ABU DHABI // Plans to staff schools with more Emirati teachers are being hampered because federal universities are producing education graduates with the wrong skills.
The New School Model, introduced in Abu Dhabi primary schools in 2010, requires teachers to give lessons in multiple subjects and be proficient in English.
Universities are not preparing students to meet those requirements, the head of the emirate's education authority says.
Instead, graduate teachers specialise in either English, maths or science, and are unfamiliar with both the syllabus and the teaching methods required in classrooms, Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, told The National.
The proportion of Emirati staff in Adec schools has increased this year from 43 per cent to 46 per cent. The authority hired 314 Emiratis, but not all in teaching positions: some who had studied teaching were employed in administrative positions.
To fill the gap, the authority had to recruit 1,000 teachers from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
"One of Adec's highest priorities is to employ qualified Emirati graduates into required subject areas," said Dr Al Khaili. An Emiratisation plan announced by Adec in June outlined their intention to hire as many Emirati graduates as possible to fill open positions in the 2011-2012 academic year, but Dr Al Khaili said they were faced with a crop of unprepared graduates.
Adec has now set up a committee with the three federal higher-education institutions - the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) and Zayed University (ZU) - to address the issue, and college chiefs say they are making changes to produce graduates who meet Adec's requirements.
Dr Robin Dada, dean of education at ZU, said the university had produced more than 110 graduate teachers in the past two years, not one of whom had been employed by Adec.
"This has limited the pool of new students who wish to prepare for teaching," she said. "They are worried about their future and whether they will have positions."
ZU is now preparing students to apply the New School Model. "ZU is working to see that our students are fully prepared for work in the Adec schools upon graduation," Dr Dada said.
At UAEU, where more than 60 students are enrolled in teaching degree courses, the education department has begun to tailor its courses to Adec's needs.
"We want to prepare them in the latest technology for teaching and the classroom approach applied at the schools," said Dr Steven Bossert, dean of the university's faculty of education.
He admitted there had been a lack of coordination with the authority concerning undergraduate and graduate programmes in the past.
At HCT, 750 students are enrolled in teaching programmes at the institute's six campuses. Michael O'Brien, the associate academic dean of education, said they revised their courses last year to meet Adec's requirements.
"We now offer a general primary teaching programme, which is designed to meet the new school curriculum requirements," he said. "The programme is certified by the University of Melbourne to meet international standards too."
Meanwhile, teachers who have already graduated from these universities face problems finding employment. Khalthoom Al Marzouq, a ZU education graduate, applied for a teaching position with Adec last year but was unsuccessful. She believes her low English test scores hampered her prospects.
"They need very high English language skills, a six or above in the International English Language Testing System, and I don't have that," she said. "I am still waiting and have taken up an administrative position at the university for the time being."
Mr O'Brien said the time lag between graduating and finding a job meant about 30 per cent of qualified teachers went into entirely different fields. "We want them to be employed in classrooms from day one," he said, "and that is the biggest problem."
UAEU is in talks to introduce a retraining programme for existing teachers. "We have agreed to collaborate and put together an intensive preparation course for graduates and soon-to-be graduates so that some of them can still be recruited by the authority in the next academic year," Dr Bossert said.
There will also be embedded in-service development sessions for newly graduated teachers.
Dr Khaili said Adec would offer new graduates training opportunities to familiarise them with the new model and assign them to eligible teaching or administrative positions.
"We will also extend practical training in school before students graduate so that teachers can get hands-on experience with children," he said.