Exams on day one, post-holiday blues: UAE students return to classes after winter break

Some schools even noted a drop in attendance due to costly air tickets


Nandini Sircar

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Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Published: Tue 2 Jan 2024, 7:08 PM

Last updated: Tue 2 Jan 2024, 11:15 PM

Iconic yellow school buses dotted Dubai roads once again on Tuesday as children returned to their schools on the second day of 2024.

As students returned to schools in UAE after a three-week-long winter break, they battled a number of issues: from getting back to routine to facing mock exams.

“It usually takes some time to readjust to the normal school routine, but I think it will be easy to get back to our ways,” said Hamdan Ali, a Year 6 Student, GEMS Al Barsha National School. He even spoke of his goal this year, saying, "This term I would like to get a Star of the Term award, and I’d be really happy if it’s for my swimming."

Hamdan Ali
Hamdan Ali

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Exam season begins

Some schools in the emirate even scheduled exams on the first day that students returned to school.

Rhian Arnott, Year 11 Student, GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis said, “I have my mock exams, which seem like a challenge but actually it allows me to practice for my real GCSEs in Term 3. But I also look forward to seeing all my friends and my lovely teachers.”

“Students in 6th form (Year 12 and Year 13) commence mocks and external exams straight away,” she added.

Rhian Arnott
Rhian Arnott

Other schools will also conduct internal exams soon. Nav Iqbal, Principal/CEO, GEMS Metropole School – Motor City said, “Internal exams at our school are scheduled to start soon.” He said that students should get enough time to prepare for their assessments, which is why these schedules are well thought-out.

Exam season commenced in some schools whereas, others saw a drop in attendance. Abhilasha Singh, Principal, Shining Star International, said, “We recorded 80 per cent attendance today. In the UAE we face this peculiar problem of low attendance on the first day of school due to high flight tickets.”

Preparing for students' return

Schools prepared for students by ensuring that they return safely and to a new-improved campus after their winter break.

In order to create the best possible learning environment for students, this school created new learning spaces, among other renovations.

Dr Ethan Hildreth, Superintendent/CEO, GEMS Dubai American Academy said, “DAA undertook dramatic facility improvements such as new learning spaces, expanded spaces for innovation, and a cutting-edge WISE Centre for Wellbeing.”

Schools even implemented special measures to optimise the flow of traffic and reduce accidents on the first day back. Traffic peaked around school zones during the morning and late afternoon hours with many institutions welcoming new joiners in Term 2.

"It is always busy at drop-off and pick-up times outside any school, but with courtesy and safety in mind, we [parents and professional security and staff traffic wardens] worked together to ensure traffic flows smoothly,” Gillian Hammond​​​​, Principal of Repton School Dubai and Chief Education Officer of Excella, said.

Lively chatter returned to school corridors as students filled classrooms again.

Gillian Hammond
Gillian Hammond

Hammond​​​​ added, “It was fantastic to welcome back our students this morning. Students were excited to see their teachers and friends and wore their uniforms smartly with great pride. A governor on campus this morning commented on the positive, energetic buzz around our whole campus. We were also delighted to welcome nearly 80 new students and five new staff.”

Hafsa, a Grade 10 Student at GEMS International School – Al Khail said, “Today is my first day having moved from Turkey. I’m slightly apprehensive but looking forward to my journey”.


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