Inaugural article: “Crying and Chaos” – Starting School Experiences of Teachers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Takriti, R., Atkinson, S., Rickett, B., Mohamad, F., & Al Dhaheri, M. (2022). “Crying and Chaos” – Starting School Experiences of Teachers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). International Journal of Educational and Life Transitions, 1(1), 2. DOI:


You can listen to Dr Rachel Takriti for an introduction to the article.


Transcript of the podcast

The United Arab Emirates provides a very unique setting for transitions research.  Almost 90% of the UAE population are expatriates and many are here with their families and their children.  Expatriate children attend private, fee paying schools which are also often attended by UAE national children as well.  The expatriate families whose children attend school here in the UAE are usually here alone, without their extended families and the parents are generally working full time.  This presents dilemmas for school leaders who need to balance best practice transitioning policies such as staggered starts and shorter school days with the needs of full time working parents who have little external support.

This paper focused on early years teachers in the city of Al Ain which is in the Abu Dhabi Emirate. Interviews were conducted with them to explore their views of how things go when children start school here.  The interviews were analysed using thematic analysis and two main themes emerged which were ‘The New Order’ and ‘Talking not Crying’.

The New Order theme reflected the idea that one of the main aims of the early weeks of school is to get children into a routine and that having succeeded in this would mean that the children had completed a successful transition.

‘Talking not Crying’ meanwhile provided an interesting insight into how teachers view crying in the early days of school.  Crying was seen as a barrier to transitioning, with talking being the sign that transitioning was complete.

The title of the paper ‘Crying and Chaos’ reflects the viewpoints of the teachers interviewed as being descriptive of their experiences each year as children start school for the first time. The paper provides more discussion on cultural factors and suggestions for best practice in this context.

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