Attracting and retaining qualified Emirati teachers a challenge, educators told

Adec succeeded in attracting more than 300 new Emirati teachers and 120 assistant teachers this academic year.

ABU DHABI // The challenge of attracting and retaining Emirati teachers was the focus of an education conference yesterday.

“We need our locals to contribute to education,” Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, told about 500 educators, academics and diplomats at the fifth annual conference at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research.

“We need to change the mindset. We need to let them see that teaching is not only a job, it’s a kind of national service. And if you’re so passionate about giving back to your country, you have to see it from that aspect, to give back with passion and try to drive it with excellence.”

Adec attracted more than 300 Emirati teachers and 120 assistant teachers this academic year. It is hiring about 1,200 administrative staff who will join the government agency this year, Dr Al Qubaisi said. While this is an improvement, Emiratis make up only 5 per cent of the workforce employed by Adec.

Even local colleges and universities are having trouble recruiting Emirati high-school graduates to education studies, said Mahra Al Mutaiwei, director of the regional centre for educational planning.

Enrolment at UAE University’s College of Education has been on a steady decline. In 2010, there were 781 students. This year, that dropped to 548 – all women, Mrs Al Mutaiwei said. “For seven years there has been no males.”

The Emirates College for Advanced Education also had a decline in the number of graduates who earned a degree in education.

In 2012, 141 Emirati women and six men graduated. Last year, there were 65 and this year there were 49 graduates – all women.

Mrs Al Mutaiwei said more needed to be learnt about why Emirati men were not attracted to teaching.

“We need to do scientific research, we want to know the real reason,” she said. “The salary is more in the army or police so they go to something else.”

She said other factors included the pressure of the work, and how the community viewed teachers.

Adec and the Ministry of Education said they would launch initiatives to change perceptions about the profession.

“We are trying to encourage more, inshallah, and there will be more initiatives to bring them on board,” said Dr Al Qubaisi.

Marwan Al Sawaleh, undersecretary at the ministry, said plans were under way to attract Emirati teachers, especially men, and offer incentives to keep existing staff.

“The Ministry of Education conducted a number of initiatives and programmes to improve the situation of teachers, and has invested a lot in infrastructure to make education an incubator for creators and innovators,” Mr Al Sawaleh said.

“The ministry also opened its door to all educators to continue their higher studies and has granted scholarships for them to continue their master’s and PhD degrees.

“We need to have first-class education system and we can do that through collaboration with education centres and councils and all other stakeholders.”

rpennington@thenational.ae

Published: September 23, 2014 04:00 AM

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