UAE teachers need more support and a clear career path, study finds

Interviews with teachers found many issues to be addressed to boost morale within the profession

ABU DHABI - UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - 08SEPT2016 - Nemah Abdul Aziz, Arabic - A Coordinator, with her students, she has been teaching for more than 20 years. Her passion for helping others to learn has resulted in her being recognised for her hard work with a number of awards at Raha International School in Al Raha Gardens in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National (to go with Nadeem Hanif story for News) ID: 93426 *** Local Caption ***  RK0809-NemahAbdulAziz11.jpg

UAE teachers lack "clear career progression", receive inadequate feedback on their work and need more support to help children with disabilities reach their potential, new research has found.

Their frustrations were set out in an independent report that was discussed at the Qudwa Forum, a teachers' conference organised by the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, in the UAE capital this week.

A total of 94 teachers from private and public schools in the Emirates took part in the  Promoting Educational Success for the Nation study conducted by Educational Testing Service, a US non-profit.

Richard Tannenbaum, general manager of research, said teachers in the country had a number of hurdles to overcome.

We have taught classes with as many as 34 children

"Some of the challenges teachers face are a lack of opportunities to learn, grow and develop professionally," he said at the forum, which was attended by hundreds of teachers from across the country.

"When they leave their education programmes, they are prepared for certain things but dealing with a diverse classroom is a challenge for them, as well as working with parents.

"There was a lack of a clear career progression and the teachers did not get a lot of feedback."

Although small scale, the results of the study match those of larger studies. More than 13,000 teachers were interviewed for the Adults at School Wellbeing Survey by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai's private school regulator, in 2018. The survey found that 43 per cent of teachers were "just getting by" at work.

An uneven access to technology is another challenge as some schools are better equipped than others.

Mr Tannenbaum said teachers were concerned with how to best to accommodate pupils with intellectual disabilities.

"Not all the schools have been set up to integrate students with special needs."

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - October 06, 2019: What Teachers in the UAE Think About Their Profession: A Summary from Teacher Focus Groups by Dr Richard Tannenbaum. Qudwa is a forum for teachers, by teachers that aims to elevate the teaching profession in the UAE. Sunday the 6th of October 2019. Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

His view was echoed by Ashwaq Mohamad, an Emirati kindergarten teacher at Al Ruwayda School in Sharjah, who said it was a tough ensuring pupils of all abilities received adequate attention.

"We teach children with special needs and this is not easy for us as we do not have any experience in teaching children with disabilities," she said.

"We lose time in the class because of this and that means we cannot give the other children time. Training to teach children with special needs is extremely important as we do not have help."

Karima Hasan Al Moini, from the same school in Sharjah, said the number of children in each class was another pressing issue.

“We have many children in one class, especially in kindergarten, and we have taught classes with as many as 34 children,” she said.

“We were told we will have only 25 pupils, but sometimes there are more.”

Mr Tannenbaum called for school leaders to engage more with teachers.

“The authorities and school leaders need to have regular conversations with the teachers, and that does not mean just going to the classrooms and doing an observation, but sitting down with them and asking them what they need,” he said.

Researchers interviewed 43 teachers from public schools and 51 from private schools between April and May of this year.

Those polled included Emiratis and expatriates, with between five and 12 years of teaching experience.

At the Qudwa forum, officials said teachers had complained about rapid changes in their profession as they pointed to new policies being rolled out each year.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Nuaimi, director of the education affairs office at the Crown Prince Court, said: “Many people are complaining about rapid changes … but this requires strong and bold steps in the field of education so we can keep pace with this change."

Researchers also found that teachers wanted to be appreciated and acknowledged for their hard work, and most of them had no plans to leave the profession.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - October 06, 2019: Creating the Future: UAE Initiatives in Education by Mohamed K. Al Neaimi, Director of the Education Affairs Office, Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi, UAE. Qudwa is a forum for teachers, by teachers that aims to elevate the teaching profession in the UAE. Sunday the 6th of October 2019. Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

"Teachers in both public and private schools were eager to improve and to learn, and wished for additional opportunities to interact with and learn from other teachers, as well as receive support from mentors or lead teachers," the study found.

The report recommended that schools devote more resources to providing teachers with regular professional development opportunities and leadership training.

Schools were also encouraged to seek feedback from teachers, carry out classroom observations and to create opportunities for collaboration within the teaching community.