DUBAI // A ban on corporal punishment in schools has made it all but impossible to maintain discipline in the classroom, teachers complained to the Federal National Council this week.
More than 30 Emirati and expatriate state school teachers complained for three hours to council members, including Dr Mona Al Bahar (Dubai), Hamad Al Rahoomi (Dubai) and Dr Sheikha Al Erri (UAQ), about classroom conditions and problems with the Ministry of Education. Many said they wanted to leave the profession.
They repeatedly came back to the point that since beating children with sticks was banned, teachers had no authority in classrooms or any way of controlling pupils.
"There is no real punishment for the teachers to use. Rules about behaviour are all aimed at teachers," said one female Emirati teacher. "They always make the teacher wrong in the end."
She said teachers needed a way to punish children to restore authority in classrooms and get respect. They said the current lack of both was causing teachers to leave the profession.
One male Emirati teacher said the rules prevented teachers from even asking pupils about why they had missed days at school. Even when children behaved badly enough to be expelled under the rules, they rarely were.
"Regulations about behaviour must be re-examined," said Saeed Al Kaabi, director of the Sharjah Education Zone, said. "This has lowered teachers' authority."
An Emirati nursery school teacher complained that budget cuts meant she no longer had a classroom assistant.
"I'm the only person in the classroom," she said.
"I have no rest except 15 minutes a day. Before there was an assistant. Every new ministry decision is worse than the one before."
Some had even resorted to using maids as classroom assistants. Surprised by this, FNC members asked what help maids could be. "Cutting and things," one teacher said.
Some classes were without teachers altogether. One principal said a class in her school had been without a teacher for two years.
Teachers complained, too, that they were expected to act as babysitters after school, sometimes staying behind for hours to wait for parents to pick up the last children. "It is not a teacher's job to be a supervisor," a teacher said.
Mr Al Rahoomi agreed this was not teachers' job.
Nor did work end when teachers left school, with new rules requiring them to spend hours making detailed lesson plans.
"Every year there is a change in the way to prepare classes," said one teacher who has been working in the UAE for 14 years. "I want an assistant. I do not want my maid to be my assistant."
The result, some said, was that they were often too tired to teach effectively, and ended up getting sick.
There were gripes, too, over a new requirement for teachers to produce end-of-year "performance portfolios" as evidence of their work.
Several said they did not understand what these documents were meant to be, with some admitting they had simply submitted photos of their classes at work.
"The performance portfolio that has been introduced this year is a weapon to be used against teachers," one teacher said.
"If it is not complete, they say where is the proof that you've been working? But my productivity is with the pupil. Now in class we take so many pictures."