Removing classroom experience as teacher prerequisite is ‘innovative’ way to attract new blood

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DUBAI // Educators and experts say that removing a requirement for classroom experience to teach in the emirate’s private schools is an inventive way of attracting staff.

When the new teacher licensing system takes effect in the next academic year, teaching experience will no longer be a condition to qualify for a provisional licence, according to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

The requirement was eliminated to address teacher shortages in vocational and other subjects, and remove barriers for locals who wish to teach but lack the experience, said Naji Al Mahdi, chief of qualifications and awards at the KHDA, who is overseeing the implementation of the Teacher and Educational Leadership Standards and Licensing (TELS UAE) programme in Dubai’s private schools.

“It’s not exclusive,” Dr Al Mahdi said of the standards and licensing requirements. “For instance, we get people who graduate as chemists – why can’t they go into teaching and teach chemistry? If you want to improve learning, you have got to recruit people who are role models – who are the people that have the passion for whatever they are teaching.”

The provisional teaching licence allows the licensee to teach under supervision and gives him or her between 12 and 18 months to complete an education training programme.

“Given current shortages, it could be an innovative idea to welcome professionals from other sectors into teaching in high-demand areas,” said Luke Osborne, head of middle school at the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai.

“That said, this concept needs to be marshalled carefully. Such people must bring rich, transferable professional experience to the classroom. Moreover, schools will need support in ensuring that these teachers become outstanding practitioners who are able to deliver to the high level required by international educational systems and local standards.”

Mr Al Mahdi said that schools may decide to develop their own internal teacher-training programmes to ensure their staff develop the skills and knowledge needed to pass the final stage of TELS UAE, which will require teachers to pass four exams to gain a full licence.

“We are leaving it up to the school to source their own trainers, or the school may even want to create a training department – an internal one – and train their own staff,” he said. “But then, they will have available a lot of companies outside that are providing this service; it’s up to them to contract this service.”

Mr Al Mahdi said two institutes had been approved by the KHDA to offer teacher training – the British University in Dubai and the Teacher Learning and Leadership for All (TELLAL) Institute. Others are in the process of being licensed to offer the service.

Natasha Ridge, executive director of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, said professional education training will be key to ensuring the new, open-door policy does not dilute the quality of teaching.

“Anyone who is teaching in a classroom should have some form of formal teacher qualification,” said Ms Ridge. “Knowing about a subject is different than knowing how to teach a subject. These changes will have an effect on the quality of teaching but they will also address the shortage of teachers.”

Removing the experience barrier will be a “great opportunity for graduates who aspire to teach to join the profession”, said Clive Pierrepont, director of communications for Taaleem, which operates eight private schools in the UAE.

“All teachers were trainees once,” said Mr Pierrepont. “This initiative will also open the door for mature applicants to join the profession. These candidates will often bring with them a wealth of practical life experience from their previous careers.”

Source: The National