Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Temperatures & Vacation Timings in Muscat

Height of laziness in journalism? Today’s (28 July 2010) Times of Oman carries an article titled ‘Summer heat irks school kids’ on the front page of its local section (B1 or pg 17). The article seems to be nothing but a compilation of a few readers’ letters in the last week. The end result is an article that is highly biased and lacking in any understanding of the facts.

The gist is this: Indian Schools in Muscat region have summer vacations from end-May to end-July. International and Omani schools in Muscat, and Indian schools in the rest of GCC have vacations in July and August. Certain parents want the vacations to be rescheduled to July and August.

The two main complaints by a few parents are:
•    Indian students have to go to school during July & August, which are the hottest months
•    The vacations of the parents working in government or private institutions do not coincide with those of their wards studying in Indian schools.

Both arguments are baseless. The reporter has not taken any efforts to dig any deeper on this. No effort seems to have been taken to get the other side of the story either. As in, why are the vacations kept in June & July in the 1st place? What are the benefits of such an arrangement? No one seems to have spoken to any of the school authorities either, to get their side of the story. A couple of vague sentences that close the article seem to have been put in just to give a semblance of balance.

Here’s what is false about the article, or has not been looked into:

•    The hottest months in Muscat are May & June, not July, and definitely not August. It is July and August in the rest of GCC.

The rest of Oman also generally seems to follow the Muscat trend. Buraimi is similar to other GCC countries. Salalah has its peak temperatures in May & June. And appropriately the Indian school there closes for those months.

So the Indian schools seem to have got it right when scheduling their holidays. The question really is then why do other schools close during July – August, and operate in June when the heat is maximum. The European and American schools have merely synchronised with calendar in their home countries, where the academic years begin in September. Not sure why the Omani schools also keep the same calendar.

•    Most offices do not have a fixed vacation period for their workforce. Educational institutes may have it. Maybe some other organizations as well. But the bulk of employers will not want all staff to take vacation at the same time. Clearly no commercial establishment shuts down completely for 2 out of 12 months.
•    Under the current setup once sees many Indian staff take vacations in June and the Omani & European staff in July – August. Think this is a better solution than all vying for the same time slot.

There are other benefits of the schools having staggered vacations
•    June, being the hottest month, will also likely be the month with maximum per head electricity consumption. Would be interesting to study what the impact on power generation would have been if all the residents of Muscat were in the country during the month of June. I am not certain if we would have been able to avoid blackouts.
•    Road traffic is a bit relaxed all through from June to August, since a sizeable part of the population is out for each of these months.
•    Airlines are able to manage better with the peak load spread over a greater period. Oman Air for instance, has a high load from Muscat to the sub-continent during June. During July this load continues with the transit passengers from other GCC countries. Ditto for the return leg, with the load spread from July to September.

Funnily the online version of this article credits the story to Reuters!

Some further links for reference.

Oman Temperatures

Muscat Temperature


  1. Nice 1. Gud analysis.

  2. Gud 1. Nice analysis.