Head teachers of various schools have told the local media that students may need to start earlier and finish later to adjust to the new demands.
The mandate of including 150 minutes of exercise per week by DHA will impact already time and resource hungry curricula, built into compact timetables.
While teachers and the leaderships acknowledge the importance of diet and exercise as part of school ratings, adding in extra time for PE, they say, could prove challenging.
Dr Sadaf Jalil Ahmed, the doctor at Deira International School says that besides the core curriculum, there are demands for Arabic, Islamic and social studies, and now PE for 150 minutes a week.
“It would be really hard for schools to manage and schedule this into their day. If children went home earlier to go home and play, that would serve them better than exercise classes in school time.”
Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS) has sent out a letter to the parents saying that the school timings from 2018-19 academic year will increase. The letter states:
“The school has been conducting a review of the curriculum over the past year. This has considered the many ways in which we want to develop the opportunities for the young people at JESS and to meet the external requirements by our regulators, the KHDA. We want to be able to provide more specialist teaching in primary school, and to adopt the curriculum in secondary so that the learning is more aligned to needs of the 21st century workplace. The only way to fit in all this is to extend the school day.”
Foundation 1 will end two hours later at 2:00PM, instead of 12 noon and all other classes will also have their hours increased.
However, there are some schools in Dubai that already have the stipulated PE time.
“I would certainly support the thinking behind this initiative, as modern lifestyles make it harder for young people to exercise, especially in the environment of Dubai. However, I’m sure we are not alone in that, with our timetabled PE and extra-curricular provision, the pupils at Kent College are already getting 150 minutes of exercise per week,” said Patrick Lee-Brown, Principal of Kent College.
In the KHDA Wellbeing survey, over 90% of Kent College pupils rated themselves as having a high or medium level of general health and 95% for positive body image.
“Instilling and sustaining healthy lifestyle choices in children also involves parents. Good schools will work with parents in this area as much as in their academic or emotional wellbeing, and it is this partnership that ensures that children learn to take responsibility for their own health and fitness as early as possible,” he added.
Another private school, Dubai British School has three hours of physical education during the week for all its students.
“I wholeheartedly welcome this initiative. Good schools see education as extending beyond the classroom and core curriculum, into a student's holistic wellbeing. All our students, from the youngest to the oldest, enjoy 3-hours of physical education during the week, as well as extended opportunities through the school's rich extra-curricular and sporting programme,” said Brendon Fulton, principal at Dubai British School,
“Our canteen only sells food that is deemed appropriate by the DHA. We provide no fast foods, fatty foods, unhealthy snacks and fizzy drinks. The school includes healthy eating and living education as part of the curriculum, from Foundation Stage (3/4 yrs) all the way through to the senior years for teenagers,” he added.
“As you will gather, as all of the requirements are already embedded in the day-to-day routine of the school, there is little need for any major readjustments to the curriculum or timings of the school day.”
As part of the strategy, the DHA will launch 12 programmes based on three components, disease prevention and early detection, health information and research whilst encouraging students to lead a healthy lifestyle.