Dubai: Most school teachers remain underpaid and unappreciated all over the world, including in the UAE, despite playing a critical role in moulding young minds.
The issue of school teachers being poorly paid was raised in a report by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) last year, which slammed the working conditions of teachers in private schools in Dubai.
The report found that casual recruitment, low salaries and poor working conditions were key factors causing teachers to leave the job. Indian, US and ‘other curriculum’ schools in particular were among the schools that were found to have a high staff turnover.
“High staff turnover is often harmful to the continuity of learning,” the report said, accusing some schools of failing to understand the importance of fair employment.
“Not all schools understand that to provide teachers with training, support and fair terms of employment is a vital investment strategy,” it added.
According to data collected from 361 teachers by payscale.com, the salary of teachers at kindergarten level starts from as low as Dh2,617 per month with the average being Dh5,068. Secondary school teachers could start from as low as Dh2,863 and earn Dh9,012 on average. Elementary school teachers can start from as low as Dh2,483, with the average salary around Dh10,000.
Teachers in Indian and Pakistani schools are commonly the ones pinned to the bottom of the pay scale among UAE private schools. Though schools contacted by Gulf News declined to share the salary range they offer, teachers surveyed by Gulf News confirmed that Indian teachers are paid the least.
A teacher from an Indian school, who preferred not to be named, said low pay is the main challenge teachers in Indian curriculum schools face.
“I started with a salary of Dh3,000 and 15 years later I earn just Dh5,000. The school increases its fees and expands yet our annual increments are only Dh100-Dh150.”
The teacher said many teachers are the breadwinners of their families.
“I myself have considered quitting many times even though I love my job, it is a noble profession, but I still need to earn money and the workload is phenomenal. Because of all the pressure we even have to carry work back home.”
The teacher said low pay is the main reason teachers end up becoming private tutors.
“With these salaries, you simply cannot live in today’s world where the price of everything is going up.
“For this reason many teachers are giving private tuitions at home which, in turn, causes the quality of teaching in schools to drop.”
The teacher believes that if salaries were to increase, teachers would be motivated to work harder. She also believed schools should provide workshops and training for the teachers to constantly improve themselves.
Another teacher, who works at an Indian school in Sharjah, said she gets paid Dh3,500 after three years of teaching experience. “I am extremely demotivated when I know that teachers at international schools receive salaries that are double, sometimes triple, mine. I work six hours a day; I almost always take back work to my home. I do give private tuition even though it is illegal but I simply can’t make ends meet otherwise.”
Another teacher, Khalid, who works in a public school and preferred not to disclose his real name fearing for his job, said it is a cultural thing.
‘It is a cultural thing’
“I am underpaid, I receive a salary of Dh6,000 and I make ends meet by giving private tuition. I don’t think this will ever change so long as the profession is looked down upon. I believe it is a cultural thing. Parents should teach their children to respect teachers for this to change.”
In addition to being underpaid, many teachers in the country are not met with the respect they deserve said Mariam B., who teaches English in an American curriculum school in Dubai.
“A student used foul language and said the F-word to me in class. When I reported the incident to the principal of the school, she dismissed it because he came from a well-known family, saying it happens a lot and I should get used to it,” Mariam said.
The foul language and disrespect continued for a whole year before she eventually quit.