Teachers and Teaching in Dubai, UAE
General information, and pros and cons of teaching in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, UAE
The Pros: Teaching in Dubai and the UAE can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will have, at least that's what the boss will tell you. Sarcasm and cliches aside, teachers in a good school in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, or anywhere else in the UAE, will normally enjoy the experience (embassy schools and non-profit schools are usually the best ones). The students are interesting and enthusiastic, generally well-motivated (if not, parents paying 30,000+ dhs per year will motivate them), and compared to teaching in any other big city, you'll have no or few discipline problems.
The Cons: There are some schools which are less pleasant though. Long hours for little reward (although the students usually appreciate the teachers' efforts) and seemingly endless difficulties with administrative procedures - visas, housing, etc. Some schools will have discipline problems that are difficult to deal with - students threatening teachers with getting them sacked for example (if management supports the students, it becomes awkward). The UAE schools information pages have a rating system where you can view what other teachers think of a school, and add your own vote.
Most schools are somewhere between the two extremes. Read any contracts carefully, get everything down in writing, don't expect any favors once you've signed up, don't rock the boat once you get here and you should be fine. Just like any job - read the jobs in Dubai page for a bit more detail. If you were promised something but did not get it in writing, don't expect it to materialise.
More Cons: One thing that exasperates many teachers who first move to the UAE is the favoritism shown towards certain students (the ones who have a degree of influence over school management for whatever reason - either wasta, or because they or their parents are spineless and whine a lot). It's the way it goes in the UAE and it won't change in a hurry. Just remember that if you lose your job because of your principles, the student will probably still get what they wanted. And you won't have a job.
More Cons: Management in UAE schools seems to be particularly irksome compared to elsewhere. Almost as if the administrative offices are a graveyard for has-been heads and principals the rest of the world doesn't want. Try and stay out of their way and don't annoy any of the high-wasta (influential) students. Incompetent bosses are also quite often lazy so if their radar does latch on to you, the Sir Humphrey strategy can be quite effective: say Yes, Minister (with enthusiasm - you should at least appear genuine) to any request and then ignore it. With any luck they'll be fired by the owners before your own tardiness gets found out. This strategy won't work so easily in the non-profit schools since heads usually seem to last longer, and they have more of a clue in the first place anyway.
More Cons: Like anywhere, office politics can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you adapt to it. Ignoring it is not usually a good idea though. Remember when whining about the management in the staffroom, that every efficient manager will have a plant in there somewhere - it won't be the grumpy Father Ted in the corner, it's more likely to be the one who's your new best friend ever within 5 minutes of you arriving for the first time in the UAE.
But there are some pros too ... it's not all doom and gloom ... unless you wind up in a doomy gloomy school or you're a doomy gloomy teacher, or both.
Teaching qualifications in Dubai
See also the minimum teaching qualification requirements in UAE section on the teaching jobs page.
Teacher training in Dubai and the UAE
UAE colleges and universities (search for BEd or MEd in the Qualifications selection) offering teacher training programs and education degrees include (some institutes restrict entry to UAE nationals only though):
Teach in Dubai scheme (KHDA, Dubai Schools Agency)
Working hours in Dubai schools
Most schools will start earlier than many teachers are used to. Typically, the school day will begin around 0730 or 0800 for students, and finish around 1430 or 1500, with an hour or so for lunch. The working week is Sunday to Thursday with a handful of schools having an early finish on Thursday.
Like schools everywhere, there will be marking, lesson preparation, meetings, parents evenings, extra-curricular activities, playground supervision, assemblies, international gala days, sports days, cover lessons, etc to occupy every other waking minute you might have planned to use for your own personal enjoyment. But don't worry, you get plenty of holidays, as all your non-teaching friends will remind you. Of course, the highest paid teachers will invariably be the most cynical ones who seem to get away with doing almost nothing. They're easy to spot - they'll be doing the crossword puzzle in the staffroom whenever you walk in. Learn from them.
Dress code in Dubai and UAE schools
Whilst it's true that the UAE is an Islamic country, it's relatively tolerant so you won't be expected to cover up completely. Men should wear a collar and tie (and trousers of course), it would be unusual to find a school where that wasn't the case. Jackets are not usually required or worn. It would be rare to see a teacher wearing a suit, and if they are, they're likely to be saying either "I do", or "Yes, your honour."
Depending on the school, women wear pretty much what they'd wear as a teacher anywhere else, although short skirts or sleeveless tops will get frowned upon. In the more conservative schools (usually ones with predominantly Arab students), females might be expected to wear ankle length skirts, and long sleeve tops but check with the school - some are more relaxed than many new residents expect. Scarves or other head coverings are not required for those who don't normally wear them. During Ramadan, it would be appropriate to dress more conservatively.
Sharjah has "Decency Laws" meaning men shouldn't wear shorts in public, and women should cover their arms and legs. Schools in Sharjah may have more conservative expectations than other emirates with respect to dress code.
The GEMS schools in 2006 had the bright idea of requiring their teachers to wear uniforms, which said more about what GEMS management thought of their teachers than anything else. Then again, most GEMS school teachers ... well, teachers in all schools for that matter ... probably know what management think of them already. The students were delighted. The idea was hopefully thrown out with the lunchroom trash at the end of that day.
