How GCC countries can attract the right teachers for the future workforce

Special Kuwaiti students celebrate graduation amid regional concerns about skills shortages among teaching staff. (AFP)
Kuwaiti students celebrate graduation amid regional concerns about skills shortages among teaching staff. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 12 May 2022

How GCC countries can attract the right teachers for the future workforce

How GCC countries can attract the right teachers for the future workforce
  • Proliferation of high-quality schools in Gulf region has led to fierce competition for the best teachers
  • Challenge is to attract the best teachers without pricing poorer students out of the education market

DUBAI: Education, it is said, is an investment in the future. That is why the Gulf Arab states have invested heavily in high-quality schools, creating the infrastructure necessary for students to reach their full potential and build careers that are satisfying personally and beneficial to wider society.

However, the rapid proliferation of such schools has led to fierce competition for the best teachers, especially those with expertise in such important subjects as physics, chemistry and mathematics, amid a looming crisis at the international level.

About 69 million new teachers will be needed to provide quality universal education worldwide by 2030, according to figures from UNESCO. But with fewer teachers graduating, particularly in the UK, Ireland, and the US, the occupation faces an imminent shortage at the international level.

To attract and retain the right teaching talent, many Gulf schools offer generous compensation packages, which in turn have made admission fees more expensive. The worry for many experts is that low-income households will be steadily priced out of quality education.

According to Jo Vigneron, founding principal at the Pearson Online Academy, teacher shortage is a global phenomenon that is not reserved to the GCC region alone.




The GCC region is home to one of the youngest populations in the world, with early-years education vital for its development. (AFP/File Photo)

Over the past two decades, more has been expected of teachers in Western schools with little of this increased workload reflected in their salaries, she said, leading many to look for better-paid opportunities abroad.

“Young teachers in the UK frequently work second jobs as they struggle to pay their living costs, student loan and other expenses,” Vigneron told Arab News.

“As a result, an increasing number of British and US teachers have sought work overseas where the pay and conditions are more attractive. One would think, then, that there would be plenty of supply. In actual fact, there has been a simultaneous boom in the international market for British education.”

Natasha Ridge, executive director of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al-Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research in Ras Al-Khaimah in the UAE, believes schools need to examine incentives other than pay to attract the best talent.

“Beyond increases in salary, which will obviously push up fees, schools could be offering more professional development opportunities for teachers, including attending conferences and online courses,” Ridge told Arab News.




Gulf schools are being urged to offer career incentives beyond good salaries to attract top talent as a global shortage looms. (AFP/File Photo)

“Promotion opportunities are also important so that teachers feel like their career is progressing and not stalled when they come overseas.”

Flexible leave during term time might also make roles more enticing, Ridge said, as would rewarding teachers who stay for five or 10 years with a period of leave so they can pursue professional development back in their home countries.

“Teachers are underpaid for the important job that they do and there need to be financial incentives for high-performing teachers so that they will come and stay,” she said.

“The issue in the Gulf is also that the majority of schools are run for profit, so investors try to make maximum money from minimum investment. This is a huge problem for the region.

“Teacher salaries are the single largest expense in a school’s operating budget, so this is where they try to save money, by hiring young teachers, letting older, more expensive teachers go, having basic health insurance, and not paying for professional development.”

Governments in the region might want to consider encouraging more schools to become non-profits with minimum salaries and class sizes. “But that is onerous and costly for governments, so they will have to weigh the costs and benefits,” Ridge said.

However, unless reform is implemented soon, there is a danger that a two-tier education system could emerge in which low-income families are deprived of access to quality schooling altogether.

FASTFACT

* A three-day education forum began in Riyadh on Sunday.

* International Education Conference 2022 is being attended by 262 institutions.

* Theme of the forum is “Education in Crisis: Possibilities and Challenges.”

In general, “what this means for society is an increasing wealth gap and then you see more social problems, crime, violence, health issues, unemployment, and even social unrest,” Ridge said.

“It is in the interest of every country to have a well-educated population for social cohesion and for economic growth.”

For Judith Finnemore, a UAE-based educational consultant and academic director at the Svarna Training Institute in Dubai, the issue is not merely about how to attract good teachers and boost retention but also how to raise overall standards of modern education.

“The quality the best teachers bring to education has to be considered,” Finnemore told Arab News. “In the next five years, the whole nature of skills required for the workforce in the MENA region will change.”

According to research from the World Economic Forum, how children in GCC countries are educated now will determine the livelihoods of more than 300 million people over the coming decades.




Arab students need teachers who see technology as a 'radical force,' experts have said. (AFP/File Photo)

Home to one of the youngest populations in the world, it is imperative for the region to make adequate investments in education that holds value in the labor market and prepares citizens for the world of tomorrow, the research states.

