Pupils to fast during exam time

Muslim children tell of ways to prepare for the assessments which overlap with Ramadan for two weeks this year.

Zainab Khan, 17, a Dubai British School pupil, is preparing for her three final-year A-level exams during Ramadan, which starts next week. Satish Kumar / The National
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DUBAI // A desire to succeed and a sense of duty to honour their Islamic faith means many pupils will be fasting when sitting their examinations over Ramadan.

But they are determined to rise to the challenge and are not put off by having to fast from dawn to sunset each day during the holy month.

Zainab Khan, a 17-year-old Briton, is preparing for her three final-year A-level exams during Ramadan, which starts next week.

“In previous years I’ve not fasted when I’ve had to take exams and made up the days after Ramadan. But this time I will be,” said the Dubai British School pupil.

She said it was going to be a challenge but she was prepared for it. “The exams are all about two hours long but the good thing is that they are in the mornings, so I should have more energy then,” Zainab said.

“It’s going to be tough to get enough sleep in preparation but I’m determined to overcome any issues and do my best.”

She has been advised to conserve her energy for the exams and not to spend too much time outdoors in the sun.

“I know it’s going to be difficult but it is part of our religious duty to fast during Ramadan and I’m hopeful of doing well,” she said.

Her exams on media studies, mathematics and English literature take place on June 8, 9 and 17 respectively, and she is aiming to score Bs at the minimum so that she can study law in Britain.

Emirati Aisha Al Zaabi said she was not too worried about taking exams during Ramadan.

Last year she managed to earn grades in the 90th percentile when the holy month overlapped with two days of the end-of-year exams.

“It was challenging but it’s not really that hard. We’re used to it,” said Aisha.

The 17-year-old Grade 11 pupil from Jamila Buhaird High School in Kalba said she had a good strategy to help her stay focused.

“When I get home from school, instead of going straight to sleep, I actually study a bit, even if I am hungry,” she said.

She then takes a rest until sunset and picks up the books again. “Later at night I would go back and study,” she said.

Her advice to others was not to fret over fasting during exams. “Think of it as a diet, so you can clear your head and focus more on studying than eating and other stuff,” said Aisha.

This year, the overlap between Ramadan and exams will be about two weeks, but Aisha said she was looking forward to her exams. “I’m taking it in a positive way. I’ll try my best, I guess,” she said.

The Ministry of Education has yet to announce new school timings for Ramadan, although it was expected to do so this week.

The Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) said classes would continue for pupils in Grades 1 to 11 until June 23 for public and most private schools. But the daily school hours would be truncated when the holy month began.

“According to the timetable, boys at those grades will start the school day at 8.15am and finish at 1.15pm, while girls will start at 9am and finish at 1.55pm,” Adec said. “The duration of the morning assembly has been shortened to five minutes and break time will be only 10 minutes. Class timings will be reduced from 45 to 40 minutes, with the same number of periods for all grades from 1 to 11, which is seven periods a day.”

In Dubai, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority said school days would also be shortened during Ramadan.

Schools will start at 8am or 8.30am and end at 1pm or 1.30pm, with shorter breaks as required.

Hussain Al Hammadi, the Minister of Education, said that Ramadan was a normal month for pupils when it came to taking exams. With the exception of graduating Grade 12 students, who completed the academic year a couple of weeks earlier than their peers this year, “Ramadan is part of business”, he said.