UAE teachers satisfied but feel excluded in decisions, survey shows

Adec asked 8,017 teachers to rate their levels of satisfaction and found overall satisfaction increased to 80 per cent from 70 per cent in 2009.

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AL AIN // An overwhelming majority of state school teachers are fulfilled by their jobs but many women feel excluded from decision making, a new study suggests.

“They say they are not a part of decisions that affect the school and its prosperity and this has been a consistent concern in previous surveys,” Dr Masood Badri, a senior executive with Abu Dhabi’s education regulator, Adec, said yesterday.

Adec asked 8,017 teachers to rate their levels of satisfaction in areas including school leadership, environment, pupils’ behaviour, parent involvement and professional development.

The overall picture is one of improved working conditions and fulfilment, with overall satisfaction increasing to 80 per cent from 70 per cent in 2009.

The results may help to encourage more UAE nationals into the profession. Adec employs Emiratis in about half of its available positions but hopes to fill thousands of roles with UAE nationals by 2030.

The survey also helped to identify areas in need of improvement – in particular, a desire among teachers to be included in the decision-making process, and room to offer suggestions.

Although 82 per cent of teachers said they were satisfied with the mutual trust between teachers and principals, many felt left out of discussions. Only 63 per cent of the female teachers and 71 per cent of men said they were involved in making important decisions in school.

Dr Badri, executive director of Research, Planning and Performance Management at Adec, said the inclusion problem was rooted in Adec’s centralised policies.

“It’s Adec’s role to give the schools more authority,” he said. “Because right now schools are not autonomous, principals do not have their rightful authority. And what they do not have, they cannot give.”

The issue has been acknowledged, he said, and the council has started looking at ways to decentralise the education system.

Salam Al Haddad, principal of Al Ittihad Secondary School, does not expect such changes overnight but said autonomy was important in operating a successful school.

“There are certain areas where I would like to take decisions,” he said. “Like what teacher should or should not work in my school based on their performance.

"It is a gradual process and with Adec's evaluation programme, I believe, good schools will be given more responsibility."
Knowing the realities on the ground means school staff are best placed to make some decisions, said Mariam Ahmed Al Tiniji, mathematics coordinator at Palestine Secondary School.

“A programme that works at another school might not work at my school,” she said. “Each school is different and policies must be made according to the pupils there.”

Aziz Al Mesaabi, a Grade 2 teacher at Al Bawadi School, would like to be given more opportunity to put forward suggestions before decisions are made.

“I have lots of ideas and feedback that I would like to pass on to Adec and we should be given that outlet,” said Mr Al Mesaabi, 24, one of only a handful of male Emirati teachers to join an Adec school last year.

“For example, the curriculum is ‘bookless’ at the moment as we are asked to use various resources to teach. But this is a challenge because parents still need their child to have a textbook.”

About 90 per cent of the teachers surveyed had participated in professional development sessions, and 29 per cent had done so at their own expense after school hours.

About 40 per cent said they would like more Adec courses to fit their exact needs. Dr Badri said the authority had begun specialised programmes to enhance teachers’ skills. “But teachers complain that it is detached from the subjects they teach. For example, a physics teacher might require a targeted programme.”

Mr Al Mesaabi said he would like more courses on teaching children with special needs.

“I have two such children in my class and I do find it hard to communicate with them sometimes. I use my own methods, but a professional course will help us integrate them better.”