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Tensions in Policy and Practice: Influences on Play in Abu Dhabi’s New School Model KG Framework

This article reports on three salient socio-cultural and systemic factors that are influential in play in Abu Dhabi Education Council’s (ADEC’s) kindergarten (KG) framework from the teacher perspective. Anecdotal evidence suggests that during ADEC’s progressive educational reform, emphasis has reverted to academic performance outcomes rather than whole child learning through play. Tensions may then occur surrounding the nature and extent of play practices for early learning. Following semi-structured interviews with 60 KG teachers, three salient factors emerged. These are illustrated in this article and discussed in light of the international literature on play. Tensions in policy and practice highlighted in this article are: a focus on academic performance outcomes; children’s readiness to engage in play and parent perspectives on play. The article then discusses what these tensions may mean for the future of play in ADEC KGs situated within a period of educational reform.