Private schools in Qatar will be free to set their own winter vacation dates and they will not have to “cancel Christmas,” a senior Supreme Education Council (SEC) official has said.
The reassurance from a senior education council official comes amid rumors that private schools here would be asked to end their December holidays to help standardize vacation timings across the nation.
And just this week, the Peninsula reported that there are renewed calls among some parents for the SEC to introduce a single schedule for exams and holidays across all schools in Qatar.
Qatar’s independent (state) schools do not have a December break, according to the national school calendar.
In recent years, the SEC has made a number of changes to school schedules.
Both private and independent schools are now required to resume on the same day after the summer holidays, and all schools must break for a holiday at the end of January and beginning of February.
It has also intervened during Eid Al Adha, requiring a number of schools to take off the whole week rather than just a few days, as their schedules had originally allotted.
Many educators and parents have feared that changes to the winter break would be the next step.
However, in a recent statement to the Gulf Times, the SEC’s director of Private Schools scotched such rumors by clarifying there was no order from the council concerning winter holidays.
“Private schools are free to decide on a winter break according to their convenience,” Mohamed al-Ghali is reported to have said.
The news will likely be met with relief by schools and parents. Gulf Times reports that some Indian schools had stopped their traditional three-week-long winter vacation over fears that it would soon be ended on short notice.
Just over two years ago, the SEC began unifying some vacation times for all schools amid complaints from parents about varying calendars for children attending different schools.
In November 2012, the education council announced that all schools must adhere to the same summer holiday schedule.
However, in its first year of implementation, the ruling caused confusion among parents and some schools fudged their return date, scheduling induction classes in the preceding days.
For the upcoming school year, the term will begin on Sept. 6, 2015.
Then in November last year, the SEC ordered that all private schools should move up their second half-term holiday by nearly one month.
Many international schools traditionally held a break around the end of February, but under a new SEC directive, they had to set the holiday for late January/early February, in line with the dates for the independent school vacation.
News agency QNA announced the new decision in a statement, saying:
“The introduction of second mid-term holidays at schools is in line with the efforts to make their calendar compatible with the Qatar University’s second semester holidays. The move brings the beginning and end of the academic year of the Qatar University and schools as closer as possible. “
The changes were welcomed by some parents, but caused consternation for others who had already booked their holidays according to the old calendar.
Though the ruling did not initially cover community schools such as embassy-sponsored Doha College, American School of Doha and DESS, many of them have shifted the mid-term holiday for this academic year to fall within the Jan. 25 to Feb. 5 period.
In his recent comments to Gulf Times, al Ghali reaffirmed the SEC’s requirements that all schools should comply with the regulated half-term holiday window:
“We have asked all schools to follow it. They can give a break for two weeks or for a week, according to their convenience. Other than this, the SEC has not interfered with any other aspect of the school schedule.”