There is much debate about the ideal number of instruction days at school per year, and about the relative pros and cons of longer holidays. Parents, teachers and students will all have their different views, with some pointing out the ‘learning loss’ that can happen over longer vacations, or the difficulty of finding alternative childcare provision, while others argue for the benefits of down-time and the opportunity to travel or spend time in ‘real-world’ learning.
The UAE’s 4.5 day working week – wherein schools and government offices are all required to finish by 12pm on a Friday – was adopted at the beginning of 2022 in a move to improve family bonding and wellbeing. While this cuts down the total time that children spend at school on one day, global research shows that it’s not the number of hours spent in a school environment that impacts children’s learning, but how that time is used. See UAE Principals’ thoughts on how time spent outside of school can have important benefits for learning and development.
How many days are UAE children at school per year?
The UAE Ministry of Education (MOE) sets the minimum number of school days in the year for all UAE public schools. It also stipulates certain holiday beginning and end dates that cannot be deviated from. See here for a full list of UAE school holidays 2023 – 2026.
All schools that do not follow the MOE curriculum must have a minimum of 182 school days per academic year. This is just under half of the 365 total days in a year. MOE curriculum schools have traditionally been required to have between 186 – 188 instruction days per year, although recent announcements suggest that MOE schools may have also joined private schools with a minimum of 182 days per year.
The Ministry of Education stipulates the following rules regarding school vacations:
- Winter vacation must be 3 weeks, regardless of the curriculum being followed. Traditionally these dates are set and cannot be changed. See the dates here.
- MOE curriculum schools have 3 weeks off for Spring Break. However, private schools have previously been allowed to cut this break down to be just 2 weeks and use the extra holiday days elsewhere in the year.
- According to the MOE rules, Summer vacation must not exceed 8.2 weeks, regardless of the curriculum being followed.
As we prepare to break up for the Spring Break 2023 on Friday 24 March – for either 2 or 3 weeks, depending on your school’s individual academic calendar – some parents argue that UAE school children must be getting less teaching time than those in schools in other countries. Find out how to find your child’s individual school’s academic calendar online here.
So, how do UAE school holidays compare to those of children around the world? With so many nationalities living in the country, every family will have its own point of comparison. Here, we look at the average number of school days for children in different countries around the world, ordered from least to most…
Minimum number of days in schools around the world
France: 162 days. The minimum is for 36 weeks per year, which would be 180 days, but because many French schools have a half-day on Wednesdays, this makes 162 days per year
Sweden: 178 days minimum; 190 days maximum
Italy: 180 days
USA: 180 days minimum
UAE: A minimum of 182 days. Schools that follow the Ministry of Education have traditionally had186 – 188 days, although it appears that this may recently have been updated to also be 182 days per year.
Finland: 190 days per year officially, although public holidays often decrease the number
UK: 190 days per year
Canada: 194 days
India: Exact amount varies widely depending on the area. Some Northern states of India can have up to 240 days, while schools in other states have just 196 days.
South Africa: 200 days per year
Australia: 200 days per year
Philippines: around 203 – 209 days
Japan: 210 days per year
Russia: 211 days per year
China: 221 days per year
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