DUBAI // A legal link between a teacher and the school that employs them in the new teacher licensing system may force individuals to think twice before switching schools, education experts say.
When teachers pass their final Teacher and Educational Leadership Standards and Licensing (TELS UAE) programme examinations, they will be issued a government document called “competent teacher status”, which identifies the teacher and the school for whom he or she works.
“Anybody who changes a school, they have to go through the police check again and we have to know why they have left the school,” said Dr Naji Al Mahdi, chief of qualifications and awards at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai’s education regulator.
And before a new licence can be issued, the teacher has to have a contract signed with the new school.
Although schools will be responsible for getting their staff licensed, they may choose to pass the licensing costs down to their employees as a means of retention.
“Maybe the school will say to the teacher, ‘Look, we will pay for you, but you need to work for us for at least three or four years,” said Dr Al Mahdi. “Maybe the school will pay for it and say we will pay for you but if you leave us within two years’ time, you will have to pay the cost. Or, maybe the school will say, we will pay 50-50. It is the school’s responsibility and they will have to ensure that all of teachers become licensed.”
Clive Pierrepont, director of communications for private schools operator Taaleem, said the company will cover the cost of licensing its teachers.
“We do not think it is fair for teachers to pay the cost of licensing,” said Mr Pierrepont. “Taaleem will not pass the costs to our teachers.”
But Rebecca Antony, assistant headmistress at the Indian High School, in Oud Metha, said there is no guarantee the school will get a return on its investment. It would make sense to share the costs, she said.
“I think that is what schools will end up doing because there is no way of ensuring that the teacher remains with the school for the entire period of that licence,” said Ms Antony. “If the school pays for a teacher and the licence is valid for three years, then how can schools ensure that the teacher remains with them for the three years?”
Some teachers have welcomed the measure, saying strict rules with regular checks can benefit pupils.
Aisha Mahmood, a Canadian teacher in Abu Dhabi, said she has no objection to police checks.
“I have done my police check once before and it is very normal to do it regularly back home in Canada,” she said.
“I actually feel it is a positive thing to know when teachers are moving and why they are. They may be fired for some reason - the authorities have the right to know - even as a mother I would not want a teacher who is not properly checked to teach my kids.”
Being part of the TELS UAE pilot programme in Abu Dhabi and already having sat tests, Ms Mahmood said it is all based on general knowledge that teachers should have.
“I was concerned at first, because most of us have already done licensing back home, but after writing the test I realised it is all very relevant and something all teachers should know, based on assessment and dealing with different scenarios,” she said.
However, not all teachers are happy with the new licensing rules.
A teacher at an Indian-curriculum school in Abu Dhabi said: “Depending on how the new rules affect us, we will be able to say if it is positive or negative.
“We have not done police checks before so are unaware of the need for it or what are the requirements. If it will delay or postpone the process of our transfer if we need to switch jobs between schools is also an important question.”
* Additional reporting by Mahak Mannan