Thousands of teachers flock to UAE amid education sector boom

Rising population means there is a growing need for more educators in the Emirates

From left, new UAE teaching recruits Hannah Sherratt, Luke Cullen and Michael Luu at the Gems education event in Dubai on Tuesday. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Thousands of teachers have moved to the UAE from across the globe for the start of the new school year, as education experts hail unprecedented demand in the sector.

The attraction of living in the Emirates is a leading factor in the influx of talent, along with the global cost of living crisis and borders opening up again following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other driving forces include a rising population in the UAE, particularly in Dubai, with less people leaving than before.

"We are sitting in a position where the UAE is an economic oasis in a world where there is so much financial uncertainty," said Dino Varkey, chief executive of schools provider Gems.

"More people are being drawn to the country due to economic unstability elsewhere which is driving up the demand for schooling and creating a need for more teachers."

He was speaking to The National on the sidelines of an annual awareness day to introduce teachers to the company at the Atlantis hotel on Palm Dubai.

Tuesday's event was decidedly larger than previous years. Gems has hired almost 2,500 teachers in the UAE and Qatar, ahead of the new academic year - breaking the previous high of 1,800.

While many of the new hires were already based in the UAE, the majority of the new hires are coming from other countries, added Mr Varkey.

"The majority are coming from international markets and we've got teachers from around 70 different countries in total," he said.

"There's nowhere else in the world that's seeing anything close to the growth Dubai is experiencing right now."

Retaining top talent

Dubai's population, in particular, is surging. According to the Dubai Statistics Centre, the emirate's population has increased by almost 90,000 in a year, hitting almost 3.6 million in June.

Dubai’s 2040 Urban Master Plan suggests the city's population will soon be as high as 5.8 million.

Another factor for the UAE's desirability as a location was down to the fact so few people were looking to leave, said another expert.

"A tremendous amount was done to support staff to stay in the country during Covid-19," said Mark Leppard, headmaster at the British School Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi.

"That commitment has been rewarded by staff wanting to stay here.

"We haven't seen the same trend of a high turnover, which has been beneficial to the students."

The number of teachers in the UAE is proportionate to the number of new pupils, said another expert.

"Brighton College Dubai has seen a 25 per cent increase in pupil numbers since last year, and therefore had a 20 per cent increase in the number of teachers, which were recruited from a highly competitive field," said Simon Crane, headmaster at Brighton College Dubai.

"We have also seen an increase in staff applications, with an average of 80 to 100 applicants per job posting.

"The competition has been fierce, and we have seen a calibre of teachers increase since previous years, with this year being the most impressive in terms of talent we have managed to attract."

Teacher recruitment has never been busier

"My inbox has never been fuller in 15 years here in the UAE," said Talat Goldie, HR director with school operator Taaleem.

"There is absolutely more teachers because there are more children in schools here and more people in the UAE than before.

"The demand for teachers is huge this year."

While she was not able to provide exact figures on how much demand had increased, she estimated there were now at least 25 per cent more teachers in Dubai schools than last year.

"There are more people moving to the UAE than before which means there is a need for more teachers," said Ms Goldie.

"We have noticed a lot of families have come over here from Ukraine because of the war there and there has also been a rise in Israeli families enrolling in schools here too.

"Another area that we are getting a lot of interest from when it comes to new enrolments is Asia - with families from the likes of Singapore, China and Malaysia."

She said most of the teaching staff new to the region were coming from the UK.

The increased demand for teachers is felt across the board.

"We have doubled our teachers because of significant growth and the popularity of the school - we are only entering our second year," said John Bell, founding principal of Bloom World Academy - where 39 new teachers were hired this summer.

Top of the class

Teachers who were about to embark on new careers in the UAE also spoke to The National on Wednesday.

"I was looking for a new adventure and had been talking with colleagues and former colleagues about the opportunities there are in Dubai," said Michael Luu, who has just moved from the UK to take up a position with Gems Wellington International School.

Also starting a new role was Luke Cullen, also from the UK, who is about to begin teaching at Gems Metropole Al Waha after working at another school in the emirates for the past number of years.

"There are children from so many different nationalities in the UAE that you have a chance to have an impact on a global community," he said.

"You don't have that in other countries."

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Updated: August 22, 2023, 2:45 PM