Why should schools start later in the morning?

Two weeks ago we were asked to spend a couple of hours in one of Astana schools. The bus was already arranged at 8 in the morning to get us to school at 9 a.m. In order to be on time, I had to wake up at 7 o’clock. But you cannot imagine what torment I went through before getting up and was grateful for this program where classes start at 10 a.m. So while sitting in the bus and looking at my sleepy group mates, I was pity about children who had to come to school at 8 o’clock or even earlier every day. What about their parents? Definitely, mothers suffer most of all in this routine; they need to wake up the earliest, cook, dress up their children and themselves simultaneously. It is even harder, if parents are teachers…

All right, this blog is not about difficult time of teachers or teacher-parents, it is about the efficient morning time that schools should begin. So, in this blog I will attempt to find out the adequate time that classes should start referring to the recent studies.

The school start time varies around the world, ranging from 8 am to 9 am. For instance, in the UK the secondary schools start between 8.30-9.00, in Singapore at around 7.20-9.00, in the USA – 8.00-8.30, China – , South Korea – 8.30.  In public schools in Kazakhstan classes start at 8 a.m. and in private and/or independent at 8.30 a.m. But are all abovementioned periods appropriate for all ages of students? They are not, according to researchers.

“Everybody learns better when they’re awake” says Mary Carskadon, who led the study on the relationship between early school time and poor performance and test scores in 1998 (Puckett, 2016). The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends policymakers starting middle and high schools later in the morning, so teenagers obtain ample of sleep to succeed both academically and physically. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urged to change schools to a later start times as children are required to get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of nightly sleep. According to pediatricians’ group and CDC, the lack of sleep leads to serious consequences such as depression, higher rates of obesity, car accidents and poorer quality of life (Richmond, 2015).

The recent studies conducted in eight high schools Colorado, Wyoming and Minnesota with the participation of 9,000 students where school time was shifted later than 8.30, revealed staggering result. School attendance rates, grades and test scores in English, Math, and social sciences elevated highly. Moreover, research depicted a decline in substance abuse, depression, lateness and motor-vehicle crashes among adolescents (Walker, 2015).

As majority of scientists urge policy makers to start classes later than 8.30 a.m., the Harvard and Oxford experts suggest 10 a.m. as the most relevant time, because it corresponds to the “biological wake-up time” of teenagers. So they recommend schools to start classes in accordance with “biological wake-up time” of students as in the following (Walker, 2015):

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“The synchronization of education to adolescent biology enables immediate advances in educational attainment and can be achieved with a relatively simple step that does not require new teaching methods, new testing or large additional expenditure…Good policies should be based on good evidence, and the data show that children are currently placed at an enormous disadvantage by being forced to keep to inappropriate education times” (Walker, 2015).

Food for thought for my group mates, the future policy makers.

Reference:

Puckett, L. (2016, March 29). Science Says Your School Should Probably Start Classes Later in the Morning. Teenvogue. Retrieved from http://www.teenvogue.com/story/school-sleep-deprivation-dangerous-for-teens

Richmond, E. (2015, August 17). Why School Should Start Later in the Morning. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/08/why-school-should-start-later/401489/

Walker, T. (2015, September 20).Despite Proven Benefits, Starting School Later Remains a ‘Tough Sell’.Neatoday. Retrieved from http://neatoday.org/2015/09/20/despite-proven-benefits-starting-school-later-is-still-a-tough-sell/

[Online image]. Retrieved September 20 2015 from http://neatoday.org/2015/09/20/despite-proven-benefits-starting-school-later-is-still-a-tough-sell/

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9 thoughts on “Why should schools start later in the morning?

  1. Thank you very much for raising this so debatable yet relatable issue, Bayan!
    I guess there was a reason why time slot between 8 and 9 am is considered to be the most efficient time to start school around the world up to this day. I completely agree that it is much easier not only to make cognitive efforts but also to participate in the real world when you are awake. However, when people start speaking about biological time and needs in terms of wake-up time, they completely ignore another biological need: go-to-sleep-time. From my personal experience, when I was a child my parents would turn off TV and all the lights at 10 pm so that I and my sister would go to sleep and not stay up until night. And it worked. We woke up at 6 am and it felt great. Now, of course, I do realize and understand that time has changed and people are busier than before, etc. Going to bed at 10 pm now become a superpower. I don’t remember the last time I went to bed before 1 am. But still, I think that people should consider going to bed earlier, so that they get enough sleep until 8 am. Because changing the time is not an easy task as it also affects both people with children and without, as work day usually starts between 9 and 10 am, and postponing school time will cause more traffic on the roads and jams in buses.
    Today, I came across news article where one of the politicians propose to change time (time-zone) in two regions of Kazakhstan for one hour forward. I found it interesting as it may be considered another factor why people struggle from sleep deprivation. Here is the link http://today.kz/news/zhizn/2017-03-02/737312-izmenit-vremya-v-dvuh-regionah-kazahstana-predlozhil-senator/

