Teacher licence scheme ‘must be rigorous’

From September all private schools across the country will have to put teachers through the course.

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DUBAI // The new teacher licensing system needs to include a rigorous test of knowledge and skills if it is to effectively raise the bar on teaching standards in the country’s private schools, according to experts.

A total of 106 out of the 223 teachers who took part in the pilot Teacher and Educational Leadership Standards (TELS) programme were awarded licenses.

Another 67 passed all of the tests but need to complete further English language training or preparation qualifications. From September, all teachers at private schools across the country will have to take the course.

The initiative has been welcomed by experts, who say, however, that it is essential that the scheme does not end with the completion of exams.

“The licensing system needs to be rigorous,” said Natasha Ridge, executive director of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research.

“It should contain follow-up visits to teachers in schools.”

Of the participants in the first TELS course, 50 will have to resit.

All of the 51 teachers who had previous international teaching licenses passed, while 92 of the 138 who did not have these licenses still passed.​

“This sends a good message that it is something that needs to be earned,” said Ms Ridge.

Clive Pierrepont, director of communications at education provider Taaleem, said the initiative was a great step forward.

Teachers who struggled with the exams did not have international quality qualifications, “but this does not mean that they do not have the potential to become great educators”, he said.

“This initiative will certainly highlight areas of professional development needed and encourage management to invest.”

International Baccalaureate (IB) curricula have mandatory requirements for ongoing training.

“For other schools, the senior leadership must develop teacher appraisal systems, including lesson observation and formal feedback,” said Mr Pierrepont.

“Our aim, starting in September, is for schools to register more than the recommended 25 per cent of staff.

“We will also apply for selected schools to become exam centres and look at ways in which we can register our own staff as trainers.”

Judith Finnemore of Focal Point Management Consultancy said she did not believe TELS was too difficult.

The teachers who struggled may not have been adequately trained in modern teaching strategies.

“It wasn’t easy to get. You had to demonstrate mastery. Testing doesn’t do that and my concern is that once the certificate is in the hand, many will simply go back to default mode.”