This is the year in which I would like to see a significant shift in the status afforded to some of the most important people in our lives and in the lives of our children — our teachers. What used to be considered a career choice for the best and brightest, ranked as a highly-lauded profession alongside doctors and lawyers, has suffered in recent years. Sometimes subject to derogatory statements — ever heard the phrase ‘Those that can’t do, teach’? — or considered an easy job, a job suitable for women before they start a family, or even a ‘vocation’ where asking for status or financial recompense is deemed inappropriate, I believe it is time that all of these attitudes are kicked firmly to the kerb.
I want this to be the year of the teacher.
At GEMS Education, an organisation born in the UAE more than five decades ago and now employing more than 13,000 teachers and professionals educating over 140,000 enrolled students in 19 countries around the world — this isn’t something we’re making casual reference to, it is something that we are championing locally, regionally and globally.
The Global Teacher Prize will be awarded to one of 50 exceptional shortlisted candidates who have each made positive impacts to the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of individuals — including two teachers from the Middle East. I would urge you to read their stories; you cannot fail to be inspired.
In February, the panel of jurors will somehow manage to whittle this list down to ten, before the overall winner is announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai in March.
The winner will receive a prize for $1m, on the proviso that they will remain in teaching for at least a further two years, but the award is about much more than money. We developed this prize because we want to ensure that, as an educator, we have the highest quality team working at our schools. Because we want to encourage more men to enter the profession and provide role models for male students — who are more likely to drop out of school, or fail to enter tertiary education than their female counterparts. And because we want young Gulf nationals to consider teaching and education as a first choice career, and provide the best possible education for the generations who follow behind them.