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

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)
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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.”


Egypt hands down death sentence for priest’s murder

Updated 5 sec ago

Egypt hands down death sentence for priest’s murder

Egypt hands down death sentence for priest’s murder
CAIRO: An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced to death a man accused of the murder last month of a Coptic priest in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, judicial sources said.
The Alexandria court’s ruling is subject to approval by the mufti of the republic.
The sources said the defendant was found guilty of voluntary homicide after a court-ordered psychological assessment found him “responsible for his actions.”
Father Arsanios Wadid died of his wounds in hospital after being stabbed on April 7 on Alexandria’s seafront promenade as he accompanied a group of young parishioners.
The assailant was grabbed by passers-by and handed over to police, who detained him in a psychiatric hospital because of doubts over his mental health.
Coptic Christians, the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the Middle East, make up roughly 10 to 15 percent of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population of more than 100 million.
The community has long complained of discrimination and underrepresentation.
In February, however, Egypt for the first time swore in a Coptic judge to head its constitutional court.
Copts were targeted in a series of sectarian attacks after the military in 2013 deposed Islamist president Muhammad Mursi. Such attacks focused largely on remote villages in southern Egypt.

Lebanon reformists weigh choices after election surge

Lebanon reformists weigh choices after election surge
Updated 19 min 9 sec ago

Lebanon reformists weigh choices after election surge

Lebanon reformists weigh choices after election surge
  • Analysts have added up MPs to figure out the size of the parliamentary blocs, which are divided between sovereign blocs and pro-Hezbollah groupings

BEIRUT: Newly elected reformist MPs in Lebanon are planning strategies following election breakthroughs that grant them significant sway in the parliamentary balance of power.

Thirteen reformist MPs in Lebanon who entered the legislative race on the values of the 2019 anti-establishment uprising, as well as 21 independent MPs, have entered the newly elected Lebanese Parliament.

Analysts have added up MPs to figure out the size of the parliamentary blocs, which are divided between sovereign blocs and pro-Hezbollah groupings.

Figures show that elected MPs may be positioned within 13 blocs divided into two opposite larger camps, forming the 128-MP Parliament.

The sovereign MPs can be classified based on their previous positions. A total of 68 MPs are opposed to Hezbollah. They include members from the Lebanese Forces Party, the Progressive Socialist Party, the Islamic Group and the Lebanese Phalanges Party, as well as independents and reformists.

Meanwhile, the pro-Hezbollah camp includes the party itself, the Amal Movement, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Marada Movement, the Tashnaq Party and Al-Ahbash, for a total of about 60 MPs.

There is much speculation about how the new independent MPs will deal with upcoming events, and how they will position themselves on the parliamentary map.

A political observer told Arab News: “We will see the true colors of every MP when topics related to core issues are discussed.”

The observer added: “Will these MPs change their stance regarding Hezbollah’s illegal weapons, although some have avoided addressing this sensitive issue in the past? Will these MPs be able to form a unified bloc that can influence decisions within Parliament, or will they remain independent, each working alone?”

Suleiman Franjieh, head of the Marada Movement and a candidate for the Presidency, appealed to reformist MPs, saying: “Do not place strict conditions on yourselves so that you do not become isolated, because theory is one thing, and practice is another.”

Fouad Siniora, former Lebanon PM, who backed a list in Beirut and whose candidates all failed to reach parliament, said: “Sovereign MPs must develop a correct vision for the future on how to confront Hezbollah’s domination and control in order to restore the Lebanese state.”

He added: “In 2008, the sovereign forces had won 72 seats in parliament, but Hezbollah at that time refused to form a majority government.”

Siniora warned against backing down as the March 14 forces did in 2009, which cost them their power.

