They earn as little as Dh2,000 a month. No, they are not bus drivers or carpenters. We're talking about school teachers from India.

Indian teachers are commonly pinned to the bottom of the pay scale in private schools in the UAE. There is no escape from this trend, they say, even when their academic history and professional experience is second to none.

The years-long appeal to school owners and education authorities to raise the minimum salary of Dh2,000 has gone unheeded.

Desperate to make ends meet, many teachers have turned to illegal ways of making money on the side, such as tutoring students privately at home.

Not affordable

Many private schools say they can't afford to pay handsome wages unless their income rises, on the back of higher fees. But asking parents to, in effect, partly bear the burden of furnishing a livelihood for teachers is especially tough for Indian schools – it is not uncommon for their students to be from low-income homes.

And though officials are quick to control fee hikes every year, they have remained noticeably silent on the idea of a higher salary benchmark for teachers.

But it is not just about money.

Some parents habitually single out the class-teacher – in a small list of usual suspects – for their child's academic failures.

Teachers from all backgrounds said society is increasingly doing away with the traditional honour it bestowed on educators. Tutors complain they are mocked and treated as machines at work.

For many, it is a dead end.

“I don't feel like a real teacher. I'm not motivated,'' admitted an Indian teacher from Our Own English High School (OOEHS) in Dubai.

She said her salary was around Dh2,500 per month, which includes housing allowance.

After taking six to eight classes between 8am and 1pm, she said she is often “kept back'' a few hours more for office meetings and extra-curricular events.

“I have to push myself to stay on even longer to check students' homework and prepare lessons for the next day.

Feeling depressed

“My child feels depressed if I bring my work home because he knows we won't be spending time together then.''

She pointed out that a similar routine is played out every day by teachers across the board, even if the school day is officially only six hours long, on average.

Teachers shared their stories with XPRESS on condition that their identities be kept strictly confidential, because they feared their schools would punish them for speaking out publicly.

Another Indian teacher, at the Sharjah branch of OOEHS, said: “If I'm a post-graduate with teaching experience at a senior girls' school in India, should I be worth only Dh2,000 a month? Even after three years of service?

“Taxi drivers make more money. Why should I care to give my best?'' she said. The operator of both OOEHS branches – GEMS Education – did not reveal what standards it expects its small army of teachers to meet, or what salaries and benefits they take home.

The group runs a dozen Indian schools across the UAE and its global network is reportedly the single largest employer of Indian teachers outside India.

Stand-alone schools like the Indian High School Dubai and Sharjah Indian School also failed to comment on teachers' qualifications and pay. Not enough

Meanwhile, a teacher from India said she started her career here at just Dh1,300. “I came here in 2001 on my husband's visa, after working at a reputable school back home. I joined the School of Knowledge in Sharjah a bit later and now earn over Dh2,000. But this is not enough to support a family,'' said the mother-of-two.

Foreign private schools can legally hire female teachers who have a residence visa sponsored by their husband or father, provided that all charges and paperwork for the labour card are settled by the school.

A teacher at Gulf Asian English School, Sharjah, said some schools used to pay those charges – around Dh1,500 per year – by taking a chunk out of their salaries. The Ministry of Education has recently managed to all but end that practice, according to her.

The teachers, however, said ‘exploitation' is not the only hurdle in the job market. “I believe there's partiality, in general, in paying teachers,'' said a primary-level teacher from an Indian school in Garhoud.

“I'm off to Canada soon, where they have equal pay for equal work,'' she said.
Totally unfair

A British teacher from the UK-curriculum Winchester School in Jebel Ali said she earns over Dh10,000 a month.
“I get what is known here as a ‘European package'. That can be Dh18,000 in some of the American schools. Otherwise, many of us [Western nationals] will not come here. “It is dramatically different from the Asian package – and totally unfair.''

She said Indian teachers were “no less qualified or dedicated.'' She added that teachers are generally less respected here. “Back home, it's a real career. You get a pension, a trade union. You lead a certain lifestyle and it's something you retire on,'' she said.

