What contributes to positive student wellbeing in Dubai?

In November 2017, the Dubai Student Wellbeing Census was rolled out at scale for the first time across 168 of Dubai’s private schools. It was a voluntary data collection, with schools encouraged to participate from Grade 6 through to Grade 9 (Year 7 through Year 10) students.   A small cohort of Year 6 students from UK curriculum schools were also invited to participate.In total, 64,686 students participated. 

Analysis of the data collected from the census indicate that two factors with highly significant impact on Dubai students’ wellbeing are a regular breakfast and going to before 10pm. This KHDA Chatter provides an overview of the reasons why these factors influence student wellbeing; and, in turn, affect student achievement.

Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day. Over 70% of all Dubai students answering the census reported regularly eating breakfast at least 5 times per week. It is safe to assume that most students in Dubai come to school with the fuel necessary to boost their attention span, concentration and memory for classroom learning. In the morning, students’ bodies need to refuel for the day ahead after going without food for 8 to 12 hours during sleep. Breakfast gives the body the refueling it needs. Kids who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall and are more likely to participate in physical activities — two great ways to help maintain a healthy weight.[1]

Skipping breakfast can make kids feel tired, restless, or irritable. Their mood and energy can drop by midmorning if they don’t eat at least a small morning meal. It’s important for kids to have breakfast every day, but what they eat in the morning is crucial too. Choosing breakfast foods that are rich in whole grains, fibre, and protein while low in added sugar may boost kids’ brain power. Fruits and vegetables are a good source of this richness. Over 71% of Dubai students answering the census also reported regularly (5 or more times per week) eating fruit and vegetables.

Sleeping Well. Over half of all Dubai students (56%)  reported regularly (5+ times/week) getting a good nights’ sleep. Sleep plays a vital role in protecting students’ physical and mental health. With the right amount of sleep, students wake up fresh and ready to seize the day. If they start skipping their snoozing then it’s a different – and potentially dangerous – story. Sleep helps the growing brain function properly, which directly influences emotional wellbeing and cognitive function. Research has shown that getting a good night’s sleep can improve the ability to learn.[2] When asleep, the growing brain is hard at work forming new pathways to help one remember information and learn more easily. It also improves one’s ability to pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.[3] It is safe to assume that most Dubai students wake up ready to engage in classroom learning each day.

Tips for Parents and Caregivers. According to the National Sleep Foundation, school age children between the ages of 6-13 years should be getting 9-11 hours of sleep while teenagers should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep. While mornings can be busy for most families, quick grab and go breakfast ideas for kids are featured on Eating Well. 

Do you have any additional tips for helping Dubai students get a good night’s sleep or to eat breakfast regularly? Please share your thoughts!

[1] Gavin, M.L (July 2015). Breakfast Basics. Retrieved from: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/breakfast.html.

[2] Tarokh, L., Saletin, J.M., Carskadon, M.A. (2016). Sleep in adolescence: Physiology, cognition and mental health,

Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 70: 182-188.

Fallone G; Acebo C; Seifer R et al. Experimental restriction of sleep opportunity in children: effects on teacher ratings. SLEEP 2005; 28(12): 1561-1567.

[3] University of Cambridge. Student Wellbeing: Sleep Well. Retrieved from: https://www.studentwellbeing.admin.cam.ac.uk/your-wellbeing/sleep-well

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