DUBAI // A third of teenage pupils in Dubai feel so “sad and hopeless” in school that it stops them from taking part in activities, a study suggests.
The voluntary survey found that of the 4,391 pupils aged 12 to 16 questioned in 31 middle schools, 34 per cent felt “sad”.
“Thirty-four per cent is too high but we have to remember that these children are now in their teenage years and that can be a very challenging time, both physically and emotionally,” said Simon O’Connor, principal of Jumeirah College, which was one of the schools that took part in the study.
The figure was a surprise to many.
“I thought we would have 20 per cent at most but to have a third of children feel so sad that it is hitting other activities is a shock,” said Rianne Selwyn, a middle school teacher at JSS Private School in Al Safa.
“There could be a range of issues causing this, including peer pressure, with children following the responses their friends give and pretending everything is okay.”
Schools welcomed the results as they provided insight.
“We have baseline figures and it [the study] revealed there are issues that need to be looked at,” said Baljit Ahluwalia, student welfare officer at Apple International School in Al Qusais.
The electronic survey found 78 per cent of middle school pupils were happy at their school.
Only 53 per cent said they ate fruit and vegetables in school twice a week or more. Elsewhere, the poll found that 72 per cent had breakfasts and 65 per cent went to school well rested.
Ninety-two per cent enjoyed physical activities and three quarters said teachers and other grown-ups at school cared about them.
About 84 per cent said they received regular praise when they did a good job, and 87 per cent said parents and other grown-ups at home cared about their schoolwork.
The relationships they had with their peers showed that 60 per cent felt that they respected each other’s differences but only 41 per cent believed others did not spread rumours about them over the previous year.
Seventy-six per cent felt safe at school.
The results from the 34 elementary schools surveyed were more positive.
In all, 4,948 pupils aged 9 to 13 took part, with 83 per cent saying they were happy at school.
For physical well-being, 80 per cent said they had breakfast, 83 per cent went to school rested and 61 per cent had fruit and vegetables twice or more a week at school. Ninety-four per cent enjoyed physical activity.
Eighty-one per cent said adults at school cared about them and would praise them, and 87 per cent said teachers made it clear that bullying was not allowed.
At home, 93 per cent said parents or other grown-ups took an interest in their schoolwork.
The vast majority – 85 per cent – felt safe at school, with three-quarters saying differences between students were respected and 67 per cent tried to stop bullying at school.
Next week, the schools will meet to look at their results and develop action plans.
The School of Hearts pilot study was organised by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai’s education regulator, and involved more than 9,000 pupils aged from 9 to 16 in 40 schools.
Hind Al Mualla, chief of creativity, happiness and innovation at KHDA, said: “We want schools to support and promote emotional development.”
The findings are published today to coincide with the UN International Day of Happiness.