For Finnemore, very few teachers have the knowledge and skills that will be needed across all areas of business and industry — from data analytics, machine learning and statistics, to programming using Java and Python languages, computer networks, and parallel and distributed computing.

“This is a serious issue,” Finnemore said. “We don’t need teachers who have traditional mindsets. We need those who see technology as a force capable of radically transforming how they teach individuals and groups and the capacity it has for educating far and wide, not just in ‘their’ classroom.”

If the Gulf states want to be at the forefront of what the WEF has dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the region’s students will need a proper grounding in the relevant skills and subject areas of the future workforce.

“My own observations tell me there is a disconnect between those who teach in schools and the new requirements GCC economies need five or 10 years down the line,” Finnemore said. “So, in short, it needs not just any teacher. It needs a lot of the right teachers.”




About 69 million new teachers will be needed to provide quality universal education worldwide by 2030, according to figures from UNESCO. (AFP/File Photo)

Investment in professional development will prove essential to prepare teachers for the needs of the modern classroom.

“No teacher comes straight out of college possessing all the right skills,” Finnemore said. “They might have plenty of enthusiasm, but rarely the ability to get it all together to meet the highest levels of any teaching quality framework. This takes time and now their skills need constant updating. Don’t train and leave them festering too long, effectively making them deskilled.”

Offering teachers the incentive to retrain on short sabbaticals is one possible solution. “This would go on throughout their career and be financed through a guaranteed salary paid for jointly by the government and the school,” Finnemore said. 

Other options include raising the teacher retirement age above 60 and emptying out training colleges and universities of professors so they can teach in schools.

Another potentially strong incentive would be the creation of a fair and equitable pay scale for teachers that is nationality agnostic and eliminates individual negotiation between schools and employees.




Jo Vigneron (left), founding principal of Pearson Online Academy says teacher shortages were a global trend. Judith Finnemore (right), director at the Svarna Training Institute in Dubai, says overall educations standards must rise. (Supplied)

“Western countries have salary scales, as does the government sector of most MENA countries,” Finnemore said. “If the MENA region wants good teachers, schools should pay teachers fairly and they will come.”

If schools in the Gulf region get the balance right, attracting the best-qualified teachers to educate the workforce of the future without putting poorer students at a disadvantage, the economic and societal dividends could be huge.

“The real asset of any advanced nation is its people, especially the educated ones,” Vigneron told Arab News. “The progress of countries and nations can only be measured by the level and extent of their education.

“A nation underpinned by integrity as well as talented and creative individuals is one that will thrive. It will include and embrace its people, retain its talent who will, in turn, grow the future talent, facilitating a culture in which all are able to contribute and thrive.”


US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region

US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region
Updated 13 sec ago

US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region

US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region
WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday condemned Iran’s use of ballistic missiles and drone attacks against the Iraqi Kurdistan region and called it “an unjustified violation of Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday they fired missiles and drones at militant targets in the Kurdish region of neighboring northern Iraq, where an official said nine people were killed.
“Moreover, we further condemn comments from the government of Iran threatening additional attacks against Iraq,” the US State Department said in a statement on Wednesday.

Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 

Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 
Updated 28 September 2022

Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 

Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 
  • Najla Bouden thanked Lorenzo Fanara for his country’s help during the COVID-19 crisis
  • Fanara said Italy is willing “to give more support to Tunisia in its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund”

ROME: Tunisia’s prime minister has praised the Italian ambassador for strengthening relations and helping her country through the pandemic as the envoy prepared to end his stay in Tunis.

Najla Bouden thanked Lorenzo Fanara for his country’s help during the COVID-19 crisis, when Italy sent several ships filled with medical supplies, ventilators and vaccines.

Bouden’s office said she also welcomed Fanara’s efforts to “strengthen relations in several areas of common interest” during his four years in the job.

Bouden highlighted the “solidity of the historical relations” between Tunisia and Italy, which she said “constitute a link between the two shores of the Mediterranean and between the African and European continents.”

Fanara said Italy is willing “to give more support to Tunisia in its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund,” as it seeks a loan of between $2 billion and $4 billion.

Migration and Italian investments in the energy and technology sectors were also discussed at the meeting in Tunis. Bouden also discussed upcoming elections, including legislative polls on Dec. 17.

Fanara has been appointed Italy’s ambassador to the UAE, and will take office in the next few days.


