New Dubai school programme gives students 1.5 days off to work on talent
The initiative is called '3.5+1.5=6' and will involve 1,5000 students at the school.
Nearly 1,500 Indian students in Dubai can now attend school for only three and a half days a week and use the remaining time developing their talents or catching up on academics.
The initiative has been introduced to all 11th and 12th-graders at The Indian High School in Dubai and falls under the Knowledge and Human Development Authority's (KHDA) Rahhal project - which has already seen the launch of part-time, virtual and homeschooling.
Other private schools in Dubai can also seek approval from the KHDA if they want to implement the project.
The students will have half of Wednesdays and the entire Thursdays every week to themselves, allowing them to pursue internships and courses or develop skills either on-campus or off-campus. Their parents can also tutor them at home during this period.
However, attendance records and progress will have to be provided to the school by parents or the institution they are attending.
The CEO of The Indian High School, Ashok Kumar, said: "The initiative is called '3.5+1.5=6', which means 3.5 days are academic days and 1.5 are non-academic. The CBSE board requires 30 hours of studies and this can be achieved in 3.5 days. The students will be attending any kind of courses they want - maybe some child wants to do some internship, learn music, prepare for a competition, or attend well-being courses."
To accommodate the new weekly schedule, the school timings for all 11th and 12th-graders are being altered, starting at 7.30am and ending at 3.30pm. Previously, timings were from 7.30am to 1pm.
"The sixth day was always the Friday that children were using to pursue these extra activities they wanted to do and they weren't reaching their full potential," Kumar said.
"So, now, Friday is free for them and it's their time - they can spend time relaxing with friends and family."
Students at the school are thrilled about having the extra time to pursue their interests.
An 11th-grader, Joshua Rozario, said he's always been passionate about playing the violin and now he will have the time to practise it more often.
"I also plan to apply for admission at the Trinity College London and play the violin. I want to prepare for the CBSE Grade 12 exams. The 1.5 days will give me the time needed to prepare for all kinds of exams."
Another 11th grader, Sradha Menon, said: "I would like to dedicate the time to CLAT coaching, which is a law entrance programme that is very hard to find in the UAE. I can prepare for that exam as it's coming up shortly. Also, the 1.5 days will give me time to review the information we learned in those 3.5 days. We don't really get much time to process everything we learned, so this will help."
Parents are expected to start "pressuring" schools to implement Rahhal once they see the flexibility it offers students, the KHDA chairman Dr Abdulla Al Karam said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the second phase of the Rahhal project at The Indian High School, Dr Al Karam said four schools have joined the programme so far.
"We have an open day every month where parents and schools meet and learn more about Rahhal. You need to propose your ideas. In so many schools, they need to go back to their boards and get approval from parents," Dr Al Karam said.
"In all these sessions, parents are more interested. They're attending the workshops and inquiring more. A lot of it is parent-driven."
He said that if schools want to implement the 3.5-day schedule within their schools, they need to be able to prove that they have parental support and the necessary manpower to carry it out successfully.