Teacher Licensing: The Story So Far

You've probably heard about the new teacher licensing programme, but what does it mean for your child, your school and the wider education sector in Dubai? WhichSchoolAdvisor.com finds out more...
Teacher Licensing: The Story So Far
By C Hoppe
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February saw the launch of the Dubai teacher licensing programme but while everyone at your school might be talking about it, what does it mean for your children, their schools and of course teachers themselves?

The new programme to license all of Dubai’s teachers, began in 2016 with a pilot study of 224 teachers across 15 schools.

It has moved on since then, with official programme rollout commencing in February 2018.

Dr Naji Al Mehdi KHDA chief of qualifications and awards told WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, “ninety-nine percent of teachers in countries such as the UK and US are home-grown, these countries control their teacher standards, and even still each US state still licenses their teachers.”

“For Dubai, it’s even more critical when we have nationals from over 180 countries teaching.”

“Licensing is a quality initiative,” he says.

And when viewed like that, it becomes apparent that the quality of training received by Dubai’s 20,000 teachers varies, not just from country to country but even depending on which university or training institute they attended within their home country.

“Is it fair to parents in the UAE to let these people teach our children [without any scrutiny]?", asks Dr Naji

“I am not against teachers from any country,” adds Dr Naji, highlighting that there are currently many teachers with degrees in the subject they teach, yet no actual ‘teaching’ qualification.

The Teacher License will be what Dr Naji calls, ‘the minimum requirement,’ and an ‘equaliser,’ for teaching in private schools across the city.

When asked if he believes the programme will negatively impact the education sector, Dr Naji says, “we’ve already been through this with engineers, doctors, nurses… and we didn’t lose anyone, so why should the education sector be any different?”

Teacher licensing project takes place in three stages. The first of which sees teachers apply for the Provisional License, followed by the second stage of self-assessment and training. During the third part, teachers sit the new TELSUAE exam and once passed, are issued with their UAE competent teacher status license.

For Dr Naji and his team, the pilot was valuable in highlighting issues schools would face. He says for some teachers English language itself proved to be the problem, with some teachers noting they could not distinguish the nuances in the questions they were being asked...


The launch pad

To date, Dubai is the only Emirate to have started work on the licensing scheme, firstly, with a pilot in 2017 and now roll-out of the scheme in 2018.

Jumeirah Baccalaureate School (JBS) was one school to have participated in the pilot licensing scheme last year.

Principal Richard Drew, told WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, that he believes "the scheme is a great idea…" and being done "for all the right reasons".

"It ensures that all schools are operating within a set framework with clear expectations in regard to pedagogy and standards of learning.” This is something he considers is especially important, “when there are so many different nationalities of educators in the UAE who are all bringing their own individual experiences to the table.”

In total, six JBS staff members took part. Drew says, “myself, our Head of Primary and our Head of Secondary, and three teachers from our primary school.”

He says, “there are six areas which you have to prove you have training in- or experience of in the past.” If not, teachers must be trained.

“Some people will have covered the material in their training, their career, their in-service training courses… then depending upon your background you’ll only have to do one of the standards which is what myself and the five people here at JBS did, or you have to do all four of those standards.”

The standards required are as follows:

Standard One, Professional and Ethical conduct. This includes: respecting and promoting UAE values, demonstrating personal and professional ethics, being accountable for and to learners, complying with national and organisational organisations and the establishment of communication and collaboration.

Standard Two: Professional Knowledge. Understand learning and development in relation to diversity of learner characteristics and needs. Demonstrate knowledge of curriculum and demonstrate knowledge of theoretical basis of teaching.

Standard Three: Professional Practice. Promotion of positive learning environments. Demonstrate learner centred teaching. Use assessment for learning.

Standard Four: Professional Growth. Taking responsibility for own professional growth by reflecting on own practice. Engage in professional growth. Determine impact on learner achievement.


How teachers can get licensed

There are two routes for teachers to obtain their license.

Teachers that have an international teaching licence from certain countries (the UK, Ireland, US, New Zealand, Canada and Australia), are exempt from taking both the training for, and exams in, Standard 2, 3, and 4.

