Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

Dubai's private schools will not reduce hours during summer

Teachers say they will take steps to ensure pupils can cope with the increased heat

Brendon Fulton, principal at Dubai British School, said pupils were not exposed to the intense summer heat. Reem Mohammed / The National
Brendon Fulton, principal at Dubai British School, said pupils were not exposed to the intense summer heat. Reem Mohammed / The National

Private schools in Dubai will not be reducing teaching hours during summer, but efforts are being made to help pupils keep cool amid rising temperatures.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Education announced that public schools would be shortening classes and removing morning assemblies to shorten the school day by an hour.

Private schools in Dubai - overseen by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) - will not be following suit.

Dubai's private schools follow more than a dozen different curricula and experts said intensive syllabuses such as the Indian board need the extra time to complete the required work.

Shiny Davison, vice principal of Amled School in Al Quoz, which follows the Indian curriculum, said her school would struggle to complete studies if learning hours were cut.

"We have some unexpected holidays and to catch up on and we need this time," she said. "As a school leader, we struggle to complete the portion."

"I do not see children’s energy dipping. They get a little lethargic but that is normal."

She said pupils did not have physical education classes outdoors during the summer and the school avoided holding morning assemblies outside. Rules regarding school uniform are also relaxed.

"We do not ask pupils to wear ties, which are part of their uniform," said Ms Davison. "Also, if some children want to wear sandals instead of shoes and socks they can do so."

The school organises mocktail days, where children are taught how to make refreshing drinks that will help them cool down during the hot summer months.

Bhavana Sood, an Indian mother-of-two from Dubai, said she did not believe school children needed shortened hours.

Amled School in Al Quoz, Dubai, organises mocktail days to encourage children to stay hydrated during the summer. Courtesy Amled School
Amled School in Al Quoz, Dubai, organises mocktail days to encourage children to stay hydrated during the summer. Courtesy Amled School

"During summer months classes are not held outside," she said. "If hours are reduced, the syllabus will not be completed.

"If the children leave school early, they will not focus as much on studies after getting home.

"My children don’t complain. This year my child was taking GCSEs and also attended extra classes at school."

Brendon Fulton, principal of Dubai British School in Jumeirah Park, said reducing hours was not necessary provided schools planned for the hotter weather.

He said it would be difficult for teachers to finish curriculums with reduced hours "especially in the older grades and after the shorter Ramadan hours and the extended Eid break".

At present, primary school children start the day at 7.50am and finish at 3pm, whereas secondary school children start at 7.50am and finish the day at 3.30pm.

"We have two indoor sports halls and two indoor swimming pools, so all physical education takes place indoors during the summer," said Mr Fulton.

"We have many simple procedures, such as red breaks, whereby students take their snack and lunch break indoors rather than outside."

"Teachers encourage active participation in lessons to ensure that lethargy does not set in. We also hold our major showcase events during the summer, so at any given time there are art displays, music performances or assemblies and productions to keep everyone busy."

Robert Welsh, a public school teacher in Dubai who has previously taught in the private sector, said he believed shortened classes would help pupils as he often saw children looking tired around midday.

"It helps a lot to have the lessons shortened to 40 minutes," he said. "I have noticed that pupils hit a wall around 12.30pm and are demotivated and lethargic.

"This is just after Ramadan as well when they are used to not having much to do. All these schools have air-conditioning, but they still have to change classes."

Updated: June 15, 2019 02:28 PM

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