Ramadan 2023 in UAE: 9 changes in schools during the holy month

The spring and end-of-term breaks coincide with the start of the holy month this year

by

Sahim Salim

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Published: Wed 22 Feb 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 22 Feb 2023, 2:35 PM

The holy month of Ramadan, which begins in less than 30 days in the UAE, is a time for spirituality for residents. With shorter working hours, Muslims use the extra time they get to pray and for other acts of worship.

The learning process also switches gears, with schools typically having five-hour days during Ramadan. This year, the spring and end-of-term breaks at schools will coincide with the start of the holy month. This means most students will get up to two weeks off during the month of fasting.

1. Shorter school hours

“We expect our standard timings to be from 8am until 1pm each day. Schools usually have a choice, and can start anytime from 8am to 9am, and end between 1pm and 2pm, as long as the day is a maximum of five hours,” said Rob Commons, principal, Uptown International School.

A survey of the school community suggested that the preference was for the earlier start time.

“This was to meet with family needs, with each family taking Suhoor (pre-fast meal) before sunrise, and then staying awake until the end of school at 1pm, before taking rest in the afternoon. If we were to start later, then it would be a longer period from Suhoor until the opportunity to rest in the afternoon,” said Rob.

Mohamed Abdulla, assistant principal/head of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Gems Royal Dubai School, said their Ramadan timings will be from 8am to 1pm Monday to Thursday; and 8am to 11.30am on Fridays.

According to Rob, students will have six 40-minute lessons a day, with shortened break and lunch times. He listed other changes that will happen at the school:

2. Swimming lessons will be cancelled.

3. While PE lessons continue, students who are fasting do not have to take part in the physical activities.

4. Music lessons will become largely theory-based.

5. The school canteen will be covered, so that younger students who are fasting do not have to see others who may be eating.

6. Parents will be supported with shaded areas/spare rooms where they can wait.

7. Indoor, air-conditioned spaces will be provided for fasting students at break and lunch times.

8. ‘Gentler’ schooling

Lisa Johnson, principal, American School for Girls, added: “Ramadan is a time that we focus on the words of the Holy Quran and practise charitable acts as a school family. Generally, the pace of school is a bit gentler as most of our girls, even some primary students, follow the Ramadan fast. We also have many staff members, both Muslim and non-Muslim, that observe fasting for spiritual growth and (to) support our students on this path.”

9. Exams and assessments

Schools don’t usually schedule any internal exams or assessments during the holy month.

Sydney Michael Atkins, vice-principal and designated safeguarding lead, Gems Modern Academy, said ongoing assessments will continue. “ICSE and ISC Council examinations are ongoing until March 31.”

Rob said this will be the first year since 2015 that the holy month falls outside of the external examination period. “So, for this year, we can be sure that there are no exams at all during Ramadan.”

According to Lisa, her school reduces assessment frequency and duration during the holy month.

“We have organised our calendar to ensure that heavily-weighted exams are not held during this period. Additionally, we have modified the curriculum map to reduce the number of new concepts that are introduced during this period, opting to focus on projects and review of previously-taught standards. Many teachers will also employ flipped classroom assignments, providing videos that students can review later in the evening after they have rested and/or broken fast,” said Lisa.

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