Majority of Abu Dhabi private school teachers paid less than Dh10,000 a month
ABU DHABI // N S, a teacher with more than eight years’ experience, works at a Philippine primary school for Dh4,000 a month.
His wife and daughter live in the Philippines. He pays for shared accommodation with three men, sleeping on bunks.
“It is a low salary but it is more than I would make in the Philippines,” N S said.
Like many teachers he said he tutored after hours, making Dh75 to Dh100 for a two-hour session.
His situation is common in Abu Dhabi private schools and a main reason for their breaking the law, recruiters say.
“I’d say at least 75 per cent of schools pay less than Dh10,000 a month,” said Judith Finnemore, of Focal Point Management Consultancy. “Worse still, I know of principals on Dh6,000 a month without accommodation or flights.”
Mrs Finnemore said low salaries led many private school teachers illegally tutored after hours.
“There are literally hundreds of teachers tutoring, despite schools and teachers knowing this to be illegal,” she said. “It is rife in private schools. We often find teachers reluctant to attend training after hours as this cuts into their second income where earnings of Dh200 an hour are not unrealistic.”
Private school reports published by the Abu Dhabi Education Council in 2013 show that of 133 schools that disclosed pay, 86 listed a starting monthly wage of Dh5,000 or less.
It was the only year schools publicly reported how much they paid their teachers.
At the 86 schools, maximum salary ranged from Dh2,700 at a Ministry of Education school in Al Ain to Dh14,300 for a British-American curriculum school, also in Al Ain.
Only a few specified whether the teachers were paid extra for housing, health or education, or an annual flight home.
“It is only the top-flight schools hiring directly from the UK and US who are paying Dh10,000,” said Mrs Finnemore.
Public school teachers in Abu Dhabi are offered a starting salary ranging from Dh12,500 to Dh20,500, depending on experience and qualifications, recruiters say.
They are also given a furniture allowance, an annual flight home, health insurance and housing.
Rema Menon, director of education consultancy Counselling Point, said many teachers accepted the low salaries in exchange for a work permit so they could supplement their income with after-school tutoring, which could be lucrative.
“The tutoring culture is rampant,” said Mrs Menon. “They make a lot of money, especially among the Asian community and particularly Indians, where the students go to the teachers for private tutoring.”
Dr Smitha Dev, assistant professor of psychology at Abu Dhabi University who has worked with private schoolteachers for her research, said the low pay problem was evident in Asian schools.
Dr Dev said she worried about the quality of education her children were receiving when the adults who were teaching them were paid so poorly.
“It definitely lessens their motivation and puts them under a lot of stress,” said Dr Dev. “We are not getting qualified people because the good ones move on to better-paying jobs. They search for where they can earn more.”
Turnover of staff at private schools is consistently high, recruiters said.
Reports from Abu Dhabi private school inspections in the past academic year showed that 50 schools out of 112 reported losing 20 per cent or more of their staff, including 18 schools that lost 30 per cent or more.
Only 17 schools said less than 10 per cent of their staff left.
Mrs Menon suggested the Government should consider introducing a minimum wage for private schoolteachers to help raise standards. “And there should be an incremental increase every year,” she said.
“All those things, if it comes from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority or the Abu Dhabi Education Council, then everyone will follow those policies.
“But right now it is the mandate of the owner of the school.”
Updated: August 3, 2016 04:00 AM