Students make their way to school buses after their classes. The move to unify school holidays will help enrich stability of families, officials say. The picture is used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Asghar Khan/Gulf News

Dubai/Abu Dhabi: Holidays for all public and private schools, colleges and universities across the UAE are to be unified from the next academic year starting this September, the education minister announced yesterday.

The move will not only help strengthen the education sector but will also contribute to enriching the stability of families, Humaid Mohammad Obaid Al Qutami, Minister of Education said.

The unification of the academic calendar for the academic year 2012-2013 comes under an agreement between the Ministries of Education and Higher Education, he said.

The first working day of the new academic year for teachers and administrators will be September 2 while for all students classes will commence on September 9, the minister announced.

The starting date of September 9 is applicable to students of all kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, special education centres, adult education centres and schools following ministry of education curricula as well as all other foreign curricula, he explained.

FNC request

Last year, the Cabinet decided to unify the academic calendar for public schools and universities. This year, the decision has been extended to private schools as well.

The schools will have three-week holidays after the first semester, and two weeks after the second semester.

Al Qutami called on all education zones, schools and universities to implement the resolution.

The three-week holidays after the first semester will commence on December 16, 2012, and end on January 3, 2013. Classes will resume on Sunday, January 6.

The two-week long holidays after the second semester will commence on March 31 and end on April 11. Classes will resume on April 14, 2013.

The summer holidays will begin on July 7, 2013.

The 2013-2014 academic year will begin on September 1, 2013, for teachers and administrators and on September 8 for students.

"The Federal National Council requested in 2011 that we look into the possibility of unifying holidays between schools and universities.

"We consulted the institutions that will be impacted by this regulation and had several meetings before we obtained consent about the decision," Saif Rashid Al Mazroui, assistant under secretary for institutional and support services, told Gulf News.

‘Impact on families'

"This regulation will have social, psychological and financial impact on families whether Emiratis or expatriates," he said.

"Many families have children in both schools and universities and could not enjoy spending a holiday all together.

"Expatriates especially could not travel back home during holidays but they can now with this new regulation," Al Mazroui explained.

Nahla, a mother-of-three, is happy with the new law.

"We can finally enjoy a family holiday all together and don't have to worry about sending my son back home alone," she said.

Abdullah Ahmad, a father-of-four, said he was having a complex problem with his children as each of them had holidays at a different time, making it difficult for the whole family.

"I have two sons in a public school and one in a private school which causes us great family disruption. Apart from Eid holidays, all holidays are taken at different time," he said.

"We can't travel on long holidays as we would have wished. We always lose a week or two from the summer vacation.

"My eldest son is at university and has holidays at different timing.

"Unifying holidays will solve many problems and strengthen family ties, as they can now spend holidays together and bond as a family," he added.

Mixed reaction to unification of holidays

By Amelia Naidoo, Campus Notes Editor and Iman Sherif, Staff Reporter

Dubai/ Abu Dhabi: The announcement of unification of holidays evoked mixed reactions.

The American University of Sharjah, which is a private institution, confirmed receiving a document from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR) about the unifying of holidays with public institutions.

Salem Al Qaseer, Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs at AUS said the university was reviewing the document and would be able to implement the requirements in the future.

Raymi van der Spek, executive director of University of Wollongong in Dubai not in favour of unifying holidays. He said the institution did not receive any official document from the MOHESR recently. However a request was sent by the MOHESR's Commission for Academic Accreditation to universities at the beginning of the year to change their holiday and spring semester dates he said.

"It will be extraordinarily difficult for private universities to do this because there are universities that align themselves to the parent campus in terms of delivery of the curriculum."

He added that the decision will greatly affect those schools and universities that offer an international curriculum. "When it comes to school exams, for the International Baccalaureate or the ICSEs (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) or the GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education), they have exams across the world at the same time.

"You cannot have an international curriculum with a local time frame," Van der Spek said.

"This decision is a good idea that will help both universities and schools. Parents and students can now plan on having vacations at the same time. Like us, so many universities and schools couldn't publish our calendars as early as we would have wished. But if we know the holidays ahead of time then we can plan better and communicate the schedule early," Dr. James Mackin, Provost of Abu Dhabi Univerisity, said.