Ramadan is expected to begin on May 27, and teachers across the UAE are bracing themselves for empty seats in their classrooms.
Because the month-long holiday falls during the school year, teachers are being forced to to rearrange their lesson plans to make sure students are prepared for their final exams. Teachers and administrators fear that students will not come to school during Ramadan-- and will not return after the holiday to finish the school year.
Every family, based on what we're hearing from the students, is planning to finish before Ramadan because we are going to have Ramadan in summer and it's really hard for the students to keep focusing," Fatin Sawalha, a middle-school science teacher, told The National.
Last year, the Ministry of Education ended the academic year almost a month early for children in kindergarten- 2nd grade in Dubai and the Northern Emirates; Abu Dhabi education council did the same but only for students in kindergarten. No similar announcement has been made for this year's holiday schedule, but teachers are concerned that even the students who do show up will be tired and unable to concentrate if they're fasting.
Judith Finnemore, an education consultant with Focal Point Management, spoke to The National about the issue, and puts the burden on teachers and administrators to emphasize to students and parents that attendance during and after Ramadan is not optional. "Schools don't exactly encourage students to stay," she said.
The UAE government has set a goal to be in the top performing countries in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and Programme for International Student Assessment by 2021, but Finnemore pointed out that it's not a realistic target if students are getting less hours in the classroom than those in other countries.
Some schools are changing their exam schedules to fall before Ramadan, but teachers worry about adequately preparing students to perform well, and giving students incentive to return back after the holiday.
There's not yet been a statement from the Ministry of Education, but we're waiting to see how they're planning on handling this year's holiday schedule.