Around 46 per cent of Dubai students use school buses while 36 per cent are dropped by parents. Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Students in Dubai spend an average of 30 to 60 minutes travelling to and from schools and the head of the emirate’s education regulatory body has called on schools to utilise this time productively.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), 85 per cent of the students who travelled by school buses were happier compared to their peers who used other means of transport.

Dr Abdullah Al Karam, chairman of the of Board of Directors and director-general of KHDA, believes this experience can be made better.

Speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of a school transportation forum at UITP Mena Congress, Al Karam said the authority is working with schools to see how the environment inside the buses could be made better in terms of education, entertainment and general well-being.

“We have got this data through the survey that the students are happier when they are travelling in a school bus; what we are now looking at is the ways we can further this happiness. We want to make sure that the 30-60 minutes they spend on the bus are not dead, rather they are used productively,” said Al Karam.

Dr Abdullah Al Karamm speaking at the school transportation forum at UITP Mena Congress. Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Al Karam added that the KHDA is concerned about the happiness and well-being of the students overall, and particularly during their learning experience.

“A student’s learning experience is not confined to the classroom, it begins the moment they step out, particularly in the morning. The time they spend travelling in the morning makes or breaks their day. So we want to make sure the students are prepared for the school better and that starts from their school run. The activities they do in the morning define their mood for the rest of the day and making some changes or adding some details to their experience could make a lot of difference,” added Al Karam.

buses currently serve 21,363 students in public schools and 122,228 in private schools

Last year, KHDA conducted a well-being survey, covering 65,000 private school students across all curriculums.

The survey revealed that around 46 per cent of the students use school buses to travel to and from schools, while 36 per cent of the students are picked and dropped by parents.

Al Karam said while the survey revealed that the students dropped to school by parents are as happy as those using the school buses, the experience of school bus students is bound to be better.

“I think using school bus is definitely a better option as obviously it is a greener choice, while also reducing traffic on roads, but it also allows students more time to socialise and have fun with each other,” added Al Karam, urging parents to opt for school buses.

school buses expected in Dubai by 2020

According to RTA statistics, during the 2017-2018 academic year, 21,363 students used the bus in public schools and 122,228 in private schools, travelling in 6,500 buses.

The number of school buses is expected to rise to 7,628 by 2020 and 14,455 by 2030.

Bike lanes

Meanwhile, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is planning to further extend Dubai’s cycling network from the current 316km to 850km by 2030.

Speaking during a UITP session on promoting pedestrianism and non-mechanised mobility, Mona Al Osaimi, director of Strategic Planning, said, “The RTA has strategic plans to make Dubai one of the best cities in providing cycling lanes and supporting non-mechanised mobility means.”

On Monday, during the opening session of the congress, Brent Toderian, an urban planning expert from Canada, had called on the RTA to do more to promote biking as a mobility option.

“Dubai can easily become the best warm weather city in the world with the biggest biking network. I think biking should be promoted as mobility option rather than just a recreational activity,” said Toderian.

Bus fleet

Dubai’s urban and intercity bus fleets will get a boost of 316 new buses next year, as the RTA on Tuesday signed a Dh465-million deal to procure the region’s first Euro 5 and Euro 6 grade buses.

The new buses will included 143 deluxe intercity coaches, 79 double-deckers and 94 urban buses.

Volvo will supply the 143 deluxe coaches, which will be deployed on intercity bus routes. These 55-seater coaches will also offer free internet service and USB portals for charging mobile phones.

The 79 double-deckers will be supplied by MAN serving urban areas with high-density ridership, in addition to 94 medium-size OPTARE 33-seater buses.

The new buses will expand the RTA’s fleet to 2,085 by 2019.