Salaries for teaching jobs in Dubai and the UAE
Teacher Recruitment Agencies and Finding Jobs for Teachers and Teaching in Dubai
Teaching visas in Dubai and UAE
Teaching in different UAE emirates
The best places to teach in the UAE are at a good school in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Al Ain is also worth considering if you prefer a quiter lifestyle. There aren't any very good schools, or good salary packages in other emirates. Don't accept a job in the Western Region (Al Gharbia) area of the UAE until you have made yourself aware of what you're getting into, especially single women. It might as well be a different country (or world even) from downtown Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
Teaching in Abu Dhabi
Same general information applies as for teaching in Dubai. Often regarded as a second choice compared to Dubai, but for many it can be a first choice. Usually regarded as a bit less hectic than Dubai, especially for families. Downtown Abu Dhabi suffers from traffic congestion and parking problems. Abu Dhabi is a little more conservative than Dubai.
Teaching in Al Ain
Al Ain is a city in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, not an emirate on its own. It is the birthplace of Sheikh Zayed who is regarded as the founding father of the UAE in 1971. The city is relatively attractive compared to other places in the UAE with a few more green areas and trees, and a pleasant oasis park in the center of the city. It is nowhere near as hectic as Dubai and far less cosmopolition, which can be seen as a pro or a con. For families and those wanting a quieter lifestyle it might appeal. For young singles looking for fun, excitement, and nightlife, Al Ain is more like a small village with limited options. Women will find it more uncomfortable walking around central Al Ain on their own than in central Dubai or Abu Dhabi, due the the much higher proportion of men, but inside shopping malls should be fine. It is a significantly cheaper place to live than Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
Teaching in Ajman
Similar to living in Sharjah although not as conservative. Ajman is a small emirate with a limited range of activities. It is rarely a first choice for anyone to live in or work in, and there aren't any schools with a decent salary package. If you have school-age children and want a good education, find a job in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Commuting between Sharjah and Ajman is possible but there aren't any great schools in Sharjah either. Commuting between Dubai and Ajman is not recommended - it's not as easy as it might seem from looking at a map.
Teaching in Dubai
What this page is mostly about. Dubai is generally the first choice as a place to live in and work in for expats looking not just at the UAE, but also the wider Gulf and Middle East region. Criticisms abound, and some are deserved - traffic jams, expensive accommodation, big(ish) city attitudes and anonymity. But the cosmopolitan atmosphere, wide range of activities and events, are what appeal to many. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are pretty much the only towns with good or better schools, whether to work in or send your children to for a decent education. But there are also plenty of appalling places to work in and be educated in. Do your homework before signing on the dotted line.
Teaching in Fujairah
Fujairah and the East Coast have some appeal to residents of other emirates as a place to visit for a day or two - the beaches are different (some with black sand), the mountain scenery makes a change from sand dunes and building sites, and the climate is a little less harsh in summer (but still intolerable outside during the day). Diving is a popular activity and attracts a number of divers from Dubai especially at the weekends. There aren't many schools, and none of them compare to the best ones in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Teaching salaries and benefits are not very generous, but on the bright side, it's cheaper to live in Fujairah than Abu Dhabi or Dubai. Nightlife is close to non-existent.
Teaching in Ras Al Khaimah (RAK)
The first thing you are likely to notice is that RAK is a bit more than 45 minutes driving time from Dubai, which is a figure most establishments and other RAK marketing initiatives will give you to try and make it sound more appealing to work in RAK (it's only 45 mins drive from Dubai or similar). Which sort of sets the tone for all things RAK. The other emirates are happy enough to be different from Dubai and live in its shadow, but RAK seems to have a chip on its shoulder about that. Enjoy RAK for what it is, don't listen too much to promises from recruiters about how much like Dubai it is (it isn't) and how close to Dubai it is (it isn't), and you won't be too disappointed. RAK has some interesting mountain scenery (all other emirates except Fujairah are just sand and buildings) but it's not the Swiss Alps. Nightlife exists but is a bit grim. The city is not small but for western expats especially it will feel more like a large village than a town or small city. There aren't any great schools, and teaching salaries and packages are mediocre at best. RAKESS (or RAK Academy as it's known now) is probably about the best of them.
Teaching in Sharjah
The most noticeable things about Sharjah is the prevalence of interesting cultural sights such as buildings, monuments and museums (but it's not Paris, Vienna, London, New York, etc), and the much more conservative environment compared to other emirates, especially Dubai. Pork is not sold in supermarkets, there are decency laws about public behaviour and dress which are stricter than other emirates, and no alcohol is served at any of the hotels - you'll have to drink at home or at the Sharjah Wanderers Club, which is a bit of an expat home away from home especially for those who like pork and alcohol. There aren't any excellent or very good schools like you'll find in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but some that are tolerable. Salary packages are mediocre at best. Although Sharjah borders Dubai, traffic congestion during most of the day means it is a bit of an ordeal to go to Dubai. Don't believe any marketing speak that says Dubai is only 10 minutes away. It's not, unless you're travelling from Al Nahda in Sharjah to Al Nahda in Dubai at 3am.
Teaching in Umm Al Quwain (UAQ)
UAQ is a small sleepy emirate off the main road between Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah with a step-back-in-time feeling about it which Ajman and RAK also have but not as much - RAK because it is making efforts to grow and attract tourists, business, and investment, and Ajman because it is sort of a continuation of Sharjah. There are only a handful of schools in UAQ, none of which you'd choose to work at or send your children to if you had the option of going to one of the better places in another emirate. However there are also plenty of options in other emirates which are worse. Commuting between UAQ and Dubai is not realistic. Between UAQ and Ajman is ok, to Sharjah is more difficult (traffic jam nightmares), to RAK is further but less traffic. If you like city life, UAQ is not for you. If you want to hide from the world, UAQ might be just the place you're looking for.
Last update Saturday 07-Feb-2015
Blogs from teachers in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, UAE
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