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    1. Dear Danasan13,
      Thank you for your interest in my blog and sharing the link. I agree with most of your points which I decided not include in my post, because they might continue infinitely. The goal of this blog was to reconsider the start time for adolescents as they need more sleep than little children. There might be numerous reasons why they need more rest such as body changes (awkward age), technology, worries, exams etc. I do not think that scientists could ignore fact that they might go to bed later. I understand the time zone also impacts the “biological wake up time” and I thought about it as well indeed, but as our blog is limited in volume and decided to focus only on one point. As for your experience, I believe we cannot generalize it for all students; five fingers in one hand are not the same. And finally, traffic jams … this question should be addressed to road police, not educators; it has been always a problem. Working hours also could be changed for a later time due to new technology; now it is much more easy for people to complete their works/duties by a computer, a printer, internet and others. Europe countries are already reducing working hours, so people have more time to rest and be productive.

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  2. Thank you for interesting post Bayan! It made me think of the video about early birds and night owls which states that people’s “sleeping preference is entirely genetically predetermined”. According to the video, some people are born night-owls, and, therefore, suffer from “social jetlag” having chronic sleep deprivation to accommodate the modern social norms where working hours last from 9am to 5pm. But, on the other hand, apparently, night owls tend to be “more creative and have higher cognitive abilities” because of the stress hormone 😀 Anyway, taking into account the tendency among teenagers of being night owls, I think that moving the class time to 10am will give them at least some hours of sleep. If you are interested you can find the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPJ0729NVjw

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  3. Dear Bayan,

    I can find a grain of truth in the argumentations you bring to support your point, however, I cannot agree with it.
    From my personal experience, I can infer that each person needs discipline which usually derives from training and practice. Genetic predisposition has little impact.
    Knowing contemporary youth, I’m almost sure they will “abuse” the right to start school at 11 am by spending even more time on the internet or elswhere. The reason to that would be an illusion that they have a lot of time till morning. Thus, they may become less organized and more distracted which will an adverse effect on their future.
    Lastly, this life is full of tests and hardships, thus, it is best for a child to be prepared for them as early as possible.

    Kind regards,

    Lenera.

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    1. Dear Lenera,
      Thank you for your interest in my blog. According to my experience of studying here, even being adults students are not able to discipline themselves and spend the night time watching films, talking and sometimes writing their assignments till the morning, then sleepy during day time. How can parents require children to be organized if they are not? In the studies mentioned in my blog, no information was talked about teenagers spending night time in the internet, so I suggest reading attentively. It would be better to give some trust in the research conducted by Harvard and Oxford experts rather than relying on your own experience. Finally, don’t you think their health and productivity are more important than the preparation to a difficult life?

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  4. Thank you for your post,Bayan! I completely agree with you that it can be such a torment for school students to wake up so early in the morning. However, will they then have time to do some extracurricular activities after school? Because in most cases,students at a school lever are very busy attending various courses( English, music courses,for example).

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  5. Dear Bayan, you rasied very interesting and practical issue which engaged so many discussions! I remember that we have discussion on this topic in the dorm, and we both agree that the school should start later. From my personal experience, that my home have never been close to the school i attended, so i need to travel to school by bus; fortunately our class started at 10 in the morning, so i had plenty time to have my breakfast and took bus without any rush. we all agree that mind works best when you awaken from a deep andsufficient sleep, not only children needs this kind of sleep but also adults. As you mentioned that mothers most suffer from the early school time, and children can go to bed early at around 9 everyday, but adults they often have other things to do in the evening, so the early school time may results in constant insufficient sleep for them, which may even triiger some health issues.
    So i agree that school should start not so early but from 9 or 9.30, even 10!

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