ABU DHABI // Three-quarters of public school teachers say their pupils are out of control, and officials blame it on a lack of involvement by parents.
In a survey of 5,000 teachers, carried out by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) last month to gauge job satisfaction, it was found that 76.3 per cent of public school teachers and 67.3 per cent of private school teachers were unhappy with behaviour in the classroom.
Dr Masood Badri, the director of research and performance management at Adec, said the survey had revealed "dangerous" signs.
"It is very evident that the relationship between the teacher and families is almost missing in state schools," said Dr Badri. "This reflects in the pupils' behaviour, with most teachers complaining about apathy."
Public school teachers said apathy was widespread among pupils and needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency. They reported a lack of communication and support from parents as the cause.
More than 86 per cent of public school teachers surveyed said they received very little assistance from the home.
"My interpretation is that families are not quite engaged in their children's well-being at the moment," said Dr Badri.
"The teachers want to open channels of communication but something stops them and I think they cannot ask parents to pay attention to their kids' education."
In a survey of 1,450 government school teachers by Adec last year, 10.5 per cent said they were "not respected by the parents".
Sarah Dayal, a psychologist in Dubai, said parents who believe schools should take sole responsibility for education hurt their children's development and personality.
"They cannot say, 'I'm paying for it, so it's not my responsibility'," she said. "Building an individual is a shared effort. No matter what the school does, if parents do not support the efforts of the teacher, the child will not benefit."
Ms Dayal said behavioural issues were also caused when parents did not intervene at the right time.
"Behaviour patterns like bullying and violence develop over the years when these matters are reinforced at home or ignored," she said. "They ultimately become the child's personality."
A former teacher at a public school in Abu Dhabi said the absence of parental co-operation and unruly pupils ultimately drove her to resign earlier this year.
"It is difficult to communicate with the parents because they refuse to take responsibility," said the teacher, who did not wish to be named.
She said the children emulated the parents' disrespectful attitude towards the teachers.
"The children need to know that the teacher is in control of the classroom and this is not possible unless the administration and parents accept it, too."
Reem Al Hashimi, a mathematics teacher in the capital, said a lot parents did not bother to show up for parent teacher meetings. "They say they are busy, but they should try being more involved."
Ms Al Hashimi said parents needed to monitor their children's education at home. "I can teach in class but at home the parent is in charge," she said.
"Many pupils don't study at home, and don't do their homework. This shows a lack of care on the parents' part."
Adec's job satisfaction survey quizzed educators about 12 aspects of their work life, including school environment, salary, pupil behaviour, professional development and management support.
While the overall job satisfaction of teachers in state schools was found to be as high as 78 per cent, areas such as pay scales, control over classroom problems and support for achieving professional goals were not being met for many.
The results indicate lower support levels from administrative staff in both government and private schools.
Satisfaction with salary size was also relatively low in public and private sectors, with only 31.9 in the public sector and 43.8 per cent in the private sector saying they were satisfied with their earnings.
Authorities said they had "predicted" these low levels of satisfaction. "We are in an era of expectation and Adec is working on a new pay scale," said Dr Badri.
He added, however, that state school teachers in the capital were among the highest paid in the world compared with most other countries.
"Teachers are just not aware of salary scales in other countries and the response is based on the knowledge they have."
Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, the director general of Adec, said the results will be used to address the challenges faced by educators. Committees have been formed to find solutions for the public education system and tougher regulations in private education will ensure a better work environment for teachers there.
"These surveys are used to observe and monitor the situation on the ground with objectivity," said Dr Al Khaili. "If they show areas of strength, they will be disseminated, whereas the weaknesses will be addressed by developing adequate plans."