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Are UAE school children happy? KHDA prepares to find out…

Are UAE school children happy? KHDA prepares to find out…

by Tabitha BardaNovember 3, 2021

Are UAE school children happy? We’re about to find out, as Dubai’s private school students will share insights about their wellbeing and happiness this month in the fifth annual edition of the Dubai Student Wellbeing Census.

Kicking off this week, more than 100,000 students in grades 6 to 12 and over 20,000 school staff will participate in the survey, run by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

As the world’s largest cross-cultural study of student wellbeing, the Census touches on topics related to relationships at school and at home, student engagement with teaching and learning, and their feelings about the future.

Post-COVID school life

Taking place in the first month following the full return to face-to-face learning for all Dubai private schools since the onset of the pandemic, there are bound to be interesting revelations about children’s emotional state.

Many of the students being surveyed are now entering the third academic year of study that has been affected by the pandemic since schools switched to online learning due to COVID-19 in March 2020.  Although Dubai’s private schools officially returned to full face-to-face learning from October 3 2021, there are still some pandemic-related precautions in place in order to continue curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Defining success beyond academics

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Director General of KHDA, said, “This year represents a milestone for student wellbeing in Dubai. The fifth year of the Dubai Student Wellbeing Census will give school leaders reliable data that will help them make changes to teaching and learning that have a meaningful impact on wellbeing.

“The fourth year of the Adults@School Wellbeing Census will continue to give school staff the insights they need to improve their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of all adults at their school. With the help of educators and parents, we’re creating a culture that measures and defines success well beyond academic performance, and that prepares students to thrive in the world of the future.”

Insights for improvement

Last year’s Census showed students in Dubai were getting more sleep, having breakfast more regularly, and enjoying closer relationships with their teachers.


The Dubai Student Wellbeing Census is a five-year project that measures how students in Dubai’s private schools feel and think about their own wellbeing. It helps schools to improve student wellbeing and supports Dubai’s vision to be among the five happiest cities in the world.

The Census is conducted at this time of the year to avoid most major examination and holiday periods. Schools are given a five-week period to allow them to plan for students to complete the census at a convenient time. The fixed time period also provides a measure of consistency across schools.

The wellbeing of each student is a combination of how they feel about themselves, their home, school and community lives. The results of the first year of the Census identified that good sleep patterns and regularly eating breakfast are two factors that are more likely to be present in happier students. Schools, parents and students themselves all have a role to play in supporting the wellbeing of students in Dubai.

How to support a child who is participating in the Census?

It is important that your child has a quiet space for around 30 minutes to be able to complete the Census uninterrupted. In most cases, particularly with younger children, their school teacher will administer the Census during an online class lesson to oversee the process and answer any questions they may have. It is important that children respond to the Census truthfully. Parents are encouraged to discuss with their child how the Census made them feel and how their wellbeing could be better supported.

Data collection for this year’s census and survey started from November 1. For more information about the census, visit


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About The Author
Tabitha Barda
Tabitha Barda is the Senior Editor of Oxbridge educated and an award winning journalist in the UAE for more than a decade, Tabitha is one of the region's shining lights in all that is education in the emirates. A mum herself, she is passionate about helping parents - and finding the stories in education that deserve telling. She is responsible for the busy 24x7 News Desk, our Advisory Boards and Specialist Panels - and Parents United's WHICHPlaydates - a regular meeting place for UAE parents to discuss the issues that matter to them, make friends and network with others. You can often find Tabitha too on Parents United - our Facebook community board, discussing the latest schools and education issues with our parent community in the UAE - and beyond.

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