Teaching in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Teachers and Teaching in Dubai, UAE
See also Teaching jobs in Dubai for information about how to apply for a teaching job in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, and other emirates in the UAE. Also information about fake teaching jobs and scams to watch out for.
The 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).
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: UAE school management varies considerably from top class heads and principals to those who you wonder if they have ever set foot in a classrom. In general 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, and 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.
Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in the UAE
TL;DR (in 2019-2020): If you're wondering whether to apply for the TLS status in the UAE, don't, unless your school employer informs you otherwise. If you don't have a job, you don't need TLS (yet) to apply for a job, and again, your potential or new school employer will inform you of any requirements.
The UAE introduced a new Teacher Licensing System (TLS) in 2017 or 2018, initially for teachers at government secondary schools, and by the end of 2020 or sometime in 2021 for all private and public school teachers at all levels, school principals and other academic leadership team members, and academic support staff. Presumably financial, logistics, administration personnel are exempted.
There are 3 different license types: school teachers, school leadership personnel, and education professionals (librarians and other support staff who are expected to have an educational background).
There are 3 requirements to be issued a license:
- Pass a subject content related exam (3 attempts allowed). Study guides and example tests are available on the TLS website.
- Pass a pedagogy exam (also 3 attempts allowed). Covers Professional Conduct, Practice, Knowledge, and Growth. Example test (multi-choice) available on the TLS website (we didn't understand the questions so we're looking for new careers now).
- Pay a fee. As of 2018 no fee but that could be because the initial phase is for public school teachers. Private school teachers might have to pay AED thousands (nothing confirmed, just a guess), or the lucky ones will have employers who pay the fee for them.
If 3rd exam attempt is still a fail, then there isn't an automatic deportation order issued, your case will be reviewed.
Teachers with a teaching qualification or qualified teacher certification from another country might have that status considered as equivalent to the UAE TLS, but so far (2019) there isn't an automatic equivalency system in place. Documents will be reviewed and in the meantime teachers should do the tests if their time has come.
A teaching diploma is not (in 2019) a requirement to be awarded one of the TLS Educational Profession Licenses but might be in the future. It is a requirement to be employed in a school under the authority of the KHDA in Dubai or ADEK in Abu Dhabi (includes Al Ain).
Website: tls.moe.gov.ae (new window), UAE Ministry of Education Teacher Licensing System home page.
Teaching qualifications in Dubai and UAE
- Dubai and UAE schools will usually expect teachers to have a teaching qualification from the same country as the curriculum of the school where a job is available, especially in the better paying schools.
- There is some overlap, for example, international schools with western curriculums, especially IB, will usually be interested in anyone with a UK, US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and sometimes South African teaching qualification.
- The best American schools in Dubai (and/or those offering AP) are more likely to restrict hires to US or Canadian qualified teachers and/or nationals if the student body is predominantly North American, for example the American School of Dubai or the American Community School in Abu Dhabi.
- Similarly, the best British schools in Dubai, are more likely to restrict hiring to teachers with a UK PGCE qualification, for example, Dubai College or BSAK Abu Dhabi.
- The UK teaching qualification is called a Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE), and as far as we know, can only be studied in the UK to obtain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). There are international PGCE courses available (or PGCEi) in Dubai but they do not have the same status as a UK based PGCE, and might or might not give you Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) status but won't give you QTS status. Check carefully before enrolling on an international PGCE program to confirm if it will be accepted in schools were you wish to teach. See the Nottingham University distance learning PGCEi and Sunderland University distance learning PGCE for more information.
- The worst schools in the UAE won't usually care where your teaching qualification is from, or sometimes whether or not you even have one. In schools like that a piece of paper with some sort of vaguely related education course might be sufficient but don't expect a great job, conditions, or salary. Also be prepared for unpleasant working conditions, and significant differences between what you are promised and what you actually receive.
- The UAE Ministry of Education and Ministry of Labour requirements for UAE work permit processing require that teachers are properly qualified. But "properly qualified" might be interpreted differently to what you would expect. Or a teacher might be employed under a job title that doesn't need a qualification (secretary, technician, teaboy, etc). Either way, if a school is bending rules to employ you because you don't have a respected teaching qualification, it increases the chances of it being an unpleasant place to work.
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):
- Abu Dhabi University - BEd, MEd and MEd in Special Education
- Ajman University Professional Diploma in Teacher Education (announced 19 May 2010), Ajman
- Al Ain University - BEd and Professional Diploma in Teaching
- Al Hosn University BEd, MEd
- American University in Dubai MEd - Master of Education launched September 2011.
- British University in Dubai (BUiD) - PGDE as part of the KHDA "Teach in Dubai" program (for Emirati nationals and Arabic speaking expatriates living in the UAE). Early Years teacher training in association with Arabian Child (Emiratis only?). Doctorate in Education (EdD or DEd).
- Dubai Education City - a teacher training institute is planned
- Emirates College for Advanced Education - BEd and PGDE but only for Emirati nationals (at least, as of 2010).
