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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Calls for pay rises and appraisals for teachers

Emirati teachers are alienated at schools and overloaded with extra teaching hours, FNC members said.

ABU DHABI // Higher salaries and appraisals are being requested for Emirati teachers after more than 1,000 resignations over the past three years.

Members of the Federal National Council said on Tuesday that Emirati teachers were losing pupils’ respect while being alienated at their schools, overloaded with extra working hours and required to teach new material without prior training.

The conditions pushed 235 teachers to resign in 2014, 477 in 2015 and 291 last year, said Naama Al Sharhan, a member from Ras Al Khaimah.

She said 13,000 teachers were handed a new curriculum without training and were required to teach 24 periods per week.

In a report presented to the FNC, the Ministry of Education said that the 24-period requirement was not new but was being enforced, “which resulted in some teachers not being able to handle it because they were not used to it before”.

The workload is 18 hours divided into 45-minute classes, and the number of periods is fewer than “any other Gulf, Arab or European country”, the report said.

Mrs Al Sharhan said teachers had also complained about being randomly transferred between schools and having no career path, with no clear system of appraisals in the ministry.

“Today the teacher is alienated inside the school,” Mrs Al Sharhan said. “Has the ministry studied what made them resign?”

Jameela Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, said teachers have many training and award opportunities. An appraisal system has been included in the ministry’s plan for this year through 2021.

But Dubai member Hamad Al Rahoomi questioned whether the plan was on a par with what teachers were experiencing.

“I don’t care about the strategic plan. What concerns me is the real situation,” he said.

“I have sensed the reality. I went to the field, saw and heard. It would be quite strange that so many people and different sources gave us the wrong information.

“What we have seen is different from what we are hearing now – a teacher is given orders and those who comply stay, and those who don’t like it leave.”

Teachers have said they are not involved in the decision-making process and their voices are never heard, Mr Al Rahoomi said.

He said opinions are “one-sided” and this has caused pressure on parents and teachers, while resignations are immediately accepted.

“Instead of accommodating the resigning teachers, they were quickly replaced by foreigners,” he said.

Mrs Al Muhairi said the resignation rate last year among Emirati teachers was five in 10, lower than the year before.

“Compared with the federal government, this rate is very acceptable,” she said.

Mrs Al Sharhan said members had heard many complaints.

“We wish everything was all right, as you have described,” she said. “All the wishes have evaporated.”

She asked why Arab teachers who “educated generations” had been fired, while “foreign, western” teachers had replaced Emiratis who resigned.

“Of course they have contributed,” replied Hussain Al Hammadi, Minister of Education. “But in the end, teachers require certain skills and everyone who works in the field should have them. Why should we be unfair to our children?”

Teachers must take a knowledge and skills exam, he said.

Mrs Al Sharhan said westerners were being hired to boss around Emirati teachers, which has made them feel ­alienated.

“Before the decision was in their hands. Now it is in the hand of this foreigner – and I don’t mean Arab expats, I mean westerners,” she said.

Mr Al Rahoomi said he was optimistic that Mr Al Hammadi would take the discussion seriously and work on the points raised by members.

“He already approved all of our 17 recommendations,” Mr Al Rahoomi said.

hdajani@thenational.ae