New UAE teachers call for more support and cultural training

Around 1,800 teachers were inducted at GEMS schools on Thursday


Gems Awareness Day 2019, held at The Palm Conference Centre in Atlantis.

(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)


Teachers arriving in the UAE for the first time this week have called for more support as they cope with a new country and a new culture.

Thousands of staff will start jobs across the country on Monday as pupils return to the classroom for the new academic year.

As part of efforts to help them acclimatise, GEMS schools, a leading education provider in the Emirates, held an awareness day on Thursday.

Nearly 2,000 new employees attended the Dubai event, designed to assist them with everything from lesson planning to financial literacy.

Seerat Guleria, 35, who moved from Chandigarh in North India, said she was due to start teaching mathematics at Wesgreen International School in Sharjah.

“It is overwhelming and I’m trying to find my place in the system,” she said. “ different in many ways so I am trying to get used to the culture.

“The professional development courses are very well planned but they miss out basic things such as explaining abbreviations to new teachers.

“There should be a go-to person who we can ask for help.”

Earlier this week, school operator Taaleem welcomed more than 500 new teachers to the Emirates.

Officials from Aldar Academies also said they had 650 new teachers starting at 18 schools in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

Dino Varkey, chief executive of GEMS Education, said their awareness day was an opportunity to welcome new staff.

He said teachers would be reminded that schools were committed to supporting their time in the UAE, and that their professional development was a priority.

“A day like this is a good indication of what we are doing,” said Mr Varkey. “There are [workshops] on moving to a new country, being settled financially, understanding the culture and environment in the UAE and trying to work in professional development.

Dr Seerat Guleria will join GEMS Westminster school in Sharjah

(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)


“At the beginning of the new school year, the principal and leadership team at the schools are the support mechanism for new teachers.

“We will not be successful if our teachers are not feeling happy.”

Richard Ritucci, 38, said he moved to Dubai from the north of England to teach design and technology at Dubai British School in Jumeirah Park.

He said making the effort to understand and respect the local culture was very important to him.

“People in the UK have the misconception that Dubai is very strict but it is very different from what they believe,” he said.

“It [the awareness day] is a fantastic opportunity to educate yourself about the UAE’s culture and etiquette.”

The teacher said he had struggled at times with getting his paperwork in order prior to his move.

He also recommended new teachers checked how long certain key processes – such as opening a bank account – could take in the country.


Isaac Able from Tanzania joins GEMS education as a Math teacher.

(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)


Isaac Able, 43, moved from Tanzania in East Africa, to Dubai with his wife and child after working in Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

He is due to teach mathematics at GEMS Modern Academy in Dubai and revealed this week was the first time he had left the African continent.

"For many [of us] it is difficult to leave the pupils behind and meet new people," he said.

Rafael Angel, from Mexico, moved to the emirate to be the Middle Years programme coordinator at GEMS International School in Dubai.

He will be teaching Spanish to grades nine and 10. “This is my first time teaching in the UAE,” he said.

“A large part of the Spanish language comes from Arabic. For me, this is an opportunity to embrace that.”