A video shared on social media shocked voters in Tripoli and around the country. The elected MP Firas Salloum, who was on the Real Change list with the Islamic Group, was filmed celebrating his victory by dancing to a song supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The video prompted the Islamic Group to issue a statement renouncing Salloum. It said: “He does not represent us as he seemed proud of his affiliation to the criminal tyrant, who blew up the Al-Taqwa and Al-Salam Mosques in Tripoli, and killed our people in Syria.”

The statement demanded that Salloum resign “because he does not represent the city and does not resemble its people.”

Reformist MP Elias Jarada said: “Taking the revolution from the street to the Parliament necessitates adopting a policy of reaching out to all for dialogue so that the 17 October revolution becomes a model for dynamic political action. It is important to be realistic because parliament includes groups that represent other categories of the Lebanese people.”

Several reformist MPs rushed to convene with their groups to determine their next steps in Parliament.

Elected reformist MP Ibrahim Mneimneh, whose list won three parliamentary seats in Beirut’s second constituency, said: “The reformist MPs will be the revolutionary voice in parliament. We will not compromise with the criminal regime that destroyed our lives, and we will not compromise in the face of intimidation with weapons, nor over the sale of state assets, the money of depositors, or the path of justice with the Beirut port blast and the explosion in Akkar.”

Leaked news suggested that reformist MP Melhem Khalaf, former head of the Beirut Bar Association who took part in protests against state corruption and helped release detained protesters, could possibly be elected deputy parliament speaker, succeeding Elie Ferzli, who has held the position since 2000, but failed to reach Parliament in the recent elections.

Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is seeking a new term, is reportedly making efforts to win over civil society, and supports having Khalaf as his deputy.

Major challenges await the newly elected house, the first of which is electing a speaker and a deputy speaker, followed by parliamentary consultations to assign someone to form a new government, then electing a new president in September or October after Michel Aoun’s term ends.

There are also significant legislative obligations, within the framework of reforms required by the international community to extricate Lebanon from its worsening economic crisis.


Pope Francis sends condolences to UAE for Sheikh Khalifa

Pope Francis sends condolences to UAE for Sheikh Khalifa
Updated 18 May 2022

Pope Francis sends condolences to UAE for Sheikh Khalifa

Pope Francis sends condolences to UAE for Sheikh Khalifa
  • Pontiff joins the people of the Emirates in ‘mourning his passing and paying tribute to his distinguished and far-sighted leadership’
  • Head of the Catholic church praises the late leader for promoting religious understanding as contained in the historic Abu Dhabi Document and Zayed Award for Human Fraternity

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis has said that he is “saddened” by the death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, former president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi.

In a message, the leader of the Catholic church sent his condolences to newly appointed UAE president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and to the country’s people, invoking “an abundance of divine blessings.”

The Pope expressed his “heartfelt condolences and the assurance of my prayers for his eternal rest.”

“I likewise join the people of the Emirates in mourning his passing and paying tribute to his distinguished and far-sighted leadership in the service of the nation.”

The Catholic leader said he was “particularly grateful for the solicitude shown by His Highness to the Holy See and to the Catholic communities of the Emirates, and for his commitment to the values of dialogue, understanding and solidarity between peoples and religious traditions solemnly proclaimed by the historic Abu Dhabi Document and embodied in the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity.”

“May his legacy continue to inspire the efforts of men and women of good will everywhere to persevere in weaving bonds of unity and peace between the members of our one human family,” he added.

Francis also offered prayers for Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed as he takes up the responsibilities of the UAE presidency.

“Upon you, the members of your family, and upon all the beloved people of the United Arab Emirates, I cordially invoke an abundance of divine blessings.”

Friar Giuseppe Ciutti, an Italian priest who spent time in Iraq, told Arab News that this message from the Pope was “a clear sign of the personal (and) great respect he felt for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.”

“Pope Francis visited Abu Dhabi in 2019; that was the first visit of a Roman Catholic Church (leader) to the Arab Peninsula. During that trip the Pope … promoted values of fraternity, peace, and peaceful coexistence.”

