Ramadan 2023 is fast approaching, with the beginning of the Holy Month due to fall within a matter of weeks. On the run-up to Ramadan 2023, here’s everything you need to know about how it will impact UAE schools.
Ramadan 2023 Dates
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and considered to be the holiest month for Muslims in the UAE and around the world. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, with each month beginning and ending with the sighting of the new moon. The exact timing of Ramadan will therefore be determined by religious and government authorities closer to the time. However, the expected dates of Ramadan are as follows:
Thursday 23 March: Ramadan is expected to begin on Wednesday 22 or Thursday 23 March 2023.
Friday 24 March: Last day of term before UAE schools break up for the Spring Break
Monday 27 March: All UAE schools on Spring Break
Monday 10 April: UAE International Curriculum schools return after a two-week Spring vacation (they have the option to extend the Spring Break by up to one week)
Monday 17 April: UAE Ministry of Education (MOE) Curriculum schools return after a three-week Spring Break vacation
Thursday 20 April: Eid Al Fitr is predicted to begin on Thursday 20 April or Friday 21 April. Public holidays will be confirmed closer to the time, but it’s likely that UAE residents will enjoy a long weekend from Thursday 20 April or Friday 21 April – Sunday 23 April or Monday 24 April.
All dates are tentative until there is official confirmation.
School Timings during Ramadan 2023
The length of the school day and working day (for both private and public sector workers) is usually reduced by two hours throughout the holy month.
School Ramadan timings for 2023 have not yet been officially confirmed, but it’s likely that they will follow the pattern that was set during Ramadan last year.
In 2022 the Dubai school regulator, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), stated that Dubai’s private schools could be open for a maximum of five hours of instruction time each day and that classes should end by 12pm on Fridays. There was flexibility for schools to decide the exact start and end time within these guidelines, with many institutions choosing to delay the school start time until around 8am or 9am and to bring the end time forward to around 1pm or 2pm.
It is common practice for schools to be required to open later than 8am or 9am and to close before around 3pm or 4pm.
In the past schools have traditionally cut their timings down from being open seven hours per day to five hours per day during Ramadan, but the half-day on Friday due to the UAE’s 4.5-day working week meant that in 2022 the school “day” became just around three hours on a Friday.
Changes to School Lessons during Ramadan 2023
In 2022 the KHDA advised schools to limit the amount of homework and revision during Ramadan, calling on schools to ensure teachers, students and parents get to spend more time in prayer and with their families.
Although lessons stay largely the same in most schools, it’s possible that they will be shortened by 10 – 30 minutes per lesson in order to allow for the shortened school day overall.
PE lessons may also be adapted to be gentler or more theory-based to allow for children who are fasting, while music lessons may also be adapted to be respectful of the traditions that discourage the playing of live music during Ramadan.
Eating at School during Ramadan 2023
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and it is a requirement for all physically and mentally able adult Muslims to eschew eating and drinking (including water) from dawn until sunset. Many Muslim staff members and children fast during the day – getting up very early or staying up late to eat in hours of darkness – and the shortened school hours are set to help accommodate this fact.
Many school-age Muslim children fast; even those who aren’t necessarily expected to do so. Children do not need to fast until they ‘come of age’ or reach puberty, but many choose to and are often allowed to from the age of around eight, or even younger.
While Dubai cafes and restaurants used to have to apply for a special licence to serve food or drinks during daylight hours in Ramadan, and needed to curtain off any areas where this was happening, these requirements were dropped in 2021. Nevertheless, it is still generally expected that you should not to eat or drink in public during Ramadan (aside from young children).
Children who are not fasting may be required to eat in a special area at school during Ramadan and it is encouraged that they should be mindful of their fasting peers and show sensitivity.
Changes to School pickup and drop-off
Parents will have to schedule later drop-offs and pick-up times for school during Ramadan. Exact timings will vary with each individual school.
It is worth noting that the roads can become extremely busy in the hour leading up to Iftar, which is the moment at which fasting Muslims may break their fast and eat the Iftar meal.
Iftar is expected to happen at 6.31pm on the first day of Ramadan, eventually getting later each day until it is around 6.44pm on the last day of Ramadan.
How School Holidays affect Ramadan 2023
This year the beginning of Ramadan coincides with the start of schools’ Spring Break, so the shortened hours will have less of an impact on lesson timetabling.
Just as Ramadan commences on Thursday 23 March, students immediately break up for the Spring vacation on Friday 24 March.
Students will then have either two weeks or three weeks off school for Spring Break, depending on their school’s individual calendar. Find out how to easily see your own school’s individual academic calendar online here.
This means that when school recommences after the Spring holiday on either Monday 10 April or Monday 17 April, there will be just 1 – 2 weeks left of reduced school hours for Ramadan before Eid Al Fitr on 20 April 2023. This lessens the impact that the shortened Ramadan hours could otherwise have on teaching time.
Ramadan Rules and Expectations for Non-Muslims
Ramadan is a time of fasting, reflection and spiritual purification for Muslims. The UAE government website states that non-Muslims do not have to fast in Ramadan. However, they are prohibited from eating, drinking and smoking in public during the fasting hours. This includes chewing gum. Additionally, ensure that you do not:
- engage in any aggressive behaviour
- dance or play music in public although you may listen to music quietly with headphones
- wear inappropriate clothing in public
- swear as blasphemy is considered extra offensive during Ramadan
- refuse a gift, or an invitation to join someone at Iftar.
Most nurseries and schools will also hold special community initiatives or events to mark this special month, such as community iftars or donation initiatives. Find out more about what Ramadan means to UAE students and parents and how fasting affects children here.
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