x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Boost for Emirati teacher numbers

Primary schools in Abu Dhabi will be staffed almost exclusively by female Emirati teachers, with hundreds to start work in public schools in September.

ABU DHABI // Primary schools throughout the emirate will be staffed almost exclusively by female Emirati teachers in an overhaul of the school structure announced yesterday.

In addition, 40 schools will be involved in mergers, 23 new facilities will be opened and 11 more refurbished schools will start classes.

The mergers are part of a scheme to close down old and rundown schools that fail to comply with health and safety regulations, and transfer the pupils to more modern buildings with better facilities.

A wider Emiratisation of the education system will begin in September when hundreds of new Emirati teachers start work in public schools.

At the same time, male teachers in 10 boys' primary schools will be replaced by Emirati women. "We need to open jobs for the UAE nationals graduating from universities," Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, director of the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), said yesterday.

"The plan is to have female teachers in all Cycle 1 [Grades 1 to 5] schools throughout the emirate. There are a lot of female students graduating from education programmes and we will see that number increase in the future. We need to nationalise the education system and open up opportunities for our daughters."

At present, most teachers in public schools for boys are Arab expatriates.

The overhaul means that the contracts of more than 1,400 teachers will be terminated before the start of the academic year in September.

Dr Al Khaili said: "At the end of the day, we have a budget and cannot exceed it, but we will try our best to minimise the effect on those involved.

"Some teachers do not have a bachelor's degree and they cannot continue with the standards we have set for education."

Dr Khaili said some would resign, others would not have their contracts renewed, and teachers who were retiring would be replaced by Emiratis.

Lolowa Al Marzouqi, an instructor in the college of education at Zayed University, said boys' schools would benefit from female teachers.

"According to studies, young boys' interest in education is piqued when they are taught by women," she said. "Logically, kids in Cycle 1 want motherly figures at that stage of life and it is better if they find teachers who can treat them that way."

Dr Al Khaili said there had been a positive impact in boys' schools staffed by female teachers. "We would like to continue on that success."

Dr Lynne Pierson, head of P-12 education at Adec, said staffing primary schools with female teachers was common throughout the world.

"The initiative will also support the New School Model that is being rolled out in the schools," she said.

Asked if she believed the initiative might discourage Emirati men from becoming teachers, she said: "Men are under-represented in education all over the world and universities and the council have recognised the need for them as the first step."

Less than 10 per cent of male teachers are Emirati. "Once the prestige of the profession increases, we will be able to encourage men in the profession," Dr Pierson said.

Michael O'Brien, the associate dean of education at the Higher Colleges of Technology, said they were working with Adec to meet the demand for Emirati teachers.

He said more than 40 Emirati graduates from the Abu Dhabi and Al Ain Women's College will be applying for teaching positions with Adec this year.

"It is critical to have highly qualified teachers in schools," he said.

Mr O'Brien said the initiative would also ensure graduates secured jobs faster. "We are keen on seeing them in the classrooms as soon as possible because the wait for an offer often pushes them to other careers."

Students at the Emirates College for Advanced Education already practise teaching in boys' schools.

"Our students are being taught to use a modern and child-centred approach to education which they will be applying in schools once they graduate," said Dr Robert Thompson, the dean of the academic department. "They will serve as role models and keep the culture going in these schools, which is the most important thing."

Adec also announced yesterday the roll-out of a new organisational structure in public schools to improve administration and create new positions.

"Staff will be rearranged and principals of many of these schools will be given an opportunity to continue their higher education through scholarship programmes," said Dr Al Khaili.

aahmed@thenational.ae