Adec announces longer academic year for Abu Dhabi schools

Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) issued a circular asking schools to increase the number of instruction days from 175 to 180 in 2017/18

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ABU DHABI // Pupils at all schools will study longer into the summer next year after the academic year was extended by five days.

Abu Dhabi Education Council has issued a circular asking schools to increase the number of school days from 175 to 180 in the next academic year.

The extra week will be tacked on to the end of the year so that the last day for pupils will now be July 5, instead of the originally announced June 28. School ends on June 22 this year.

Teachers and administrators will also have a week for professional development until July 12.

“The revised calendar is much better in terms of an overall balance across the three terms,” said Peter Carpenter, director of education for Aldar Academies, which operates seven private schools across the emirate.

“We like our students to be in school as much as they can be.”

Until the new private school calendars are approved by the authority, most parents will still find the earlier finish date of June 28 on schools’ websites.

Private schools across Abu Dhabi are in the process of resubmitting their revised calendars for Adec approval.

“More teaching days is good news from my point of view,” said Brendan Law, headmaster of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi.

“The 180 days requirement for private schools is in effect, as I understand it, so schools have been required to resubmit their calendars.”

But some school officials expressed confusion about whether the circular, issued in Arabic, applied to private schools.

At least one private school said it was not changing its dates because its calendar for next year had previously been approved by the education regulator.

Adec 2017-2018 academic calendar
September 32017 Private and public school teachers and staff return to school
September 102017 Private and public school pupils return to school
December 142017 Winter break begins for public and private school pupils
January 72018 Winter break ends for private school pupils
January 142018 Winter break ends for public school pupils
March 252018 Spring break begins for private and public school pupils
April 82018 Spring break ends for private and public school pupils
July 52018 Last day of school for public and most private schools pupils
July 122018 Last day of school for public and most private schools teachers and staff

Note: Private schools are granted a one-week floater week that allows them some flexibility in planning their academic calendars. This week is subject to approval by Adec.

The Ministry of Education and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, which oversee public and private schools in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, have not yet announced changes to the school calendars.

The Abu Dhabi authority confirmed the new calendar but did not reply to any other queries.

The new calendar also extended the winter break for public school pupils from three to four weeks, starting on Sunday, December 17, this year and ending Sunday, January 14, next year.

Government teachers and administrators will return to school on January 7 to take part in professional development.

Mansour Al Marzouqi, vice principal of a government school in Al Ain, said the longer winter break was welcome because it would give pupils and their families a chance to rest or travel. He said the authority did not explain why the winter break was lengthened.

“In my opinion, what Adec decided is beneficial because they have considered all the dimensions,” said Mr Al Marzouqi.

One education consultant questioned the wisdom of closing schools during the coolest months of the year.

“Students don’t need rest,” said Judith Finnemore of Focal Point Management ­Consultancy.

“They already have a shorter year than western countries, especially when sports days and days of practice for events are factored in. One might consider that this is the coolest part of the year, hence more suitable for learning.”

The dates for the winter break for private school pupils remain unchanged, beginning December 17 and ending January 7.


Quantity does not mean quality

ABU DHABI // The number of instruction days delivered by public and private schools in Abu Dhabi falls short of the average across countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Primary students in OECD states have an average of 185 instruction days per year and lower secondary pupils have an average of 184 days, according to the Education At A Glance 2016 report.

Increased instruction time has been shown to improve scores on international assessments, said Andreas Schleicher, education policy special adviser to the secretary-general at the OECD.

However, he said time in class was only part of the story. The quality of teaching was critical.

“Countries like Finland, Germany, Switzerland or Japan achieve much better outcomes with far fewer instruction hours, like the UAE.

“You can reconcile these findings when you keep in mind that learning outcomes are the product of the quantity of hours and the quality of instruction.

“There is huge scope for the UAE to improve the quality of teaching.”