Schools in the UAE will schedule lessons in line with major changes to the working week.
Public sector workers will adopt a four-and-a-half-day working week from January 1. Employees will complete full working days from Monday to Thursday, with a half day on Friday. Saturday and Sunday will be the new weekend for government workers.
All public and private schools will implement the same timetable, with pupils attending lessons from Monday to Thursday, with a half day on Friday, a document from the government confirmed.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai's private school regulators said all of their schools would operate under the new working week, starting from Monday, January 3.
Timings will be confirmed by the authorities.
Taaleem, one of the UAE's largest school groups, has backed the move to a more "flexible working week".
"Taaleem will await further guidance from Adek and KHDA as our private regulators before a formal announcement to our school communities but fully endorse the changes to the working week,” said Alan Williamson, chief executive officer of Taaleem.
“We see the benefits in terms of staff, pupil, and parent well-being in having a more flexible working week in relation to four and a half days.
"It will also be important for Taaleem to ensure our schools finish on a Friday to allow our valued Islamic community to be prepared for prayer by 1.15pm as per the government announcement.
"There are certainly curriculum implications across our UK, IB and American schools, which we hope KHDA and Adek will allow us flexibility to deliver on Monday through Thursday in relation to school timings."
He said school principals and senior leaders would be busy over the winter break ensuring schools opened on January 3 with the new arrangements in place.
"Our parents will expect us to move in line with the public and private sector and we will work tirelessly to ensure there is clear communication across our schools for staff, students, and parents,” he said.
Another school leader welcomed the move to a shorter week, which he said would be of value to young learners.
"We welcome the opportunity to implement a shorter working week and it would definitely have a beneficial impact on the happiness and well-being on children and educators” said Punit Vasu, chief executive officer of The Indian High Group of Schools.
"As pioneers of KHDA’s Rahhal programme, The Indian High School, Oud Metha has implemented a shorter working week for Grade 11 and 12 students since April 2018 and feedback from our stakeholders over the past four years has been extremely positive as the 'extra half day' may be used to pursue hobbies, sport, music.
"As a not-for-profit community group of schools celebrating 60 years of existence in the UAE, we feel this can create a new model in education where technology can play a vital role to possibly enable distance learning on a Friday, allowing for even greater efficiencies."
The new system will mean federal workers will work from 7.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Thursday, and from 7.30am to midday on Friday. There is the possibility of flexible working, plus work-from-home options on Fridays.
Friday sermons and prayers will be held at 1.15pm throughout the year.
The new long weekend will "boost productivity and improve work-life balance", the UAE Government Media Office said in a tweet.
The country's working week last changed in 2006, when weekends moved from Thursday and Friday to the current Friday and Saturday. The move brought the Emirates in line with global markets, at a time when the economy was growing rapidly.
The private sector and public and private schools all shifted working days on the same day in September 2006.