UAE ministry abolishes homework in government schools

Starting next week, pupils at 256 schools will no longer be given assignments to complete outside the classroom

DUBAI, UAE. February 17, 2015 - Stock photograph of students boarding their school buses after school at Gems Modern Academy in Dubai, February 17, 2015. (Photos by: Sarah Dea/The National, Story by: Roberta Pennington, News)
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Hundreds of government-run schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai will no longer assign their pupils homework, the Ministry of Education has said.

The 256 schools – 23 in Dubai and 233 in Abu Dhabi – will abolish homework from February 16, as part of changes to improve the quality of teaching.

Lubna Al Shamsi, acting executive director for schools, said the move is aimed at ensuring pupils make the best use of their time during the school day.

Separate lessons will be merged, with no break, so classes in Arabic, English, mathematics, science, and design and technology will each last 90 minutes.

My daughter enjoys painting and reading, but now she does not have time to read because she has so much homework

Ms Al Shamsi said classes will be broken down into a five-minute session of mental stimulation and 50 minutes of tuition, with the remaining time spent on practical activities.

The ‘no homework’ rule will create a balance between academic requirements and family life, essential for their growth and personal development, Ms Al Shamsi said. The school day will not be longer than at present.

On Tuesday, parents were mixed in their response to the ministry’s decision. Some worried their children would spend more time on devices while others said they hoped the new rule to be extended to private schools.

Hind Al Naqbi, an Emirati mother-of-two, said her daughters, aged seven and 12, attend a public school in Abu Dhabi and never have time to pursue their hobbies because they are assigned too much homework.

“My daughter is in grade seven and she used to love reading but had no time for activities she enjoys," she said.

“I have to help my children and they get lots of homework. My husband and I often discuss that this is a problem for us a family as we do not get time to even sit together."

She said her elder daughter comes home from school at 4.15pm, eats a quick lunch in 15 minutes, does homework until 7pm, has dinner and then goes straight to sleep.

“My children have a a lot of homework and, at times, have several exams on one day,” she said.

“I am very happy that my children would be able to spend time with us.

“My daughter enjoys painting and reading but she does not have time to read because she has so much homework.”

But Nada Abushibs, an Emirati mother-of three, said she worried that children may not spend their spare time productively.

She said children may end up spending their hours on gadgets, watching movies or playing games instead of reading or taking on productive hobbies.

"Children do not like studies and when they do not have homework, they don’t want to work anyway,” she said.

"For me, this is not a good decision. I feel that when pupils read and write, they understand their studies better."

She said homework was important for revision and perhaps the answer would be to just reduce the amount of work assigned to children instead of doing away with it entirely.

“Children have a lot of time at home and sit with their headphones, watching movies or playing on their iPads," she said.

Last year, a number of private schools in Dubai said they were removing homework to allow pupils to "have a life" and ease demands placed on parents.

At least three school operators, Arcadia Education, Taaleem and Ambassador Education, told The National they have stopped homework or limited the amount of work children are asked to do at home.

Parents welcomed the decision and said children needed to spend less time on homework and more time playing.

At the time, Kamal Kalwani, chief executive of school operator Ambassador Education, said many “parents also end up spending a fortune on tutoring their children after school”, while Graham Beale, executive principal of Arcadia, said pupils who were struggling with homework would get more support in class.