Teachers at Uptown High, an IB (International Baccalaureate) school in Muhaisnah, earn up to Dh15,000 per month, according to a staff member, who added senior tutors with a managerial role take home an even bigger pay cheque.

A Hindi-language teacher in a school in Oud Metha said neither her students nor their parents treat her honourably. “They say: ‘What will we do with Hindi?' That gets demoralising very quickly,'' she said.

“They don't see education as gaining knowledge any more – it has become a ‘cost-benefit-analysis' thing''.

The exact number of Indian teachers employed in schools across the country is, however, not readily available.

By the rules

The Ministry of Education sent a notice to UAE private schools in August 2001 stating that administrative, teaching and technical staff must be paid a monthly basic salary of at least Dh2,000

New study

A study published by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority last week says “the average household spending on education in Dubai is Dh2,711 [per month]''.

The price of eduction

Average annual fees:
Indian schools:
Primary: Dh4,000
Secondary: Dh5,000
Senior: Dh6,000

International (American, British, International Baccalaureate) Schools:

Kindergarten-Primary: Dh15,000
Grade 6: Dh25,000
Grade 12: Dh38,000

Your comments

XPRESS please take this issue forward and help asian teachers.
Anonymous, UAE - Dubai
Posted: April 28, 2009, 11:57

I totally agree that the Indian teachers should get a decent salary to meet their ends. What teachers impart to the students is knowledge in form of wealth. Schools over here are just tools for earning money for big businessman. With the ever hiking in schools fees, bus fees etc. its these people who make money at the expense of school teacher who are in reality the righteous ones to get some benefit for the wonderful work they do as teachers.
Wilson, UAE - Dubai
Posted: April 01, 2009, 11:34

There is not point in working for AED 2,000. Probably they would spend it on baby sitting for their own children. Best thing is to do e-tutoring, so that at least they don't get that stress. Even in India, an average salary of a teacher in a normal school is around AED 1,000!
Pavan, UAE - Dubai
Posted: April 01, 2009, 08:26

I think as a former teacher and now a private tutor, there is abundant supply of qualified but unskilled teachers in Dubai. This is one of the main reasons for the low salary. I am not saying that the low salaries offered by schools are fair and justified but it is just that there is plenty of availability of qualified manpower which is enabling these schools to keep salaries low. Those teachers who are highly skilled get excellent pays and also private tuitions--unimaginably high!! There is another reason: The CBSE syllabus is more of rot learning and this makes it easy for anyone to teach the subjects as it doesn't involve much of innovativeness. This further makes it useless for the schools to pay more and get teachers of better quality. The syllabus itself is not very demanding in terms of quality, out of the box thinking, creativity and personality development. Therefore the schools can manage with low skills and high qualification based manpower.
Anonymous, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 31, 2009, 23:04

The reason for this is the cheap availability of teachers in Dubai. Most of them are from Kerala. Because the same practice is adopted there in Kerala too. Low Salary to teachers in Private Schools. However in cities like Mumbai or Delhi the teacher's salary is high and even they make a good income from tuitions too after that. The Schools are ready to pay any salary to the good teachers. Because they want to keep the school's reputation high. Here who bothers about quality, only Money matters...
Jacob, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 31, 2009, 17:46

Its no point complaining, before joining these schools the concerned person knows this is the salary, then why he/she accepted the job. By accepting to low salaries you are killing the profession and others. More over these teachers will be in husband/father's visa why they need to work like this and most teachers are not qualified with BEd. Stop complaining, don't accept low salary teachers job. Things will not change unless you are changing.
Shareen, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 31, 2009, 14:38

