Schools fear they may have to replace a sizeable number of teachers after assessments
While the procedure for licensing private school teachers has not yet been declared, some are seeking out programmes to enhance their qualifications. Picture for illustrative purposes.
Abu Dhabi: The implementation of a teacher licensing system is expected to improve education standards across the country, yet many educators are apprehensive about what it entails for them, Gulf News has learnt.
At a press conference in the capital on Tuesday, UAE Ministry of Education officials announced the rollout of the first stage of the licensing process, which will include assessments of more than 5,000 public school teachers across the UAE from April 2018.
While the procedure for licensing private school teachers has not yet been declared, some educators are already seeking out educational programmes to enhance their teaching and leadership qualifications, yet the financial outlay is proving a challenge. And, despite assurances to the contrary by ministry officials, some education experts feel that a sizeable proportion of teachers will have to be replaced once teaching licences and their relevant standards become mandatory in 2021.
“I have a Bachelor in Business Administration, and have undergone a two-year teacher training programme in Sri Lanka, in addition to another year of pre-school teacher training. But there is confusion at the moment about whether a Bachelor in Education will be a requirement to obtain a teacher licence. I want to keep on teaching, so I have enrolled for a bachelor’s degree in Sri Lanka that I will complete over the next year,” Fathima Shimla Faizal, a kindergarten teacher at the Islamia English School in Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News.
Faizal has been teaching in the capital for the last 20 years, and said that the biggest challenge is covering the cost of the degree.
“I had initially looked at doing the degree here, but there were very few centres offering a Bachelor in Education [degree], and at Dh20,000, the fees were nearly double what I have to pay for the Sri Lanka-based programme,” she explained.
Kila Barber, head of the junior school at Repton School Dubai, said the teacher licensing programme and its requirements could actually push many teachers to go out and get the education they had planned.
“We’ve already met with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) to discuss the system, and my understanding is that the system will ensure that all educators are at a certain standard. In this way, it will also provide an opportunity for those who have not received enough training to catch up with their peers,” Barber said. She herself is qualified as an educator from the United Kingdom, which requires that teaching professionals have a graduate or undergraduate degree in education, and also that they undergo a probationary year under the supervision of a mentor.
According to the ministry, existing teachers in the UAE will be assessed through two tests. Those who meet acceptable standards on both will be licensed, and others will have to undergo training before retaking the tests.
The ministry has not yet authorised any training centres, but the (KHDA) has recognised a few facilities that will eventually be allowed to provide the training. Among these is the Boston Initiative in Dubai. Sammyo Halder (right), its managing partner, said there is still considerable confusion about the licensing requirements among teachers.
“Many have approached us to ask about what training modules we have available. At this stage, it appears that many teachers may actually have to develop proficiency in English. Educators also want to learn how to incorporate innovation into their lessons,” he said.
Still, there are fears that up to 20 per cent of teachers will have to be replaced once 2021 rolls around.
P.A., a long-term educator and former school leader based in Abu Dhabi, said many Science and Mathematics teachers at the high school level are not well-versed with pedagogy, while others who teach subjects like Islamic Studies and Arabic language to expatriate students simply do not have teaching qualifications.
“It will not be practical to retrain them all, so I do believe schools will have to let them go and then scramble to fill the gaps,” he said.
Dr V.V. Abdulkader, principal at Indian curriculum The Model School in Abu Dhabi, said that 90 per cent of the school’s 300 teachers already have bachelor degrees in education.
“For them, the licensing procedure and its associated training will be like a refresher. But we have not yet decided how the cost of any training that is required, which is likely to be a minimum of Dh2,000 per teacher, will be handled,” he said.
“We believe that a robust licensing scheme will enable the UAE to continue to attract highly qualified teachers and will also increase the global interest in hiring teachers from the UAE. As such, schools will need to consider how best to attract and retain highly qualified teachers, which may serve to further improve salaries and benefits,” said Christine Nasserghodsi, (right) vice-president at Tellal Institute, which has also been recognised by the KHDA to eventually provide teacher training.
Teacher licensing procedure
In the first stage, teachers across public and private schools will have to undergo two assessments.
Specialised tests will measure educators’ subject-specific knowledge.
Professional tests will help determine their knowledge of pedagogy, classroom management and English proficiency, along with their ability to incorporate UAE heritage and culture into their teaching.
Based on their performance, teachers may or may not have to undergo tailor-made training programmes. Some will also have to retake the tests. Once they meet all standards, teachers will be provided a teaching licence that could be valid from one year up to three years.
By the end of 2020, all educators will have to be licensed, and those seeking to teach in the UAE from 2021 onwards will have to first obtain a teaching licence.