Should Pre-dawn Schools Head for Closure?

March 18, 2023

You have to stay in school. You have to go to college. You have to get your degree. Because that's the one thing people can't take away from you is your education. And it is worth the investment.” - Michelle Obama.”

There was a time when, under Gurukul system in India, the seeker of education lived in the home of the teacher for extended periods and went home for short breaks from study. That system is nearly extinct - now replaced by day-time school hours starting 8/9 morning and closing 4/5 evening or variations thereof.

Now, a new experiment is on with classes starting at pre-dawn as noted in a news agency report excerpted below.

Classes at dawn: Why a pilot project for schools in an Indonesia city has led to protests

The dawn school trial has been implemented in 10 schools in Kupang, where twelfth-graders are being made to start school at 5.30 in the morning.

The dawn school trial in Indonesia is a pilot project implemented in 10 schools in Kupang, the capital of East Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia, where twelfth-graders are being made to start school at 5.30 in the morning. The scheme is intended to “strengthen children’s discipline”.

The scheme has drawn criticism from parents, experts and various organisations due to the health hazards the pupils may face due to their curtailed sleep. According to a report by the AFP, the parents have pointed out that to reach school on time, the students have to be up by 4 am. The schools mostly get over by 3.30 pm, and by the time they get back home, they are totally exhausted, the guardians claimed.

They have also raised concerns about the safety of their wards going out for school when it’s still “pitch dark” and “quiet”, reported the news agency AFP.

According to an education expert from Nusa Cendana University, Marsel Robot, whom the AFP talked to, the scheme formulated by the state government has no correlation with the effort to improve the quality of education. Instead, the sleep deprivation could adversely hit the students’ health in the long run and result in a shift in behaviour, Robot told AFP. “They will only sleep for a few hours and this is a serious risk to their health. This also will cause them stress and they will vent their stress by acting out,” AFP quoted him as saying.

A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics published in 2014 suggested that middle and high school goers should start classes at 8:30 am or later so that they have enough time for sleep.

According to the Indonesian media outlet Kompas, the Indonesian Ombudsman has asked the central government to intervene in the trial being carried out by the local government. The Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry and the Indonesian Child Protection Commission have also called for a review of the policy, Kompas reported. Terming the scheme “baseless”, the local lawmakers have also demanded that the government cancel the policy.

Despite calls to strike down the policy, the local government is still carrying on with their experiment. It has even extended it to the local education agency, where civil servants too now start their day at 5:30 am.

The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response is welcome in the format given below (P scroll down a bit) Over to you. Thank you.


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Comment on this article

  • mohan prabhu, mangalore/canada

    Sun, Mar 19 2023

    I do not understand why the government does not step in and put a stop. What can these children learn with such long classroom day, almost ten hours each day? Is the school doubling up grades so that 12 grades can be compressed into six? If not, ar the extra hours for doing homework in school itself ? Are the students given breakfast at 8 am and lunch at noon or are they learning on empty stomach? All these questions, in addotion to physical and mental heal tharise. I know, in my own case, to be at a morning college at 7:30 am (on mornings when we had compulsory physical education in the first year, at 7:00 a.m.), one has to get up at 5 o'clock to get ready, have breakfast, catch the Bombay suburban train to Churchgate and walk to the school another 10 minutes. After classes I had a full day's work for another 7 hours. I did this for eight years, but then I had a lot of energy and, of course, courage. It was hard. Eventually it paid off, and I have lived for nine decades and counting.

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