Teachers in government schools will be allowed to offer private tutoring for the first time in a new drive to improve standards.
Fawzia Gharab, assistant undersecretary for school operations at the Ministry of Education, told The National that the authority will license teachers to offer one-on-one lessons.
Teachers will be able to register to take part and will be financially rewarded for doing so by the ministry. They will not provide tutoring for pupils at their own schools.
The scheme applies only to public schools and is not being offered in private schools.
The move represents a shift in policy. Private tuition is currently banned but many teachers offer tutoring for cash-in-hand despite that.
The decision was announced in a circular distributed by the ministry to schools.
Ms Gharib said tutoring should never be a "profit-making" exercise.
“There is a difference between profit-making private lessons and private lessons where the goal is to enrich pupils’ knowledge and enhance their academic skills,” said Ms Gharib.
“We don’t want parents to pay between Dh150 and Dh300 for one hour of private tutoring, we want to provide children with access to more learning that is adequate to their needs,” she said.She said that the UAE is determined to develop a top class education system and is providing additional tuition to drive up standards without forcing parents to pay the cost.
Ms Gharib said that the scheme targets pupils who require more attention in certain topics.
“For example, if a pupil was weak in mathematics, they will receive private lessons to help improve their performance in math, not in all subjects, because he is only weak in this subject.”
Once the pupil has improved their performance, the private tutoring will stop, she said.
She said that only qualified teachers among those who register via the online “Teach for the UAE” platform, will be chosen to provide the service.
“We don’t aim to burden the teacher, nor the pupil with extra hours, therefore the lessons will be added to the teachers’ classes but during the school day.”
Budgets have been allocated to reward teachers who take part, while their participation will also be taken into consideration during performance evaluations.
“If their evaluations were exceeding expectations, those teachers will also have priority in promotions,” she said.
Ms Gharib said she expects parents to welcome the initiative.
“We don’t want education to turn into a trade,” she said.
One resident who has been offering private tuition said the chance to offer the service without fear of breaking the law was a "relief".
Rima, an Indian resident in Dubai who asked The National not to use her full name, has been offering private tuition at her home for the past nine years.
The mother-of-two, 44, faced objections from the security guard and building management when she started teaching at her home in Dubai.
"The watchman did not let the students come up to my house and said that that there would be action taken against me," she said.
She believes the new license will help standardise private tuition and "will benefit everyone."
"I have to look after my children and I didn't want to put them in a creche, so I started teaching children from grades seven to 10.
"People were supportive when I used to live in Sharjah and my neighbours promoted my work."
The private tutor never ventured into teaching full-time as she said the salaries on offer were not attractive.
Sumit Advani, co-founder at Ignite Training Institute, which prepares children for science, mathematics and Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATS), said there is a demand for private tutors in UAE as many pupils come to them struggling with their studies.
"It makes sense to regulate it, because it is happening, and provide a standard of quality and price control so that no one is getting exploited, be it the teacher or the pupil."
A math teacher at a Sharjah private school said that he did not have a choice when he turned to private lessons to make ends meet, as his salary is only Dh6,000 a month.
“I have three children in schools and one who is a university student. If I did not give private lessons I would not be able to afford the costs of their education,” he said.
“Teachers' low wages in private schools force them to turn to private lessons,” he said.
Teachers are able to register to become licensed private tutors online, by visiting the Teach For UAE website.