x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Eid school holidays reduced

The Ministry of Education has blasted schools who told parents they could take the week off for Eid Al Adha, saying everyone must be back in class by Wednesday.

DUBAI // Families might have to rework travel plans because of a new Ministry of Education ruling that schools cannot take a full week off for Eid Al Adha.

Public and private schools were told yesterday they must reopen after the Eid break on Wednesday, November 9.

The decision was taken to curb the "culture of unnecessary holidays" that parents have become accustomed to, said Ali Mihad Al Suwaidi, the director general of the ministry.

International schools that coupled their midterm break with the Eid holidays said the announcement would not affect them: they will reopen on Sunday, November 13, as part of a school calendar the ministry approved at the start of the year.

Some schools had sent circulars out a week ago informing parents about a holiday from November 6 to 12. Ashok Kumar, the chief executive of the Indian High School in Dubai, said that as a result, many parents and teachers had booked their tickets.

"We will wait and talk to the authorities before we change our plans," he said.

But Mr Al Suwaidi was adamant. "Schools that have told parents it will be a week-long Eid break must reverse this decision. They should have waited for an official notification on the duration of the holidays from the ministry," he said. "The Ministry of Education insists that all children should be back in school on Wednesday."

R K Nair, the headmaster at Sharjah Indian School, said he had told parents the length of the school break only after receiving a ministry confirmation. "We were waiting for a ministry approval and just informed parents that children need to be back on Wednesday," he said.

Any proposed holiday must be approved by the ministry before circulars are sent out to parents. Mr Al Suwaidi said the three-day break cannot be stretched unless it is part of a preapproved calendar.

Clive Pierrepont, the director of communications at Taaleem, which has schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, said their calendars were preapproved and the decision would not affect them.

In public schools, the first term includes only 67 teaching days. "When there are so many days off, then at the end there is no school year, only holidays, and children are constantly absent," Mr Al Suwaidi said.

Fouzia Hassan Gharib, the assistant undersecretary at the ministry, said because of the long public holidays, teachers at public schools find it hard to complete the syllabus. "The schools must insist that children be back on Wednesday to continue studies," she said. "We do not want to receive complaints like the curriculum is too heavy or we could not finish the portions, which is why we have not given the whole week off."

Officials have been battling low attendance at schools, particularly before and after public holidays. Mr Al Suwaidi said restricting days off will send a clear message.

"This may cause discontent among parents but we want them to understand that pupils need to be in school studying and they already have enough holiday time during the year."

Some parents have already expressed dissatisfaction.

Noura Saleem from Sharjah said she believed the ministry should recant and give the entire week off.

"Parents won't send their children for just two days - it's always been the case.

aahmed@thenational.ae