Number of academic days in UAE public schools below average

Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, said if the number of instruction days are cut, schools need to improve their quality of education to make up the difference.

ABU DHABI // When it comes to the minimum number of days in the academic year, public schools in the UAE are falling behind global standards.

The Ministry of Education recently released the academic calendar for the next three years, reducing the number of instructional days a year to 175 from 189.

That is eight days fewer than the global average for lower secondary schools (183 days) and 10 days fewer than primary schools (185 days) across member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

That is according to Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators, a report released last September.

China, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia and Luxembourg were among the countries with the least number of instructional days. They all required students to attend school for 170 days or less.

In contrast, schools in Brazil, Colombia, Italy, Japan and Mexico had to offer at least 200 instructional days a year.

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) in Dubai defines instructional days as “the total number of days in an academic year in which students receive instruction in an educational programme”. Examination days and non-academic-related activity days are excluded from the count.

When exam days and non-academic-related days are taken into account, public schools in the UAE will be operating for 183 days in 2015-2016, 184 days in 2016-2017, and 181 days in 2017-2018, according to the ministry’s calendar.

“If the UAE reduces the quantity of instruction time, it needs to redouble its efforts to raise the quality of instruction to make up for this,” said Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director for the directorate of education and skills.

He noted that Singapore achieved its high-performing education system with long hours, while Finland did so with fewer hours.

“What this shows is that student performance is always the product of the quantity of instruction and the quality of instruction,” said Mr Schleicher.

All public and private schools in the UAE must offer the minimum number of instruction days set out by the ministry.

In Dubai, however, the KHDA requires private schools to “guarantee that students, in all schools and across the various curricula, will receive a minimum number of 188 school days, of which a minimum are 175 instructional days”.

Abu Dhabi Education Council said private schools in the emirate could apply for a modified calendar so long as they offered a minimum of 175 instructional days and observed the public holidays and the school breaks set by the ministry.

The academic calendar for Abu Dhabi’s private schools will be published a few months before the start of the new academic year.

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Academic Calendar for Dubai private schools in 2015-2016

Start of the academic year August 30, 2015

Start of winter break: December 20, 2015

Resume classes: January 3, 2016

Start of spring break: March 27, 2016

Resume classes: April 10, 2016

End of the Academic year: June 23, 2016

Instructional Days: 175

School Days: 188

Ministry of Education academic calendar 2015-2016 (applies to public schools and private MoE-curriculum private schools)

Staff begin work: August 23, 2015

Students begin classes: August 30, 2015

Winter break: Begins December 20, 2015

Schools reopen: January 10, 2016

Spring break: Begins March 27, 2016

Schools reopen: April 10, 2016

School academic year concludes: June 23

Staff members’ conclude academic year: July 5, 2016

Number of instructional days: 175

Number of school days: 183

rpennington@thenational.ae

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