x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Emirati teachers discouraged by wait for jobs

A third of nationals trained to be educators enter other professions because it takes more than six months to secure work in a classroom.

DUBAI // One third of Emiratis who graduate as teachers do not take up jobs at government schools because of the time-consuming recruitment process, educators say.

Dr Mark Drummond, provost of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), where the vast majority of Emirati teachers are trained, called it a "chronic problem" - and said it was one that could be solved if there was better collaboration between the education authorities and higher education institutions.

"We prepare very good graduates," he said. "But they sit on the shelf because they do not have immediate job offers - which isn't true for other professions like banking and engineering."

According to Howard E Reed, the director of the Dubai Women's College, it takes more than six months for their graduates to find employment at a local school.

"They are excited about going to teach but there is a lag period where it does not happen as quickly as they hope."

Over the 10 years it has offered its education degree, HCT has groomed more than 750 students for teaching careers.

The four-year programme, which adheres to international standards while providing local insight, is certified by the University of Melbourne and includes hands-on training in the classroom.

Mr Reed said their students' qualifications and language skills made them good candidates for professions outside of the education field, too.

"Some of them get opportunities in other sectors while they wait for a teaching vacancy to open up and they take it, not returning back to education," he said.

Dr Drummond said the issue was further fuelled by confusion about the roles of local and federal authorities, which left graduates caught in the middle.

"Obviously, one of the problems is the confusion with the education zones - the local authorities and then the national education ministry that lays down rules," he said.

"There is a vagary about the supply and demand, on exactly how many teachers are needed, for what subjects and how they conduct performance evaluation."

In countries like the US, he said, graduates often get placed within the school districts where they did their practice teaching, but that did not seem to be the case here.

Members of the Federal National Council recently debated a shortage of 800 teachers in the country's government schools. While officials at the Ministry of Education denied the extent of the shortage, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority said there was a shortage of more than 100 teachers in public schools in Dubai alone.

Michael O'Brien, the associate academic dean of education at HCT, said the education authorities were given a list of graduating students eight months before the end of the university year in an attempt to speed up the recruitment process.

"If our graduates could step into school from day one after they graduate, we would be able to retain them in the profession," he said.

He added the ministry must adopt an appropriate career structure and remuneration to draw more Emiratis into the profession.

Graduates who attended the eighth Annual National Teacher Education Conference, held yesterday at Dubai Women's College, said they would like to see a more streamlined process.

Ebtisam al Shaqsi, a teacher at the Kindergarten Development Centre in Dubai, said she had to wait for six months to get the job.

"The process takes so long, and I know this discourages quite a few graduates," she said.

"Some of the reasons we are given for the delay are 'we do not have experience' or, 'we have enough teachers', which is clearly not the case," she said.

"We have all gone through student training and the purpose of that is to gain practical experience," the HCT graduate added.

Aisha Salim al Mansoori said she applied for a teaching position with the ministry in 2007 but landed a job at a school in Sharjah only this September.

"I was on their waiting list for two years and went through so many interviews for this because there were a lot of changes in the ministry," said the primary school teacher at the Sharjah Khorfakkan School.