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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Abu Dhabi schools concerned over lack of information for teacher licensing scheme

Enrolment for the new teacher licensing programme TELS UAE is likely to begin in January

Teachers and principals at private schools in Abu Dhabi have spoken of their concern regarding a lack of information about a new licensing programme.

Earlier this year, Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, formerly Abu Dhabi Education Council, announced plans to have its public and private school teachers licensed before 2021.

That national deadline was set by the Ministry of Education for all teachers, cluster managers, vice principals and principals to be professionally licensed in the UAE.

Adek’s plans included the introduction of the Teacher and Educational Leadership Standards and Licensing (TELS UAE) programme to 30 per cent of the teaching staff this academic year.

By the end of next school year, Adek wanted 50 per cent of teachers to be licensed, gradually increasing the number of teachers enrolled in the programme so by 2020, they would all be licensed.

But educators say they have received “little or no” information about the new national teacher licensing programme and fear no progress has been made getting educators licensed.

“It’s all gone cold,” one vice principal of a British-curriculum school said of the communications from government officials. “We haven’t heard anything. Having spoken with other British curriculum schools, they haven’t heard anything either.”

Mariam Al Hammadi, head of project management at the Emirates College for Advanced Education, who helped develop the pilot TELS UAE exam and training programme from Adek, said meetings were still taking place to finalise documents and other details.

“The ministry [is] collecting all the partners who were involved in the pilot and we are setting up the policies, the procedures for the test, the manual, the guidelines,” said Ms Al Hammadi. “There are many technical details that we are working with the ministry to set up and develop. Once everything is finalised, once everything has been set up and prepared, I think the ministry will announce it officially.”

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Rajendran Padmanabhan, head of operations for Global International School, said, “A little bit of confusion is still there among the teaching community,” said “So those teachers are slightly worried, ‘What should we be doing?’”

Judith Finnemore, a managing education consultant with ‎Focal Point Management who works with schools to improve standards and ensure they comply with government policies, said schools in Abu Dhabi had not received direction on ways to proceed.

“The big issue here in Abu Dhabi is that schools do not seem to be aware of the steps they need to go through,” said Ms Finnemore. “It would be really helpful for everyone to have a diagram that shows the steps, how long they take and where teachers need to go or what they have to do to register. Who pays and how much is also somewhat up in the air and some teachers on very low salaries are extremely reluctant to fork out for a new qualification.”

Both Adek and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority ran trial versions of the TELS UAE with a sample of teachers and principals in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, respectively, last academic year.

Adek’s version included 100 multiple-choice questions, while the KHDA’s had 198 questions covering the four professional standards that all educators in the country are expected to be proficient: professional and ethical conduct, professional knowledge, professional practice and professional development.

Participants in the Abu Dhabi pilot were issued certificates of appreciation at the conclusion of the programme. Those in Dubai who passed the test earned a teaching licence valid for three years.

Richard Drew, principal of Jumeira Baccalaureate School in Dubai, participated in the TELS UAE pilot in Dubai and was among those who earned a licence. Mr Drew was also among the school leaders in Dubai invited by KHDA to attend TELS UAE information sessions earlier this month. He said the meeting was insightful.

“It clarified a number of things,” Mr Drew said. “It was more about the mechanics [but] how it was going to work, the deadlines.”

The principals were told the KHDA would be issuing a document to schools in its jurisdiction within the next couple of weeks to collect information about the teaching staff. Each school will be required to nominate 25 per cent of its staff to enrol for TELS UAE this academic year.

“They’ve thought it through, they’ve given people time,” said Mr Drew. “Now what needs to happen is it needs to start, and we need to see what the issues will be, as there will always be teething problems with any new initiative.”

Adek, the KHDA and the MoE did not respond to requests for comment.

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