x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Parental neglect as pupils skip school

Letting your children skip school, even for a nice family vacation, is just not good for them. Parents should be made to understand that.

Coming from a public-school principal, the comment should ring alarm bells for parents and administrators across the country: poor school attendance around the holidays "is a UAE cancer", said Moza Saif Mohamed Al Mansoure, head of the Qatr Al Nada school in Madinat Zayed.

As The National reported yesterday, many children have missed two weeks of classes, although the Eid holiday was just four days.

This is a serious problem. Too many parents clearly feel it is acceptable to absent their children from school for an extended holiday. But, as Ms Al Mansoure pointed out, this lack of commitment to school attendance sends the wrong message. And it is one that has a disproportionate effect on the future lives of their children.

When children absorb the message that it is acceptable to skip school, it reduces their focus on their studies. Children learn the wrong lesson: that attendance is optional. It is not difficult to see how such an attitude could translate into an equal lack of respect for the hard work necessary to thrive in higher education or the world of work.

The problem grows more urgent as universities across the country improve their standards. That is happening in an effort to be sure that Emirati university graduates are ready to compete in local, regional and global markets for specialised skills. Already many universities find that students supposedly prepared to start postsecondary studies actually need remedial help before they can begin.

One suggestion might be to involve the law, as some other countries do, by requiring attendance unless there is a medical excuse. That approach poses enforcement difficulties. A better way would be to get parents' attention and change their attitudes.

Parents should understand that removing their children from school in this fashion is, in effect, cheating them of the best chance at academic success. Apparently, many parents must also be reminded, or convinced, how much their offspring's well-being and self-fulfillment depend on a good education.

Parents naturally want their children to flourish, and few avenues to success are as straight and wide as education. Parents who do not understand that need to learn it, and relatives, school officials and higher authorities all have a duty to help them do so.