Education chiefs were urged on Monday to phase in a new licensing system slowly to avoid losing good teachers who might not be formally qualified.
The new licences, coming next year, should make allowances for talented teachers who have acquired years of classroom experience while not holding the proper professional credentials, experts say.
The national scheme may require teachers to pass an exam or complete a training programme to be issued a licence. Details will be confirmed next year. “It’s like a platform for uniform criteria for all teachers,” said Jumana Shehada, head of the English department at Dubai National School, which supports the changes.
“Some people are applying for teaching but they have only been enrolled in academic programmes, not teaching programmes, so they are qualified from an academic point of view but they don’t have the teaching qualifications.
“It’s very important, alongside curriculum or academic requirements, that they know teaching methodology: how to appeal to students, how to differentiate classes. It’s a prerequisite that should be there for teachers, similar to a professional standing required in other countries.”
At the moment, education authorities such as the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai, Abu Dhabi Education Council or the Ministry of Education list different qualification criteria for teachers.
Even within authorities there are discrepancies. With KHDA, for example, Arabic and Islamic studies teachers have to pass an exam and meet academic criteria, while other teachers are exempt from the test.
A national licensing system will ensure the professional standards are uniform.
Bandana Lazarus, vice principal at Delhi Private School in Dubai, said unifying the standards would bring the UAE in line with the qualifications requirements of many other countries. In India, she said, all teachers take an exam after completing their education degree.
“They have to clear this test, once they have that score, it helps them get recruited,” she said. “Until you are trained to be a teacher, you cannot teach.”
While she supported unifying licensing standards, Mrs Lazarus said arrangements should be considered for existing teachers who had been working without the teaching credentials, and Mrs Shehada agreed.
“There should be an equivalence criteria, for instance a minimum number of teaching years, that would be OK,” said Mrs Shehada. Such teachers should be taught classroom management strategies and how to communicate effectively with pupils, she said.
Neene Adam, an English teacher at Gems Modern Academy, knows many teachers who are not formally trained in the profession but excel at their jobs. She said if teachers who did not hold a teachers’ training certificate were forced to retrain to meet the new standards, the cost should be met by the schools.
“If it becomes mandatory, then that would become quite an obstacle – we may lose a lot of good teachers,” Mrs Adam said, because teachers would have to return to school themselves to earn professional qualifications. “With the pressure now on teachers to deliver with so little income coming in, I mean, teachers are dropping out of the profession already.
“If you’re going to put in more stipulations, you’re going to lose more good teachers.”
Rema Vellat, a counsellor and author who runs the Counselling Point consultancy, said it was normal for some people to resist change.
“Initially, when something like that is introduced, there’s going to be chaos and people will grumble,” she said.
“It’s just like before when it became mandatory for all educational institutions to be licensed by either Adec or KHDA. But now everybody realises the importance of it and the reason behind it, and everybody follows the rules.”