A new trial pushing back school start times to 5:30 am for some 12th-graders in Indonesia is facing criticism. Introduced by Governor Viktor Laiskodat as a way “to build our students’ character so they know discipline,” many have voiced concerns about potential safety risks, as well as detrimental effects on health and school performance.
The trial scheme began on February 27 in 10 schools in the city of Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province, according to Kompas. Twelfth-graders in Indonesia are typically 16 to 17 years old.
In an address, Laiskodat claimed that students “can sleep at 10 pm and wake up at 4 am. Six hours of sleep is enough,” the Sydney Morning Herald reports. “Bathe for 30 minutes, travel to school for 30 minutes because nowhere is far in this city. So they can be at school by 5 am.”
However, these claims are not backed by science. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 8-10 hours of sleep for 13- to 18-year-olds, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that middle and high schools should start at 8:30 am or later.
Indeed, “The NTT provincial government’s policy is not appropriate after all because there has been no [pre-policy] academic study nor outreach to the public. In addition, the education policy about school starting at 5:30 a.m. interferes with other sectors, such as those in security, health and transportation," Indonesian Ombudsman member Indraza Marzuki Rais told Kompas.
Some parents are concerned about their children’s safety when making their way to school in the gloomy early hours, with provincial ombudsman Darius Beda Daton telling the Sydney Morning Herald that “If they have to be at school by 5am, it means they have to wake up by 4 am and parents should make preparations by 3 am. Another point is there is no public transport available in Kupang by 4:30 am.”
There is an abundance of evidence pointing to later school start times, rather than earlier ones, as improving both the health and academic performance of teenagers.
When schools in Seattle started their days 55 minutes later than usual, researchers observed that students had 34 minutes more sleep on average, as well as higher grades. A meta analysis of 24 studies, including data from over 500,000 adolescents, found that sleep-deprived teenagers have 1.43 times higher odds of risk-taking, including violence, alcohol and drug use, and risky behavior on the road. In fact, study author Dr Michelle Short told IFLScience that “The only thing where we didn't find a correlation for was gambling.”
“I think high school is the real danger spot in terms of sleep deprivation. It’s a huge problem. What it means is that nobody performs at the level they could perform,” Dr William Dement, founder of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic, said in a 2015 statement, with sleep specialist Dr Rafael Pelayo adding, “We’re not giving them a chance to dream.”
[H/T: The Guardian]