Atrocious! Just imagine, what an Indian teacher at a GEMS school is expected to undertake for a mere Dirhams. 2600: We are expected to create Power-point presentations, Prepare notes and syllabus during weekends, collect donations and sponsorships for the school, sell tickets for events, perform clerical work such as Ministry sheets and other admin work, smile and accept any and every crap thrown at her by the over-indulged and usually crass parents, act as conductors in school buses, entertain calls from parents on her cell phone 24X7,stay-back for meetings that inevitably commence after the last school-bus has left the premises, complete the syllabus as per schedule and at the end of it all, listen to the rants and raves of her Superiors at the Month-end meetings that are unfailingly held on a Saturday! And despite this, if we still have the strength to indulge in 'illegal' activities such as tuitions, then don’t you think we deserve Dh 10,000?
Anonymous, UAE - Sharjah
Posted: March 31, 2009, 12:25

It is sad to see that some people comment saying teachers make extra from tuition, not to forget the very person who said that may not be as qualified as the teacher and still get a better salary. A person takes up a teaching position with the sheer love of sharing of what one knows, but has to learn different ways to live in the circumstances. Overall ' Teaching is a thankless profession'
mahindra, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 31, 2009, 10:20

Has anyone, the ministry or the papers cared to do a survey of the cost of operating a school? I have worked with finances for many schools and know the other side of the story. Most private schools in the UAE are bleeding red, how do you expect a 10K plus salary for a teacher when the annual tuition fee per child is only 5K? Parents are whining about bus fees, it takes about 45K to convert a bus to RTA specs and another 15K to operate per month, yet bus fees average only 80 to 150 AED in most Indian Schools, where do parents think the difference should come from? Most private schools are run on a breakeven community project principle. If this does not happen most will simply shut down.
AW, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 31, 2009, 09:15

How can they say that they aren’t getting a high salary? It’s based on quality. You get what you pay for. If they are providing high quality they will be paid for it.
Dev, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 30, 2009, 18:58

Thanks for highlighting the Indian teachers’ problem. I’d to endure a lot when I joined as a teacher in an Indian school in UAE after leaving my good job with a reputed government school. My status soon became that of a slave with no self respect and even stationery not provided from authorities. Had to use my mobile even to talk to the parents of my students. And to top it, there was no proper salary. I had no choice but to leave the job.
Anonymous, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 29, 2009, 21:30

Very well written. But i would like to know the status of special educators. Is the situation the same in special needs schools too? If anyone have knowledge please share.
Anonymous, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 29, 2009, 21:10

It is really very bad that schools in UAE are not giving the same treatment to teachers from India. It is obvious they are not getting paid for what they are worth, compared to what other school teachers are getting. There can be a question of lack of standard for Indian teachers as Indian standards are quite comparable to elsewhere in the world. Consider that most of the software engineer in the USA are from India. If teaching standards in India is low, no one would be hiring students passed out from Indian universities.
Anonymous, UAE - Sharjah
Posted: March 29, 2009, 18:43

The school also knows that the teacher are giving private tuitions and are making money. The teachers too know that being the teacher in a school will help them to get tuitions. A teacher takes 2-4 batches of 8-10 students on different days of the week charging Dh250 per subject. Calculate the amount they make. So why should they complain? And that’s the reason they don’t teach the students properly while they are at the school job. When the students come to them for tuitions, they give them their full attention.
Punam, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 29, 2009, 16:34

A very good article on the present scenario of the low paid teachers. Especially when the schools - like the GEMS group - are trying all the tricks to increase their present revenue. And these include outsourcing the transport to their own transport company with 125 per cent hike and increasing the tuition fees. It is a shame that their teachers are paid very low salaries while they boast of the quality of education provided at their institutions. Their teachers are a demoralized lot without proper pay and security. Request the authorities to look into these matters.
Anonymous, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 29, 2009, 16:04

When will this exploitation and discrimination stop?
Sandeep, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 28, 2009, 22:23

I think we are losing the quality of education, parents take the future of their children as a ‘time pass’ or as part of the quest for a job. The fact that the teachers as paid these meager salaries will certainly affect the quality of the education. It is going to affect the future of the students and the future of the nation.
Santosh, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 28, 2009, 17:33

Please pay all teachers Dh10000 per month. And working hours should be only two hours a day.
Pradeep, UAE - Ras Al Khaimah
Posted: March 28, 2009, 17:07