On that visit, Francis paid tribute to the UAE as “a land that is trying to be a model of coexistence, of human brotherhood, and a meeting place among diverse civilizations and cultures.”

“Pope Francis always refers to that trip every time he talks about the progress in interreligious dialogue. His message can be read as a new sign of friendship by the Catholic (church) towards the Arab world,” he said.

The UAE is home to nearly a million Roman Catholics, most of them from the Philippines and India.


Israel approves ultranationalist Jewish march in Jerusalem

Israel approves ultranationalist Jewish march in Jerusalem
Updated 18 May 2022

Israel approves ultranationalist Jewish march in Jerusalem

Israel approves ultranationalist Jewish march in Jerusalem
  • The office of Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev said the march would take place on May 29 along its “customary route” through Damascus Gate
  • Each year, thousands of Israeli nationalists participate in the march, waving Israeli flags, singing songs and in some cases, chanting anti-Arab slogans

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities on Wednesday said they have given the go-ahead for flag-waving Jewish nationalists to march through the heart of the main Palestinian thoroughfare in Jerusalem’s Old City later this month.
The decision threatens to re-ignite violence in the holy city.
The office of Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev said the march would take place on May 29 along its “customary route” through Damascus Gate.
Each year, thousands of Israeli nationalists participate in the march, waving Israeli flags, singing songs and in some cases, chanting anti-Arab slogans, as they pass by Palestinian onlookers and businesses.
Barlev’s office said the decision was made after consultations with police.
The march is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel subsequently annexed the area in a step that is not internationally recognized. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
Last year’s Gaza war erupted as the march was just getting underway, even after authorities changed the route at the last moment to avoid Damascus Gate.
The Old City, located in east Jerusalem, has experienced weeks of violent confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators, and the march threatens triggering new unrest.
Tensions also have been heightened by an Israeli police crackdown during the funeral of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last Friday. As the funeral procession got underway, police pushed and beat mourners, causing the pallbearers to lose control of the coffin and nearly drop it.
Abu Akleh, a well-known journalist, was fatally shot while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank last week. The Palestinians, including witnesses who were with her, say she was shot by Israeli troops. Israel says that Palestinian gunmen were active in the area, and it is not clear who fired the deadly bullet.


Egypt calls for calm after violence rocks Libyan capital  

Egypt calls for calm after violence rocks Libyan capital  
Updated 18 May 2022

Egypt calls for calm after violence rocks Libyan capital  

Egypt calls for calm after violence rocks Libyan capital  
  • Rival armed factions clash as PM Fathi Bashagha arrives in Tripoli to take over government
  • Clashes come after Government of National Unity headed by Abdel Hamid Dabaiba refuses to hand over power

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that it is following events in Tripoli with “concern” after violent clashes erupted overnight in the Libyan capital.

Rival armed factions clashed after the parliament-appointed prime minister Fathi Bashagha tried to take over government but was forced to withdraw by the Government of National Unity headed by Abdel Hamid Dabaiba and in the face of opposition from Libya’s military.

Egypt has called for calm after the clashes, which come after weeks of dispute over Libya’s premiership.

“We stress once again the need to maintain calm in Libya, and to preserve the lives, property and capabilities of the Libyan people,” Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez said.

Egypt urged all Libyan parties to exercise restraint and refrain from taking any steps that would fuel violence.

The Foreign Ministry stressed “the inevitability of dialogue in order to reach the holding of presidential and legislative elections in Libya simultaneously and without delay.”

It warned of the “importance of the constitutional track dialogue currently taking place in Cairo, in a way that achieves the aspirations and hopes of the brotherly Libyan people in moving toward the future at a steady pace.”

According to Libyan reports, the clashes erupted in the Mansoura and Souk Al-Thalath areas, in the center of Tripoli, hours after Bashagha arrived in the city to begin the work of his government mandated by the Libyan House of Representatives stationed in the east of the country.