Teachers key to persuading UAE students to pursue sciences, study shows

ABU DHABI // The most important influence in persuading a child to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and maths is the teacher, according to researchers at Khalifa University. Many schoolteachers, how­ever, said they were not adequately trained, equipped or sufficiently compensated to properly do their jobs. Researchers at Khalifa University set out to identify […]

ABU DHABI // The most important influence in persuading a child to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and maths is the teacher, according to researchers at Khalifa University.

Many schoolteachers, how­ever, said they were not adequately trained, equipped or sufficiently compensated to properly do their jobs.

Researchers at Khalifa University set out to identify factors that affect a Stem teacher’s­­ ­effectiveness. They surveyed 200 teachers – 102 from public schools and 98 from private schools – from across the country on issues ranging from quality of the curriculum to job satisfaction and professional development, to name a few.

A majority of the teachers surveyed, 83 per cent, said the curriculum “does not meet the needs of the students”.

Most teachers, 67 per cent, said the schools did not provide them with “adequate teaching materials”.

“For instance, teachers who desire to shore up their materials shortage may have to use their own money and consequently feel that the teaching profession does not provide a sufficient salary,” the researchers wrote in the paper, Overcoming the Challenges in K-12 Stem Education.

Asked if they were satisfied with their salaries, 93 per cent of the respondents “overwhelmingly expressed their discontent”, while 90 per cent said they would be willing to leave the profession if they were offered a better paid job elsewhere, ­according to the study.

When it came to professional development, 64 per cent of the respondents said they had never attended any form of professional development to improve Stem pedagogies.

“The lack of attendance of professional development sessions may be the foundation of why teachers feel neglected by administrators, frustrated with new curriculum changes and overall dissatisfaction with their jobs,” the ­researchers said.

“When Stem teachers are professionally left behind, their students will suffer.

“These developmental classes can help teachers adjust to curricular changes and provide new practical methods on how to involve students and parents in the learning community.”

One biology teacher at a public school in Al Wathba said he disagreed with some of the study’s findings.

For example, the curriculum taught at Abu Dhabi’s public schools was effective, he said. He also believed the Abu Dhabi Education Council had been supportive in ensuring teachers had the materials they need to do their jobs.

“I don’t know with the private schools, but Adec provides everything for the teacher,” said the teacher, who asked to remain anonymous.

As for salary and class sizes, this was a point of contention for most teachers in any country, he said. “For me, I guess the professional development is the most important thing,” he said.

Hamda Al Shehhi, an Emirati computer and robotics teacher at a public girls high school in Abu Dhabi, praised the recent changes Adec had made to the curriculum but said Adec needed “to provide more training to the teachers”.

Lead researcher Sohailah Alyammahi said the study was part of a larger project she was working on at the university to develop a computer program to help policymakers improve the education system.

“We want to motivate students to pursue Stem majors, so we want to overcome all issues considered obstacles,” Ms Alyammahi said. “It’s proven scientifically that this model can help policymakers take the most effective strategy to achieve the purpose with the least cost.”

Co-author Hassan Barada, associate dean for undergraduate studies at the university’s college of engineering, said even the slightest improvement to the quality of teachers would have great benefits in making Stem subjects more popular among students.

rpennington@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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