On Sunday, 07 February 2010 an Education Policy Forum took place in the Dubai School of Government titled "Teachers and Teaching in the UAE." The session included 4 panelists: Dr. Ian Haslam, Vice Chancellor of Emirates College for Advanced Education, Dr. Jane Truscott, Academic Programme Coordinator for Madares Al Ghad, Ministry of Education, Dr. Peggy Blackwell, Dean, College of Education, Zayed University, and, Jill Clark, Principal Curriculum Advisor for Early Years, Centre for British Teachers in Abu Dhabi. The panel was headed by the Moderator Dr. Natasha Ridge, Research Fellow, Dubai School of Government. The forum discussed the challenges and difficulties to constructing an excellent teaching workforce with quality, teachers' fulfillment and satisfaction level with the training and education they get, and how the training of teachers is changing education in the United Arab Emirates.
Dr. Haslam started his discussion by asking what are the challenges to building a quality teaching workforce in the UAE? What are the challenges to raising the quality of the current teachers? What are the clear rules and regulations? He mentions the Singapore Model. Dr. Haslam focuses specifically on the significance of cooperation between schools and other learning institutions in public society. He mentioned that they need more men in (ECAE) as it is dominated by women. He talked about the 11,000 teachers who performed very poorly on IELTS and had very low scores. He added that most of the teachers do not have pre-teaching training. Dr. Haslam emphasized the importance of building partnership between the state and the schools. He mentioned an important point that if the students are underperforming, it is the teacher to blame and if the teacher is underperforming it is the Head of the Institution to blame. He said there need to be change and development in the process of how teachers are recruited and how it is highly important to keep advancing by investing in research in education and professional development.
The second panelist was Dr. Jane Truscott. She started off by saying that Madares al Ghad has 44 schools all over the Emirates with the same budget and resources as the rest of the Ministry of Education schools. There are 3 main goals of Madares al Ghad: to create a world-class educational system, to increase the capacity of UAE teachers, she says "the teachers are our resource for effective teaching", and to increase language proficiency of grade 12 graduates. She discusses the class room methodology and as to who chooses the curriculum. She talks of the importance of moving to a modern class room where students can work in groups and where critical thinking and collaborative learning takes place. The students should learn new technologies, she adds and to become experts with greater autonomy and responsibility. The students have to become independent rather than dependent on the teachers. She then moves to discuss the challenges that face the teacher and how the quality of teachers is to be improved, how teacher training is transforming teachers in the Madares Al Ghad Schools. She talks about how to improve the system overall and how to support the mechanisms for the teachers to support their efforts to make change.
The thirds panelist, Dr. Peggy Blackwell spoke about some challenges that are facing the teaching profession. The first thing she mentioned was the need of a learning center for teachers. She adds, the teachers need initial preparation in the university and professional preparation outside the university. The teachers have to know what they are teaching and how to transfer the content to the students. Blackwell discusses the goals which are: to give the teacher the core knowledge for their career and professional development, for every teacher to teach in a way to optimize the knowledge for the students. She talks about the importance of research and how curriculum is important for teaching. Teachers should know about child development and authentic assessment of students. What could be the challenges? she discusses. There are a number of challenges: Geographic dispersion, not enough funding, not enough follow up and work with the teachers, the Emirati practice of a short school day and school year and many more. She then moves to the recommendations which are: the authorities should introduce certification and licensing given to teachers when they complete professional standard, a research centre, teaching Arabic language is critical and how to teach it and to pay attention to what the students have to tell and their feedback.
Lastly, Jill Clark starts off by talking briefly about the what the centre's mission and the modifications and transformations initiated by the Centre for British Teachers in Abu Dhabi over the past 4 years in a number of schools in Abu Dhabi. She said that Abu Dhabi invests a lot of money to develop the schools and to support the teachers and a lot of schools have had good support (infrastructure, equipment, etc...) from Abu Dhabi Education Council. These developments and modifications included making the classrooms a more exciting place to study, providing access to technology in the classroom and additional teaching equipments and materials. She mentions the importance of culture and heritage and how essential that the children remember the UAE values and history. The English language should be developed and that teachers should create this strong bond with the pupils and develop active learning communication with the parents. Clarks discusses the major aims of the centre which are to reach to the standard of International Education, to develop on Arts, physical education and health, bilingual development, learning in context (active learning) and problem solving, teachers have to go for lessons after school for English, regular assessments of learning and developing practical practices. She concludes by stating that the results until now have been very successful.
After the four panelists finished their discussions, the moderator of the session, Dr. Natasha Ridge, opened the floor for questions and she concluded by reemphasizing the necessity to initiate original and new teaching methods to have the pupils engage well. At the end of the forum, it was agreed that significant partnerships need to be promoted between the country, the education mechanisms and other government bodies to outline essential policies that affects the development of children.