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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

High cost of training deters young people from becoming teachers, experts say 

The world is facing a crisis in teacher recruitment and many of the UAE's highest achievers say they do not want a career in the profession

Susie Ballantyne, director of development at Bloom Education, says higher pay might attract more teachers. Reem Mohammed / The National
Susie Ballantyne, director of development at Bloom Education, says higher pay might attract more teachers. Reem Mohammed / The National

The high cost of training and lack of incentives is deterring school children from becoming teachers, education experts say.

Their assessment matches the findings of a UN report that placed the UAE at the lower end of the scale in attracting pupils into teaching.

The worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development called Effective Teacher Policies found a decline in the number of pupils aged 15 who said they wanted to be teachers.

In 2006, a programme by the organisation found that 5 per cent of those pupils expected to work as teachers, but by 2015 that number had dropped to 4.2 per cent.

Susie Ballantyne, director of development at school operator Bloom Education, said that subsidies for teacher training or making it free, would encourage more young people to take up the profession.

Ms Ballantyne said teaching was not seen as “fashionable or as rewarding as it used to be”.

Charie Acla, 17, a pupil from Emirates English Speaking School in Dubai, said she considered becoming a teacher when she was nine, but now has no interest in the profession.

“Teaching is not an option for me or any of my friends,” Charie said. “I think it’s because this generation is interested in technology and invention.

“In the future, we want to innovate. We are much more attracted to technology, especially in the UAE as it is technologically advanced.”

The pupil, who wants to pursue a career in video games development, said subsidies or high salaries might encourage some to become teachers, but a passion to teach was “crucial”.

“You can’t teach if you don’t have that,” Charie said. “One of my cousins is a teacher in the Philippines. There many think that being a teacher is better for the future.”

It is just one part of a wider challenge facing the teaching profession. According to Unesco’s Institute of Statistics, if the situation remains as it is by 2030, 33 countries will not have enough teachers to provide primary education to every child.

The UN announced on World Teacher’s Day in 2016 that 68.8 million teachers must be recruited to meet the expected demand.

This year, The National reported that UAE schools were struggling to recruit enough teachers for maths, science and technology because graduates in these subjects receive more lucrative offers from industries rather than the education sector.

Jeff Evans from Learning Key Education Consultancy believes that the new laws over the licensing of teachers will improve the quality of education, but will be another barrier in attracting young people into teaching.

By the end of 2020, all principals, vice principals, cluster managers and teachers working in public and private schools will have to hold a UAE teacher’s license to work in the UAE.

“The costs will not be insignificant,” Mr Evans said. “For teachers on lower salaries it’s a big issue, and for schools with low fees.”

Location is also a factor in hiring teachers, as many expatriates prefer to be in Abu Dhabi or Dubai because of the lifestyle.

“It’s difficult for schools outside of these two emirates to attract and retain teachers,” Mr Evans said. “There is a definite shortage. After a couple of years a teacher will move.

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“In particular, it is tough to find qualified maths and science teachers. In the UK and other countries, teaching would be low in the pecking order for a maths graduate because they can go into the financial or science sectors.”

He said that some schools offered professional development to keep staff, while others were considering retention bonuses.

In May, an interim report published by the Council of British International Schools found the UK to be facing a severe shortage of teachers. It said that fewer graduates were opting for the vocation and trained teachers were quitting.