Our children's future depends on happy teachers

Without the right support, there is a growing risk that educators will have no choice but to leave their profession

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, Jan 27, 2016. A mathematics classroom at Gems Wellington Academy. The school has converted 12 classrooms into a large plaza which provides a flexible environment to children to learn.
Photo: Reem Mohammed (Reporter: Nadeem Hanif  Section: NA) Job ID: 36151 *** Local Caption ***  RM_20160127_GEMS_23.JPG
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They are the men and women we rely on to shape the minds of future generations but there is a worrying trend of a growing number of teachers leaving the profession. In the last three years, more than 1,000 public school teachers in the UAE have resigned, according to the Federal National Council. "The workload for many teachers is beyond what they can manage," one former teacher, who quit after a decade, told The National. Vast amounts of mandatory paperwork and heavy workloads are adding up to six extra working hours by day and forcing dedicated teachers to give up the job they love. The UAE is not alone in this; schools around the world are losing dedicated staff because of the impact of overwork on their wellbeing, which can have a knock-on effect on their family life and mental health. On average, a starting salary for teachers in the public sector is between Dh12,500 and Dh20,500 per month. While those working in private schools can benefit from slightly higher wages, their salaries pale in comparison to office jobs that require the same amount of higher education.

Dissatisfaction with the profession is a concern of all educators and should be tackled head-on. A recent survey found one in four teachers wanted to quit their job in UK and 40 per cent of those leaving the profession blamed the workload. This makes it harder for nations to attract and retain talented educators. Here in the UAE, a number of initiatives are underway to prevent a brain drain and ensure the country remains attractive to new talent. In April, the nation launched a campaign to attract Indian teachers, offering successful candidates more than 10 times their average salary for the same job in India. In addition to better salaries, it is vital to recognise and reward the hard work of often unsung heroes, who shape children's minds and inspire their futures. Elevating the status of teachers and showing them the respect that is due to their profession is absolutely necessary. The annual Global Teacher Prize, hosted in Dubai, aims to do just that and awards $1 million to an outstanding teacher.

Society cannot do without the vital contributions of educators and teachers, whose work must be properly recognised and valued. They must be given the right support in managing workloads, with a system in place to provide emotional support to protect their wellbeing and mental health. Our children’s futures depend on it.