Teacher licensing and balancing investment are key challenges for UAE education sector

DUBAI // Getting every teacher through the UAE’s licensing system and attaining a clearer balance between investment in schools and profits will be among the key challenges facing the education sector into the next decade, say experts. Although the overall quality of education provided at schools is getting better, some areas of the country are […]

DUBAI // Getting every teacher through the UAE’s licensing system and attaining a clearer balance between investment in schools and profits will be among the key challenges facing the education sector into the next decade, say experts.

Although the overall quality of education provided at schools is getting better, some areas of the country are not seeing improvements.

“[We need] possibly, and hopefully, an amalgamation of those overseeing education so that everyone sings from the same hymn sheet and in-country disparities are eliminated,” said Judith Finnemore, an education advisor with Focal Point Management Consultancy.

But longer-running issues will continue due to continued economic uncertainty, especially the scarcity of good quality teachers, particularly in Arabic language lessons, she said.

This wider global uncertainty is seeing jobs cut and salaries stagnate, meaning some well-paid expatriates who could normally afford high school fees are being forced to rethink their finances.

“Owners will face the need to realise that schools are not really profit-making concerns,” Ms Finnemore said.

“Schools always need high levels of investment because improvement costs money.”

As well as making sure every teacher has completed the licensing process, it is also essential that those vetting teachers are also high-quality educators.

The National Qualifications Authority (NQA), which is coordinating the teacher licensing project with the Ministry of Education and other organisations including education regulators, said it would be introduced in 2017. The project is expected to be fully implemented by 2021.

“The various bodies must sit together and decide this without delay,” said Ms Finnemore.

“Then, once teachers all have the same standards, there needs to be a UAE salary scale that applies to all schools.

“This happens elsewhere in the world, so why not here?”

The longer-term quality of schools can be improved by only giving the highest ratings to schools that have had ‘B’ ratings for at least three inspections, she added.

Emirati teachers should be more involved in writing textbooks for the UAE National Curriculum and the examination system for Ministry of Education schools must also be as robust as those in the UK and elsewhere.

“We need more involvement of business and industry in schools by linking business ‘mentors’ with schools,” Ms Finnemore said.

But despite the strides made in education, more still needs to be done to prepare children for higher education and the world of work.

“Where is the vocational input to schools?” she asked.

“There are UK qualifications called BTECs and these are perfectly worthwhile items, yet they are not recognised as fit for schools here.

“Many schools are still highly textbook-driven and we hear too often how parents want this and that. It is not about what is good for children.”

Natasha Ridge, the executive director of the Ras Al Khaimah-based education think-tank Al Qasimi Foundation, said small for-profit schools could be the worst hit in a potential economic downturn.

“Larger groups like GEMS have economies of scale, so they would be fine,” she said.

“Long-established non-profit schools with good reputations would be fine as there is always demand for these types of schools.”

In general, she called for a more diverse education sector with a wider range of non-profit schools.

However, she said the UAE’s stability in a tumultuous region will continue to attract investment and students from other Arab countries and South Asia, regardless of wider economic turmoil.

Kimberly Taylor, academic advisor at the new American curriculum Clarion School in Dubai, said schools should focus on developing a child’s ability to “communicate and collaborate”.

“By teaching children how to better communicate and work with one another, it better prepares them for the wider world,” she said.

By developing this along with skills such as problem solving, children can more readily apply what they learn to the real world, she said.

nhanif@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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