They must however, still take the Standard 1 exam and show proof of professional development and self-assessments in form of a mini portfolio. 

Teachers from outside of these countries must complete the training and exams for Standards 1, 2, 3 and 4. In addition, they must show evidence of continued professional development and self-assessments.

For JBS the teachers on the pilot all acquired exemptions for Standards two, three and four, which Drew says made the procedure relatively uncomplicated.

“I want to compare with countries who carry out their due diligence,” he says.

“Really, it’s a system upgrade for good teachers,” he says.


The Costs

There have been numerous discussion regarding the cost to schools, and of course, who will be picking up the tab.

For schools with teachers who are only required to sit the Standard one examination, costs are naturally significantly lower.

Drew says, “overall when the programme is rolled out, about 80% of our staff will be in the exemption category and will only be required to pass the first module,” he says.

During the pilot we used external training providers,” says Drew. “However now the scheme is rolling out, we are looking to use a combination of both internal and external providers.”

“If the training comes from external providers entirely, we will be looking at around AED2,000 per staff member,” he estimates, yet it looks as though Taaleem will likely develop internal training for its teachers, reducing the costs.

“The idea is, the training covers the material in those standards,” says Drew.

Although JBS used outside providers for the pilot, Drew is certain that teachers can now do the majority of the work, “online and in their own time", so reducing the amount of time and money spent on the process.


Ongoing developments

Since the pilot, the KHDA has introduced two additional examinations specific to those who work in Primary and another for Secondary.

He says, “In the past, it was impossible to have teachers in dual roles, whereas now, if you’ve got a maths/physics person, as these subjects often go together very well… they can sit the maths and physics test and then they are accredited to teach both. Which is great news for us.

“Of course, it is extra work in preparing yourself, but I don’t think students will be impacted.

“If you have a background in your subject, you’ve been well trained yourself and kept up with your professional development, I don’t think it should be as onerous as some people might say.”


An impact on recruitment?

With the scheme not yet rolled out, it is impossible to see how it will impact recruitment both within the emirates and from abroad.

Teachers looking for employment in Dubai will first apply to the school, and, should they be offered a position; their application will then be passed to the KHDA for approval.

Once approval is given, they will commence employment and apply for a provisional license.

This initial license requires all applicants to hold relevant qualifications and experience, provide proof of legal status, a certificate of good conduct and fitness, as well as an IELTS score (language test) of 6.

The PTL will be valid for one year, and in this time the applicant is expected to apply for the Competent Teacher Status (CTS) licence. 

If after their second year of employment, they have still not passed their allocated Standards, they would only be eligible to stay with the school up until the end of that academic year.


Licensing Priorities

In line with the objectives of the National Agenda 2021, the KHDA has announced the itinerary for licensing will be:

2018: Arabic and Islamic teachers, plus maths and science.

“The reason the priority is with the Arabic and Islamic is because although all the Arabic and Islamic staff have to be accredited by the KHDA and undertake their own in-house examinations, they are finding that many of the Arabic and Islamic staff don’t have a proper teaching qualification. By putting them through first, they’re sorting this out,” said one industry professional.

In addition, schools with Emirati students, those rated Weak and Acceptable and schools with low performing PISA and TIMMS will be the priority for the Authority.

2020 onwards: Remainder of teachers

Interestingly, much of the licensing programme places both the teacher and the school at the centre of planning. For the school, each institution must submit a roll-out plan, plus overview of the staff and a roadmap of how they intend to meet the 100% teachers licensed by 2021.

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com understands that currently the KHDA is still working through school plans and awaiting an online platform which will host the programme. Actual training and examinations have not yet begun.


Other emirates

Dubai appears to be significantly ahead of the other emirates in implementation of the licensing programme, with both a pilot completed and actual scheme roll-out.

And, with no information from the other emirates, it is unclear as to how they will interpret standards.

“We could be looking at a situation where each emirate has different asks of its teachers resulting in those planning to change between each emirate facing additional examinations, before being permitted to do so," an industry professional told us.

"Until we see what and how Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and the others apply the scheme, it is difficult to assess the size of this issue..."

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