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Lack of Male Teachers in UAE has Adverse Effect on Educators and Pupils, Say Experts

Ola Salem, The National
January 01, 2015

The absence of Emirati men in the education system threatens to feminise the teaching profession, experts fear.

Despite a nationwide Emiratisation drive in education, most of those taking up roles in schools are women.

Abu Dhabi Education Council had 1,485 Emirati school staff last year but only 6.8 percent of them were male, and Federal National Council statistics reveal a similar situation elsewhere.

Of 28,078 teachers working for the Ministry of Education in 2013-2014, only 5.8 percent, or 1,654, of them were Emirati men.

Dr. Natasha Ridge, executive director of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, said the lack of male teachers meant that young male pupils had no role models, adding that when a profession becomes feminised, salaries can dip.

“Feminisation of professions has negatives for men and women,” she said.

“Salaries are then a secondary wage. Women get paid less.

“What you would want is to increase the status of teachers–men and women–and getting the right graduates for the job,” Dr. Ridge said.

The FNC statistics showed a very low number of Emirati men working in primary schools, a factor that risks jeopardising pupils’ national identity and culture at an early age.

Dr. Sheikha Al Ari, an FNC member and former school principal from Umm Al Quwain, predicted that the numbers of male teachers would fall even more in the future with the news circulating that the Ministry of Education plans to slash holidays and other incentives for those working in school management and administration.

“The problem is with policymaking,” she said. “If an Emirati compares his salary with one working for the Armed Forces or the police, of course they will not want to join the teaching profession. Particularly with the added responsibility of being a teacher.

“We heard that there will be a decision for administrators to have only one month off a year,” she said. “This will drive more men away, and even women now. We really want this decision to be reconsidered. It will create a lot of damage.”

Dr. Al Ari said Emirati men had not always shunned the education sector and that when the UAE was formed there had been a large number of male teachers but, with the lack of incentives, they were driven out of the profession and into better paid jobs.

“For an expatriate, their home country might pay far less for a teacher so a job here may seem to be a far better paying one, but for a local, life here is expensive,” she said. “There needs to be a policy change to change this.”

Dr. Ridge said salaries and pensions needed a boost to make them comparable with other industries.

But Gregg Vossler, a former principal of Manor Hall International School in Al Ain, said a higher salary was not necessarily the only incentive that would bring in Emirati men.

Although he agreed the current structure “created a vicious cycle” of a growing imbalance between the sexes, he said Emirati men needed to want to teach and embrace the profession.

The question, Mr. Vossler said, was “how to get Emirati men to see education as a viable profession.”

Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi, director general of Adec and FNC deputy speaker, on Wednesday agreed that incentives were just one factor in attracting more Emirati men to the profession and that creating a mindset where men actively wanted to take part was just as vital.

Mr. Vossler said it was crucial that the sector recruited more Emirati men, particularly in early years’ education.

“All values are formed by the time [pupils] are in middle school,” he said.

“You are already carrying a negative attitude towards the profession by the time you join middle school.”