Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

No homework allows Dubai pupils to pursue creative hobbies

Some schools in Dubai have banned homework, a move welcomed by parents and children as it allows them to explore new activities

Zac Stimpson, 9, with his parents, Nicola and Paul. After his school banned homework, the year 5 pupil has spent his spare time at the racetrack in the hopes of becoming a Formula 1 driver. Antonie Robertson / The National
Zac Stimpson, 9, with his parents, Nicola and Paul. After his school banned homework, the year 5 pupil has spent his spare time at the racetrack in the hopes of becoming a Formula 1 driver. Antonie Robertson / The National

A ban on homework at some Dubai schools has made way for pupils to get involved in some creative after-school activities.

Go-Karting, gymnastics, music training, coding and archery are just some of the hobbies children have been able to pursue in the absence of home studies.

Last week, three school operators in the emirate — Arcadia Education, Taaleem and Ambassador Education — said they had either done away with the practice or cut back on the amount of work children have been asked to do at home to allow pupils time to develop other skills and spend time with family.

For nine-year-old Zac Stimpson, a Year 5 British pupil at Repton School Dubai, the hours freed from homework are now spent on the racing track.

"Zac has loved cars since he was very young and he wants to be a Formula One driver,” his father, 47-year-old Paul Stimpson, said.

"After his seventh birthday, we took him to the in-door go-karting track at Motor City, and he swiftly progressed to the outdoor track, entered a race by chance, and won without any training, leaving all of us shocked,” said Mr Stimpson, who works in the automotive industry.

He said racing has encouraged his son to be more outgoing.

"Zac was always quite shy but, when he started go-karting, he was a different person and came out of his shell."

Courtley Winter, an Australian working in recruitment, said one of the main reasons she chose Arcadia School for her son Will, 11, was because of their no-homework policy.

“At his previous school, he was often exhausted after school and then had to do homework. Now, when he finishes school, all his work has been completed and he can do fun things like have tennis lessons or play outside with his brother," said Ms Winter, 45.

Will now spends about an hour every day coding and making podcasts.

"Having that free time also gives him the confidence to try new things that interest him," said Ms Winter.

Nine-year-old twins Khaled and Bissan also attend Arcadia School. Their mother, Sheren Abbas, said dedicating more time to activities other than school assignments has had a great effect on her children’s personalities.

While Khaled spends his after-school hours playing ice hockey, football, swimming, and playing the guitar, Bissan does rhythmic gymnastics, swimming and loves singing.

"We are fortunate to do all these activities and this gives their confidence and self-esteem a boost," said Ms Abbas, 39.

"Every activity helps build their social skills and while they were scared of going on stage earlier they are not any more.

"You cannot learn everything at school and there are some skills you learn on the job."

Indian Alison Rego, 37, said the extra hours after school have allowed her to spend more time with her daughter while teaching her a new skill: to play the keyboard.

"When I introduced my daughter to the keyboard I found she took to it naturally and began to teach her the basics.

"For me it’s a jog down memory lane and a chance to retouch my own skill set. We will do a class eventually but for now time spent teaching her and watching her grasp so quickly is priceless," said Ms Rego, who lives in Sharjah.

Children now also have time to learn languages that they would otherwise not be taught at school.

For Roula Al Jbour, from Greece and Jordan, the lack of homework means her daughter, 6, can learn Greek and still have time to attend a sports club.

"In this day and age there are no benefits to doing homework at home and developing a child’s personality and physical ability is just as important as learning at school," said Ms Al Jbour, 41.

"Aside from school learning, expatriate children should also have enough time to spend with their families to learn about their own culture and native language and this requires them to disengage from school work for a few hours.

"I hope homework is banned from schools on an official level because most schools will not go down this road unless they are asked to do it."

Updated: November 25, 2019 01:45 PM

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