Enrichment programs, summer programs and exchange programs as tool for university preparation for high school students.

By Radhika Retnam

Until sometime back, students in the U.S. accepted the 9 month school calendar without any question. They considered summer as leisure time and students and teachers equally enjoyed this extended break. Subsequently, the long summer break ended up in students losing grounds academically. This is termed as ‘summer slides’ or summer learning loses.To overcome this, summer schools and exchange programs or bridging programs started to play a key role in the academic cycle of the students.

‘Summer Learning: Research, Policies, and Programs’ edited by Geoffrey D. Borman, Matthew Boulay is based on an overview of research on summer learning loss and the effectiveness of summer school. It discusses seasonal changes in learning and how these learning differences affect equality of educational opportunity and outcomes in America. Summarizing the results of 93 students, Borman and Boulay concluded that summer school programs focused on lessening or removing learning deficiencies and have a clear positive impact on the participants. Students completing these programs usually score better.

Every year during summer, bright students participate in highly challenging residential programs on university campuses.In Donna L. Enersen’s abstract of the research paper‘Summer Residential Programs: Academics and Beyond’ published in Sage Journals, she observes that since many students return year after year, it may be comprehended that they must be finding something of great value in these programs.Even though there is confirmation of their academic achievement, she states that little has been done to ascertain the students’ own perceptions of the total program experience. In the theses, she has employed the qualitative research tools of interview and the principles of phenomenology to discern how a group of students saw and interpreted the value of the summer programs. It was found that the satisfaction of challenging course work taught by expert teachers proved to be significant to them; making friends and gaining confidence in their own abilities were equally vital.

Dina G. Markowitz emphasis on dominance of science outreach programs in the research theses ‘Evaluation of the Long-Term Impact of a University High School Summer Science Program on Students’ Interest and Perceived Abilities in Science’. These programs offer them great insight into the nature of science and laboratory research. The theses elaborates a long-term study of high school students enrolled in the Summer Science Academy program at the University of Rochester to examine the program’s impact on students’ perceived abilities in higher level science courses as well as the program’s impact on student interest in pursuing a career in science. Students’ exposure during Summer Science Academy to advanced laboratory techniques and complete participation in authentic science investigations helped them with a very positive hands-on experience. Students who attended the program described that it provided a positive influence on their decision to participate in other science programs and has fueled their desire to pursue a career in science.

Some studies, however, have taken a different approach by looking not so much on the impact of these bridging programs.‘How Do Pre-Collegiate Academic Outreach Programs Impact College-Going among Underrepresented Students?’,a Paper presentation by Yvette Gullatt and Wendy Jan examines and puts forward the analysis which shows that the lack of rigorous evaluation of program components which continues to makes evidence of the role of outreach in a student’s college pathway elusive.This paper was commissioned by the Building School Capacity committee to primarily examine links between school reform and pre-collegiate academic development efforts.
‘Challenges to Stereotypes of International Students’ Prior Educational Experience: undergraduate education in India’ by Peter Ninnes ,Claire Aitchison & ShobaKalos deals with teaching and learning for international students in Australia and is dominated by a cultural‐deficit approach. Proponents of this perspective claim that most of the international students bring with them learning experiences which are inadequate in the Australian context. It has no resemblance to the topic of research, hence further details about the paper are not acknowledged.

While it is important to determine the effects of a summer bridge program on the academic, personal, and social development of underrepresented and low-income students, Susan P.Ackermann  in her essay ‘The Benefits of Summer Bridge Programs for Underrepresented and Low-Income Students’ has collected data about first year students at the University of California, Los Angeles. The 1988 cohort of students enrolled in the Freshman Summer Program or Transfer Summer Program (FSP/TSP) were tracked through their first two quarters, collecting both attitudinal and academic data.  From the data collected from 265 students, it can be concluded that summer bridge programs help facilitate students’ transition and adjustment to university life and improve their academic performance and persistence rates. The research analysis proves that strong curricular component can help teach students how to participate and succeed in an academic environment. These programs also cater to the under-represented and low-income students helping them to adjust and adapt to university life.

In ‘Summer Bridge Programs: Supporting All Students. ERIC Digest’, AdriannaKezar argues that remediation and support programs, including summer bridge programs, has expanded markedlyin response to the needs of international students, non-English speakers and disabled students, and others who need help in gaining an equal footing with other students. She finds that Bridge programs are also gaining support internationally, as other countries expand their higher education systems.The other main aim of such programs is to retain these new populations within higher education.The summer programs offer a wide range of activities like academic support, study skills, career counseling, developing relationships on campus, computer literacy etc. She opines that every program should begin by developing a mission statement and goals that serve as the foundation of any evaluation.

Research has shown that student exchange offers broad based benefits and outcomes for students in many ways. Acceptance and understanding of an array of different cultural perspectives is guaranteed along with international learning. Practical immersion ensures language acquisition. Awareness and adoption of alternative and multi-faceted approaches to learning is another facet that the student benefits from exchange programs experience. Student exchange programs play a key role in helping the students in smooth transition from high school to college. Such programs ensure self-development and awareness leading to enhanced self-confidence and self-esteem. This is often the most noticeable change in returned exchange students. Successful program completion is looked upon as an instance of personal flexibility, encompassing the ability to compromise, focus and encounter various challenges. Such experience gained while living overseas proves to be helpful later in their work milieu where they have to preserve the awareness of group dynamics and personal sensitivity towards others.

The chief focus of this research then can be concluded that the pre-freshman summer workshops, exchange programs and other bridging programs affect the ultimate success or failure of the program participants.

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About The Author

Radhika RatnamRadhika Retnam

Radhika Retnam is currently pursuing Post-graduation in Journalism at the Press club Institute in Trivandrum. She is an active volunteer at MAD ( Make a Difference), an NGO that takes care of the education and overall growth of kids at Shelter homes. She is an occasional creative writer and has published poems in ‘Kavya Bharathi’ (a journal published by The American College, Madras). She has also won the challenge memorial award for poetry in 2012. She is planning to conduct an exhibition of her abstract paintings later this year. She is also a researcher for a project on media studies conducted in collaboration with ICSSR and JNU.