FAQs: Everything you need to know about the UAE’s new teacher licensing system

What’s the new teacher licensing system called?

Teacher and Educational Leadership Standards (TELS UAE) and Licensing programme.

How can I apply for it?

For now, you can’t. The country’s education regulators - the National Qualifications Authority, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Abu Dhabi Education Council and the Ministry of Education - are just wrapping up a pilot phase of TELS UAE with a select number of teachers to work out bugs before launching it nationwide.

Is there anything I can do to prepare for it?

Yes, you can stay informed. While we’re still waiting to hear details on how TELS UAE will be applied in Abu Dhabi or in public schools in Dubai and the Northern Emirates governed by the Ministry of Education, we do have an idea of how it will work in Dubai’s private schools. The KHDA said that the first step for all private-school teachers will be to apply for a provisional teaching licence through schools. To qualify for the provisional licence, you have to have a job offer and signed contract with a private school in Dubai, provide police security clearance from Dubai Police and from the law enforcement authority of your home country, have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification and have legal status in the UAE.

Will I need classroom teaching experience?

Not if you want to work in a private school in Dubai. If you hold a bachelor’s degree in a subject in which there is a shortage of teachers, for example, you might be a fine candidate for one of the teaching positions, even if you don’t have experience, according to the KHDA. The provisional teaching licence will allow licencees to work as teachers under supervision and it is valid for between 12 and 18 months. In that time the KHDA expects you to enrol in an education training programme and prepared for the TELS UAE examinations. The NQA has also said that prospective teachers without prior teaching experience can qualify for a provisional licence.

What’s the TELS UAE examinations?

This is essentially the final stage of the licensing process. It is a series of four exams covering four professional teaching standards: professional and ethical conduct, professional knowledge, professional practice and professional development. Once you pass those four exams, you will be issued a “competent teacher status,” which is essentially your renewable UAE teaching licence that is valid for three years. School principals, vice principals and cluster managers will be issued different exams focused on school management and leadership.

When will this be launched?

Authorities have said they expect to roll out TELS UAE in stages at the beginning of the 2017-2018 academic year nationwide. The goal is to have all teachers, cluster managers, principals and vice principals licensed – or enrolled for the licensing process - by the end of 2021. Here is what one official from Dubai’s KHDA had to say about it: “We can not licence all teachers in Dubai, about 20,000 teachers, in one year. It can’t be done. What we are going to do is we are going to put targets for schools and these targets are going to be let’s say mutually agreed upon with the schools.”

There are 20,000 teachers in Dubai? How many are there nationwide?

During the 2014-2015 academic year, there were 63,497 teachers working across the country in public and private schools, according to the KHDA. And that national number is climbing about 5 per cent annually.

What about the costs of licensing?

In Dubai, schools will be responsible for licensing their staff. It’s up to each school to decide on how they will do it. The school may pay for it, or may decide to transfer those fees to their staff. It will be up to individual schools to come up with cost-sharing agreements, if they choose to do so. As for how much it will cost, the authorities haven’t said yet.

So what’s next?

The KHDA said it expects to announce the results of its TELS UAE pilot next month. Adec and the MoE have not released details of their pilots since last year.



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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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