- Etihad University RAK - BEd (Bachelor of Education)
- Exeter University in Dubai - DEd / EdD (Doctor of Education) in TESOL
- Higher Colleges of Technology - Bachelor of Education? Not offered at all HCT colleges, restricted to UAE nationals only.
- Murdoch Dubai - MEd program with launch date January 2011
- Notting Hill College Dubai - distance learning teacher training?
- Nottingham University PGCEi, Dubai
- Sunderland University PGCE, Dubai
- TESOL MA Dubai - from Middlesex University Dubai, starting January 2011
- UAE University (in Al Ain) - MEd (Master of Education)
- Universal Empire Institue Dubai - BEd
- Zayed University BEd, MEd, Dubai, maybe Abu Dhabi, starting September 2011? Or September 2012?
Teach in Dubai scheme (KHDA, Dubai Schools Agency)
- From September 2007, the Dubai Schools Agency (part of the KHDA) started a "Teach in Dubai" scholarship scheme in partnership with the British University in Dubai (BUiD) and Birmingham University in the UK.
- Up to 20 scholarships are offered each year to Emirati nationals and Arab-speaking residents in the UAE wanting to enter the teaching profession.
- Selected Teach-in-Dubai candidates study a 9-month Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) course at the BUiD
- Candidates receive tuition fees, a study allowance, and a teaching job in a Dubai school after successful completion of the PGDE program.
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, or prompt a management request to dress more conservatively. In 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
- Information moved to teaching jobs in Dubai page. See also guide to salaries in Dubai for more general information.
Teacher Recruitment Agencies and Finding Jobs for Teachers and Teaching in Dubai
- Information moved to teacher jobs in Dubai page. See also Dubai recruitment agencies for more general information.
- This section moved to the Dubai private tutors page.
Teaching visas in Dubai and UAE
- In the UAE, the company you work for is responsible for obtaining your work permit (or labour card) and residence visa. The residence visa comes from the Immigration Ministry and is stamped into your passport - it is permission for you to live in the UAE. The work permit comes from the Ministry of Labour and is permission for you to work at the specified organisation (it does not give you permission to work anywhere else).
- If you are the spouse of someone who is working in the UAE, then they can sponsor you for a residence visa. A male has fewer restrictions on sponsoring his wife than a female has for sponsoring her husband.
- Many schools (and other companies) employ someone who is on their spouses sponsorship for residency. The employee in this case still needs a work permit, which should be arranged by the school.
- Schools apparently need to obtain a No Objection Certificate or Letter (NOC or NOL) from the Ministry of Labour before employing a teacher who is on their husband's or wife's sponsorship. However, this rule did not appear to be enforced most of the time ... until March 2012 when there were news reports saying that the KHDA in Dubai was starting to enforce this rule, leaving schools and teachers a bit confused, especially those who lived an emirate other than Dubai. The National newspaper reported on 13 March 2012 that Abdulrahman Nassir, KHDA Executive Director of Customer Relations at KHDA, said "KHDA and the MoL are reactivating a process that has not been taken seriously by the schools. All schools must receive a no-objection letter from the MoL before hiring a teacher who is on family visa."
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 Friday 29-Nov-2019
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- Visa Dubai - information about work permits and residence visas (but your school should organise it for you).
- Schools in Dubai forum - for Dubai and UAE schools discussions (and anything to do with education and teaching in Dubai).
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Blogs from teachers in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, UAE
Note that blogs listed here are ones suggested and/or found in public search results (contact us if you want to suggest one). We are not in the business of trying to publicise private or secret information but we assume if a blog is publicly accessible then the blogger is happy for the general public to access it. If you want your blog removed from this list, please contact us. And read our discussion about personal information on the internet in the meantime.
- abudhabimaria.blogspot.com - teacher at Al Sorouh American School in Abu Dhabi 2011.
- adventuresinabudhabi.blogspot.com - teacher in Abu Dhabi?
- algharbiamz.blogspot.com - teacher in Madinat Zayed, Al Gharbia region. Not updated since 2012.
- aprilinabudhabi.blogspot.com - teacher at Al Sorouh American School in Abu Dhabi 2011.
- cherylandron.blogspot.com - Ron Stalenberg, Team Leader in 2008-2009 for the Abu Dhabi PPP schools.
- emileeintheemirates.blogspot.com - teacher at Al Sorouh American School in Abu Dhabi 2013.
- lynnhendren.blogspot.com - American teacher in Al Ain, teaching at an ADEC school.
- markparkinson.wordpress.com - Director of ASPAM Indian International School in Sharjah.
- rakteachersnetwork.ning.com - Ras Al Khaimah Teacher's Network - an online collaboration resource for teachers in RAK.
- ourlifeinabudhabi.blogspot.com - principal at the Abu Dhabi Canadian International School, not updated since Sep 2011.
- sherryteachinguae.blogspot.com - American female teaching in Sila'a (Silaa) in the Abu Dhabi Western Region (Al Gharbia). Might be useful for teachers considering living there (it's very isolated) ... but not updated since April 2012.
- underthesamesunuae.blogspot.com - teacher at Al Sorouh American School in Abu Dhabi 2013.