Kurdish officials: Death toll climbs in Iranian drone attack

Kurdish officials: Death toll climbs in Iranian drone attack
Updated 28 September 2022

Kurdish officials: Death toll climbs in Iranian drone attack

Kurdish officials: Death toll climbs in Iranian drone attack
  • Kurdish regional government ‘strongly condemns’ repetitive violations of its sovereignty
  • Iranian artillery fire has hit border districts of Iraqi Kurdistan on several occasions in recent days

KOYA, Iraq: An Iranian drone bombing campaign targeting the bases of an Iranian-Kurdish opposition group in northern Iraq Wednesday has killed at least nine people and wounded 32 others, the Kurdish Regional Government’s Health Ministry said.

The strikes took place as demonstrations continued to engulf the Islamic Republic after the death of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who was detained by the Iranian morality police.

Iran’s attacks targeted Koya, some 65 kilometers east of Irbil, said Soran Nuri, a member of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan. The group, known by the acronym KDPI, is a leftist armed opposition force banned in Iran.

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry and the Kurdistan Regional Government have condemned the strikes.

“Attacks on opposition groups through the Islamic Republic of Iran’s missiles, under any pretext, is an incorrect stance which promotes a misleading interpretation of the course of events,” the Kurdistan Regional Government said.

“We strongly condemn these continuous attacks which result in the death of civilians and we call for an end to these violations.”

Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its statement condemned “in the strongest terms the artillery and missile targeting by the Iranian side, which affected four areas in the Kurdistan Region.”

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency and broadcaster said the country’s Revolutionary Guard targeted bases of a separatist group in the north of Iraq with “precision missiles” and “suicide drones.”

The Iranian drone strikes targeted a military camp, homes, offices and other areas around Koya, Nuri said. Nuri described the attack as ongoing.

Following the first series of strikes, Iran then shelled seven positions in Koya’s stronghold in Qala, a KDPI official told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity in order to speak publicly. The Qala area includes the party’s politburo.

An Associated Press journalist saw ambulances racing through Koya after the strikes. Smoke rose from the site of one apparent strike as security forces closed off the area.

On Saturday and Monday, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard unleashed a wave of drone and artillery strikes targeting Kurdish positions.

The attacks appear to be a response to the ongoing protests roiling Iran over the death of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who was detained by the nation’s morality police.

The United Nations Secretary-General called on Iran early Wednesday to refrain from using “unnecessary or disproportionate force” against protesters as unrest over a young woman’s death in police custody spread across the country.

Antonio Guterres said through a spokesman that authorities should swiftly conduct an impartial investigation of the death of Mahsa Amini, which has sparked unrest across Iran’s provinces and the capital of Tehran.


Lebanon to apply weaker official exchange rate, finance minister says

Lebanon to apply weaker official exchange rate, finance minister says
Updated 28 September 2022

Lebanon to apply weaker official exchange rate, finance minister says

Lebanon to apply weaker official exchange rate, finance minister says
  • The step will come into effect from the end of the October, Khalil said

BEIRUT: Lebanon's central bank will use an official exchange rate of 15,000 pounds to the dollar instead of 1,507, Finance Minister Youssef Khalil told Reuters on Wednesday, calling it a step towards unifying the country's numerous exchange rates.
The step will come into effect from the end of the October, Khalil said.
Lebanese authorities introduced the 1,507 rate in 1997.
But the pound has slumped by more than 95% from the official rate since Lebanon fell into financial crisis three years ago, currently changing hands at around 38,000 on a parallel market.
Unifying the numerous exchange rates is one of several conditions set by the IMF for Lebanon to secure a badly needed aid package. Last week, the IMF said Lebanon's progress in implementing reforms remained very slow.


Japan exempts UAE nationals from visa requirements upon entry

Japan exempts UAE nationals from visa requirements upon entry
Updated 28 September 2022

Japan exempts UAE nationals from visa requirements upon entry

Japan exempts UAE nationals from visa requirements upon entry

DUBAI: Japan announced the exemption of UAE nationals from visa requirements for holders of ordinary passports on Wednesday.

The date of the new entry rules will be announced within the next few days, according to the Emirates News Agency (WAM.)

In a meeting with Japan Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa, UAE Special Envoy to Japan Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber stressed that Japan’s announcement is a result of the UAE’s diplomacy efforts under the supervision of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

He added that the step contributes to facilitating cooperation and mobility, and will encourage tourism, cultural and academic exchanges, in addition to finding new cooperation opportunities for the establishment of business, trade and investment.

Al Jaber also stressed that the UAE and Japan have strong strategic relations, which aims to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries to serve common interests by encouraging more diplomatic, economic and political participation, trade and investment.

The Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology also met the Japanese Minister of Digital Transformation KONO Taro in Tokyo on Sept. 28.

Kono also expressed his appreciation to Al Jaber for attending the former prime minister’s state funeral; both ministers exchanged gratitude for this year’s 50 year anniversary that ties both countries together representing a milestone for exploring new opportunities.

 

*This article was originally published on Arab News Japan