How to retain the best teachers

More than curriculum and facilities, quality of staff in the classroom is the top priority

Hiring the best teachers has been shown by research to be the most important predictor of educational success. (Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National)
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Many of us can remember a special teacher who took a particular interest in our learning and pushed us to achieve more than we could have imagined. Those of us lucky enough to have been taught by such people will not be surprised by the research that says the quality and enthusiasm of the teaching staff is far more important than curriculum and facilities in predicting educational success.

The question for the UAE is how we can encourage these gifted teachers into the profession and how to ensure they remain there rather than be tempted into better-paid and less-onerous jobs elsewhere. This is particularly the case for Emirati teachers, because of the cultural understanding they bring to the job alongside their teaching skills.

Salary alone does not provide the answer. Great teachers tend to be motivated by the process of developing young minds to achieve their full potential and go on to live happy, fulfilling and productive lives. Teachers who might be tempted into the profession solely because of high salaries are unlikely to possess those qualities.

However, money still plays an important part and particularly for talented teachers who might be tempted to change professions so they can have a more comfortable life for their families. Despite all the talk of long holidays associated with the profession, the reality is that dedicated teachers spend a lot of time outside of the classroom working on improving their performance inside it.

Salaries need to be high enough for teachers to be able to stay in the classroom, but that also needs to be accompanied by support from the school administration and having a career development structure in place so they can hone their skills.

It is no surprise that Finland, consistently rated as having the world’s best schools, places a high priority on getting the best teachers. We are fortunate in this country to have the resources to attract the best and brightest – be it in education or any other profession – and wise use of those resources will help ensure that all children reap the benefits of having truly great teachers.