Still too few men are taking up teaching as profession in the UAE

Profession struggles to attract men who are put off by low salaries and high demands in field dominated by women.

Teacher Khalifa Al Naimi instructs pupils in maths at Al Tamayoz Model School in Al Ain. Delores Johnson / The National
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DUBAI // The number of men entering teaching as a career is still low despite Emiratisation programmes, experts say.

Dr Barbara Harold, an education lecturer at Zayed University who conducts teacher training at undergraduate and postgraduate levels said the lack of men in the profession remained a concern.

“Who better to teach young Emiratis than Emirati teachers. We have a strong contingent of Emirati women in the schools and leadership positions, but the number of Emirati men is still low,” she said.

“The status of teaching is still seen by many as an occupation that’s for women.”

Dr Harold said having more men in classrooms would provide pupils with a better balance.

“We say it’s good for children to be exposed to role models of both genders, as well as at home where they have both,” she said.

“A local teacher knows the local culture and values it very intimately. When we look at issues of heritage and identity, where children can interact with teachers from their own culture, it’s important.”

In 2014, the Abu Dhabi Education Council had 1,485 Emirati school staff – but only 6.8 per cent of them were male.

Of the 28,078 teachers working for the Ministry of Education in the 2013-2014 school year, only 5.8 per cent were Emirati men.

Dr Harold said low salaries and low status continued to deter men from entering teaching.

“From research we conducted last year, we found that parents saw teaching as a good profession but didn’t necessarily want their sons or daughters doing it. They wanted more tangible benefits for the status to be raised.”

Khalifa Al Naimi is a maths teacher at a government school in Al Ain. He has just completed his master’s in educational leadership and administration at Zayed University.

The 42-year-old said his uncle had persuaded him to go into teaching for many reasons, among them a fixed amount of holiday time. His passion for teaching, however, had grown over the years.

“I felt this job is me. I mean it fits my interests and skills,” he said.

Mr Al Naimi said Emirati men were put off by low salaries, responsibilities outside of school hours and uncertainty when it came to promotion. But 10 years on he is still teaching. “I like to be a contributor in the coming era of my emerging nation.”

Ghaith Al Matrooshi is working on his professional teaching certificate at the American University of Dubai while teaching maths at a government boys school.

The 30-year-old said social attitudes to men going into the profession had held many back.

“Teachers in Arabic societies are historically held in high regard,” he said. “Unfortunately, today the teaching profession has lost its prestige and respect.

“Arab men are seen as the breadwinners of the household and many tend to seek the jobs that give the highest salary or job titles.”

However, simply raising salaries, he said, was not the answer.

“We need qualified and passionate teachers, not merely more teachers,” Mr Al Matrooshi said. “A bad teacher does more harm than good, regardless of nationality.

“A good start would be changing the perception of the teacher in society. When they are renowned, people will see it as an honourable profession that is something to aspire to.”

Job satisfaction, he said, was a major compensation.

“The reason it is immensely enjoyable is two-fold. Knowing that I am moulding the future generation of our nation is an honour and privilege that I carry with pride,” Mr Al Matrooshi said.

“Second, the way my students look up to me. I see the positive change I am making in their lives, which fills me with great joy.”

He said it was hugely beneficial for young Emirati males to have local role models to learn from. “For the country to switch from an importer of knowledge to a producer we must first have nationals who are able to build on current knowledge and develop it further. Without home-grown educators, we will always remain consumers.”