 7 that would implement a four-day workweek. If adults are getting a proposed four-day workweek, a similar schedule should be implemented for students as well, as it will aid mental health and performance.

The United States (U.S). in comparison to other countries has more instructional hours yet lower scores in reading, science and mathematics. A 2012 EducationWeek article states that the U.S. spends between 900 to 1,000 instructional hours each year in comparison to Finland’s 777, Japan’s 868 and South Korea’s 867 hours of instruction. However, despite the longer instructional time, according to a 2017 Pew Research study, the U.S. ranks 24th in science, 39th in math (which is nine spots below the average) and 24th in reading. So what is the U.S. doing wrong? A 2018 World Economic Forum article states that Finland spends less time on homework than any other student in the world, yet still rank within the top 15 countries in science, math and reading. Instead, they utilize the limited classroom time to focus on growing the students individually and academically, rather than waste time on busywork. By having a four-day workweek, schools are forced to condense the curriculum to necessary material and therefore help students become better prepared for their futures. Irvine Unified School District has already achieved a similar schedule last year, with Monday being a day to check in with teachers if students needed help. The previous schedule can be a reference for how our school week can be structured. Many students and staff found this to be a beneficial system to work on as it allowed both parties a buffer day to catch up on work and prepare for the upcoming week. 

Students also experience just as much, if not more, stress than adults, and therefore should be given the same amount of rest. According to a 2014 American Psychological Association study, teen stress level averages top adults’ average by about 114 percent. The point for the push in American legislation was to promote workplace productivity by also encouraging mental and physical health. In doing so, why not extend the same practice meant to reduce stress in adults to the even more stressed teens? By having an extra day of rest in the week, students will be granted a more frequent break that allows them to rejuvenate instead of having their stress build up over a couple months before a two week break. This in turn will increase productivity and motivation to learn, especially when content is concise and purposeful, leading to even better academic performance and a holistic approach to working in and out of the classroom.

While some may say that having an extra day off will slow down learning in the classroom, having an extra day of rest allows students to come back to class ready to learn and more energized for the week. According to a 2016 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report, children are often chronically absent from school due to health issues including mental health. In addition, a 2009 National Center for Education Statistics report found that students who attend school regularly have been seen to achieve higher levels than those who do not have regular attendance. Therefore, if given more time to work on their mental health, students will have better attendance, thus having better performance and academic achievements. Having the ability to physically and mentally recuperate will increase performance and quality of work, and therefore, a four-day workweek will likely encourage learning in the classroom.

Overall, having a four-day workweek will benefit students and adults alike, and should therefore be implemented. It forces the curriculum to focus on strong character and academic growth in students, as well as increase overall performance and well-being in students and staff by providing frequent breaks. In an age where mental health is being prioritized, this will be a much needed and appreciated change.

I really like the idea of a four day work week/school week with that Monday being an online day, similar to last year. California law does require students to be in school 180 days, so for that Monday, I think we would need to have some type of online learning to ensure that we met the requirements of the state, but I do think giving students that additional day to get work done and to focus on projects and assignments that they have gives them more discretionary time on the weekend. I think the operating cost of school goes down when you are only open for four days and it might sound crazy, but running electricity and running water and power for school or for schools for the entire district is expensive. Reducing that cost would save tens of thousands of dollars a month that could be money spent in different ways to help improve education. So I like the idea of four days a week.”

Courtney Smith, social science teacher