UAE-wide teacher licensing scheme to begin in 2017, minister says

The proposed professional licensing scheme for teachers is expected to be introduced next year and fully implemented by 2021.

Hussain Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, said authorities across the UAE were working on a scheme. Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // The proposed professional licensing scheme for teachers is expected to be introduced next year and fully implemented by 2021.

“The new system will be implemented over five years such that all teachers will be licensed by 2021, in line with the requirements of the UAE National Agenda,” said Dr Thani Al Mehairi, director general of National Qualifications Authority (NQA), which is coordinating the effort along with the Ministry of Education, the Abu Dhabi Education Council, Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, and the Institute of Applied Technology.

Under the proposals, schoolteachers, vice-principals, principals and cluster managers working in public and private schools will be subject to licensing, and teachers will have to pass a national examination and show a “portfolio of evidence,” said Dr Al Mehairi.

Minister of Education Hussain Al Hammadi said licensing will be phased in to give “an opportunity for teachers to prepare themselves”.

“We are working with universities to make sure there is a training programme that will be available for teachers when we implement the full licence.”

The six-month pilot project will involve about 750 teachers, about one per cent of the nation’s teachers, and could be introduced this year if the approvals come through in time, according to the NQA.

“As soon as the pilot committee approves the process, selected teachers and schools will go through,” said Dr Al Mehairi. “An evaluation will be conducted to adjust any shortcomings and narrow the gaps that can affect the final licensing process.

“After that, all teachers will commence mandatory licensing.”

Currently, the minimum qualifications for prospective teachers vary across the country. In Abu Dhabi, for example, those standards are set by Adec.

In Dubai and the Northern Emirates, the ministry outlines the basic credentials teachers must hold to work in public schools.

Private schools in Dubai are regulated by the KHDA.

The entry requirements for teachers under the new system will be a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience and qualification, according to the NQA.

Other requirements will be announced at a later date by the licensing committee members.

“Adec, KHDA and the Ministry of Education already have strong requirements for allowing teachers to practise,” said Dr Al Mehairi.

“However, the teacher standards framework provides rigorous and common measures and indicators against which teachers and leaders can be recruited, licensed and incentivised.”

Dr Al Mehairi said the framework will also allow for “mobility of teachers within the UAE”.

“Given that the UAE employs a large number of teachers from other countries, there is a critical need for a unified system to ensure minimum entry requirements are met,” said Dr Al Mehairi.

Mr Al Hammadi said a requirement for teachers to hold a professional licence will raise the standard of education across the country.

“We have licences for nurses, licences for doctors, licences for lawyers, and teachers are very important professionals,” said Mr Al Hammadi. “You have to make sure that people who are working in and delivering education for kids should be qualified.”

Lee Dabagia, head of school at Elite Private School in Abu Dhabi, said a unified licensing system would help set a much-needed benchmark for qualifications.

“The licensing system is definitely needed here,” said Mr Dabagia, who has also worked in the emirate’s public schools.

“It’s a good kind of baseline when we start with new people, so it would be nice for us all to understand exactly what the expectations are for teachers.”

Mr Dabagia said many applicants had outdated teaching skills and the new licensing system may prompt them to polish their qualifications, leading to a better qualified pool of candidates for schools.

Eoin Bolger, business development manager for the UAE-based teacher recruiting firm Teach and Explore, questioned how the system would affect expatriate teachers who are licensed overseas.

“Teachers that we work with, from Ireland or the UK, Canada or America, they all have a bachelor of education already, they all have a minimum of three years’ experience, they’re all fully qualified. They all have recent experience and we have all the reference letters, everything backing up their experience and qualifications,” said Mr Bolger.

“I don’t know whether teachers would be 100 per cent happy with having to do it if they are coming over here with their degree and qualifications.”

* This article has been amended since it was first published.