Image Source: picjumbo
By Soyeon Park
It is always a struggle for all students, regardless of their age, to wake up as early as 6 in the morning and go to school. Controversy on the issue of an ideal school start timing has been around for decades, and it seems that most schools are not hearing the students’ complaints of having insufficient sleep.
I accept that school start timings cannot simply be shifted around as easily as it is thought to be. There are numerous things to consider, such as bus timings and overlapping schedules within grade divisions and with other neighboring schools.
Furthermore, some working parents that have to drop off their children at school (sometimes different schools) before getting to work is also worried since their son or daughter have to wait in empty school before it starts. Others consider later school timings to be detrimental to student performance, since it forces school days to go into late afternoon.
Despite these setbacks and difficulties, schools must consider pushing back the opening bell time. An abundance of research backs this theory, with their studies proving that delayed school start timings lead to better sleep, attendance rate, and academic performance.
According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, most adolescents need at least 8 hours of sleep everyday; however, less than 8% of the high school students get this amount. Lack of sleep is tied to depression symptoms, decreased physical activity, increased food intake and discouraged cognitive abilities. The American Academy of Pediatrics revealed that schools should start at least at 8:30 a.m. to give the students opportunity to get enough sleep.
It is not only the matter of less sleeping time. Adolescents that go through puberty are biologically programmed in their circadian rhythms, so that they are more alert in the evenings around 11 p.m. and require more sleep in the morning. The combination of late sleeping hour and early waking hour, forced upon students by early bell times and increased in school work, puts them under great stress and disadvantage.
Delayed school start timings can moreover contribute to better school performances, as student attendance rates decrease and they can stay alert during classes. “It really made a difference,” said Elise Hughes, mother of a teenage boy whose school recently pushed the bell back by 20 minutes, commenting that the number of getting late to school dramatically decreased.
The authors of the paper Science Advances also demonstrated this in their research involving two high schools in Seattle changed their starting time from 7:50 to 8:45 a.m. The result showed that the two schools in average showed 12% decline in absence rate, 31% in tardiness and 5.5% rise in average grade.
Dubai American Academy (DAA) has pushed its starting time from 7:30 to 7:40 a.m. since 2017, following their campus move next to American School of Dubai (ASD). Still, school start times as early as 7:40 a.m., compared to 8:15 a.m. in ASD, is bringing up complaints from DAA students and parents. “Since I take shower in the morning, I have to wake up as early as 5:00 a.m. to get ready for school and be on time for the bus,” said Raseel Abbar, a sophomore student in DAA, “Homework and projects don’t allow me to get to sleep early, so I feel sleepy throughout the whole day.”
Looking at all these obvious benefits, there is no reason to stick to early school timings. Schools should stop gauging the costs of early school start times against the advantages and start ringing the bell after 8:00 a.m.