It’s a realistic presentation of the status of teachers in the UAE. Look at the result of the hard work these teachers are doing. We are proud of the highly educated society that these teachers turn out, year after year. We are willing to pay these students – the product of the teachers’ efforts - handsomely for what they are but not to those who were the pillar for their growth. We teach these students and in 3 years they come back for a visit and tell us, "madam we are with a good company now. We start with a pay which is more than thrice of what you earn even after 10-15 years of service.” All you can do is smile and lower your eyes. It’s not just the salary that is a concern here; but also other issues like maternity allowance or medical leaves. Any leave taken is deducted not only from the monthly salary, but also from the leave salary of both the months and the fourth time when you receive the gratuity. This little gratuity is cleared of after 5 years so that when we leave there’s little to be paid and no need to go according to labour law. But the question is who will monitor these educational institutions. It is utter lie that the Indian schools cannot afford to give more than what they are presently paying as any common man can guess the profit made by them based, on the income received thru tuition and bus fees of the students. Hoping that KHDA will take some measures to show the world that teachers in UAE are as respected and cherished as they are in many other parts of the world. Heartfelt thanks to XPRESS for their fair presentation.
Anonymous, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 28, 2009, 14:20

We at private schools do not even get paid for putting in more hours.
Anonymous, Zimbabwe
Posted: March 28, 2009, 12:16

Teachers are indeed very low paid professionals with high amounts of work load. Though it's a half-day job, a lot of work is carried home. These days all you get out of teaching is high levels of stress and health problems. The MoE should seriously think about a proper evaluation of teacher's salaries.
Anonymous, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 28, 2009, 09:47

I take this opportunity to thank XPRESS for highlighting the woes of Indian teachers. My sincere advice to all the readers is to take this important matter ahead and assist the Asians to press for their demands for equal pay structure as there are a large number of teachers who have started quitting their professions and opting for office jobs which offer better pay scale though eventually they end up not being satisfied with their jobs.
Anonymous, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 28, 2009, 09:44

This article really disheartened me. The people who are busy in making future of our kids are being deprived of a dignified living. There should not be any discrimination among teachers, what ever nationality they hold. All should be paid well so they can give their best to our kids.
Bhavna, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 28, 2009, 07:43

There should be law - equal pay to equal work and there should not be any discrimination based on nationality. Law should stipulate minimum and fair wages to each of the professions including teaching.
Anonymous, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 27, 2009, 09:23

The low salary of Indian teachers is the result of discrimination based on colour and race. Indians are prepared to accept any salary for their survival. The Gulf countries do not care, and the same with the Indian government. The situation of Indian doctors is similar. Taking a cue from the Philippines government, the Indian government too should stop all teachers, nurses and doctors from going to these for a few years until the Gulf governments improve their salaries.
Rajeev, India
Posted: March 27, 2009, 07:44

Asian teachers in the UAE are paid less than the unskilled labourers. Even cooks and house maids make more money than them. If UAE is serious about projecting them as a progressive Arab nation they have to clamp down on institutions turning education into a joke and labour rights into a mockery.
Anonymous, UAE - Abu Dhabi
Posted: March 26, 2009, 16:30

Great article, need of hour. Other than profits, everything else is neglected most since education has become business for ruthless businessmen. MoE needs to put end to turmoil of everybody in school; otherwise it can ruin our next generation.
Pradeep, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 26, 2009, 15:06

What are the teachers complaining about? Simple, they don't like what their getting paid. Then go home! We, as expats, are visitors here in the UAE and have choices; so instead of complaining go back to where you are staying, pack your bags, get on the plane and go back to India. You are in the UAE cause you make more money here than India, so be happy with what you get.
Pravin, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 26, 2009, 11:19

It’s really shocking. The article covered most of the hardships and the humiliation that Asian teachers have to put up with. A Teacher we respect as next to God in our Mother land India. Somebody needs to do a serious thinking.
Anonymous, UAE - Dubai
Posted: March 26, 2009, 10:52