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10 June 2023

Why Dubai teachers, students want schools to start later

By Sneha May Francis

School-going children wake up at the crack of dawn, and quickly ready themselves for the journey to their schools. Once there, they busy themselves in learning.

While most Dubai private schools start around 8am, many delay it by a few minutes or an hour. It’s evidently based on previous theories that children are able to grasp more during the early part of the day.

A recent study, however, quashed this theory, and suggested that delayed school timings have long-term benefits for teens.

According to the study, published in the Learning, Media and Technology, forcing students to wake up “too early” can impact their health, restrict “the time available for sleep and cause severe and chronic sleep loss”.

This sleep deprivation could lead to “poor communication, decreased concentration and cognitive performance, unintended sleeps, decreased motor performance, increased risk taking and changes in mood pattern, specifically depression”.

Researchers at the University of Oxford, Harvard Medical School and the University of Nevada in Reno found that students could benefit academically if schools altered the start timings according to the adolescent biology.

As per the findings in the study, at the age of 10, the biological wake time is about 6.30am; so school should start between 8.30am and 9am, the researchers wrote. At 16, the wake time is 8am, so the school start time should be between 10am and 10.30am. And at 18, the wake time is about 9am, so the start time for classes should be between 11am and 11.30am.

Speaking to Emirates24|7, a former teacher at Our Own English High School agreed that the decision to delay start timing will be beneficial. “I too feel that starting the classes a little later in the day will considerably reduce the stress and pressure students undergo on a regular basis,” said Mini S Menon.

“It’s inevitable, particularly in urban settings that adolescents go to bed way past the recommended time. This, followed by getting up in time to catch a school bus that leaves at 6.15am or 6.30am certainly leads to sleep deprivation, which is harmful in the long run.”

A student of GEMS Modern Academy admitted to sleeping in class because she couldn’t cope with the early timings. “When we have extra sessions for sports, we have to get to school earlier than the normal 6am. So, after the training, it’s natural to feel tired and sleepy during class,” reasoned Devanshi Arora.

“We often spend nearly 12 hours a day at school, what with extracurricular activities and such. So we end up getting home late and our bedtime is delayed. So waking up early the next morning leaves us sleep deprived.

“It would be great idea to stall the start timings, as it will help our bodies to relax and enable us to concentrate more on our books.”

However, some parents feel there’s a reason why schools start in the mornings. “It’s proven that schools that begin early in the day show excellent academic records. It also means students get time for extra-curricular activities after school hours.”