As teacher licensing becomes a reality within the education sector, the nature of professional learning will inevitably shift with it. The existing landscape of professional learning (PL) within the United Arab Emirates is complex. Professional learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum and teachers across the United Arab Emirates experience the country’s diversity, its different regulations, school settings and local challenges on a daily basis. The vast majority of teachers in the public and private sector are expatriates, employed on two-year contracts. International schools have a short period of time to invest in new staff and they must remain ahead of the game to retain their top talent.Teachers are a hot commodity and the global shortage of high quality teachers is understated.
Within the education sector, it is common to see phrases such as “We are committed to professional development” or “We are committed to developing people” across international teaching adverts, as a token message to signal commitment to teachers’ professional growth. Up until now, this has never been explored on a national level with teachers across the sector, of all curricular and all levels.
We know that professional learning is an implicit responsibility within today’s evolving education sector. Teachers must be committed learners and school leaders must be invested in their learning to retain them and harness their expertise. International schools are under pressure to recruit the best teachers and retain them to develop their communities, build continuity and ultimately retain parents.
This report summarises the findings of the first national UAE teacher professional learning survey. It explores what teachers think about themselves situated within their schools, and how they perceive their learning as professionals, working to improve the lives of the children they care for. The report compares teachers in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the two largest private school markets in the UAE, and teachers teaching in UK and US
curriculum schools. The UAE Vision 2021 National Agenda emphasizes the development of a first-rate education system, which will require a complete transformation of the current education system and teaching methods. Teacher growth is central to this, as the teachers that build professional knowledge within this context will be valuable assets as the education market matures.
One of the significant findings of this survey was the impact of collaborative professional learning. This particular type of professional learning is known to have the greatest impact on teachers, children and wider stakeholders, and based on this survey, it is prevalent in the teachers’ practice within the UAE. 76% of teachers said that they collaborated with their colleagues in school. 64% of teachers said that their school allocated time within the time-table to allow this collaboration to happen. 61% of teachers said that their professional learning had improved since moving to the United Arab Emirates.
The findings are extremely promising and indicate that professional learning, whether intentional or unintentional is a real strength of the sector.
Professional learning needs to be more than a bolt on, more than activity; it should be part of the DNA of the school and driven by the students and teachers working collaboratively to improve classroom practice. This report shines a light on what the teachers think and attempts to address the much bigger question: what should professional learning look like for an international school teacher in 2017?