Cover story: Education Journal ME Teacher Survey resultsDecember 5, 2016, 9:00 am GMT
Nearly half the teachers (48.16%) surveyed by Education Journal Middle East are unhappy in their schools, and two thirds of teachers plan to look for another job when their contract expires.
Furthermore, the majority of teachers (57%) said they do not believe their school values teachers. These dismal figures were revealed in the Education Journal Middle East Teacher Survey, which closed in late November, 2016.
The majority of survey respondents were British and Indian (15.67% each), followed by American and Lebanese (13.43% each), Western European (10.45%), South African (8.96%), Australian or New Zealand (6.72%), and Pakistani (5.97%). Other nationalities, such as Jordanian, Canadian, Eastern European, Kuwaiti, Emirati, Bahraini, and Saudi, made up the remaining 9.75% of respondents.
The majority of teachers who took the survey teach in Dubai (45.52%) and Abu Dhabi (31.34%), followed by Doha (11.19%). Teachers from Sharjah, Bahrain, Jeddah, Riyadh, and other Saudi cities also responded.
The majority of survey respondents taught in American curriculum schools (32%), followed closely by British schools at 31%. Teachers from UAE Ministry of Education schools made up 20.88% of the survey pool, followed by IB school teachers (8.21%) and Indian curriculum (6.72%) teachers.
Nearly a third of teachers have been with their schools for three to five years, (32.84%), while just over a quarter (26.12%) have been with their current schools for one to two years. Teachers that have stayed in roles for longer than 10 years accounted for 14.92% of survey respondents, while 14.18% of teachers have been in their current roles for less than a year.
When it comes to salaries, 25.86% of respondents earn US$2100-3000 per month, while 20.69% of respondents take home $3100-4000. The majority of teachers in the GCC (28.45%) earn between $4100-5500 per month, and 6% earn $5500-7000. A minimal number (1.72%) earn more than $7000 per month. Teachers earning less than $2,000 account for 17.24% of respondents.
The majority of respondents (27.59%) haven't received a pay rise in over three years; however, an equal number (27.59%) have received a salary increase during the current academic year. 18.97% of respondents last received a pay rise during the previous academic year, while 17.24% were offered a salary increment over two years ago.
Furthermore, while the majority of teachers who took the survey reportedly earn $4100-5500 per month, there is a very clear disparity in pay scales for Indian and subcontinent teachers versus those from the west.
While the majority of British (40%) and American (64.71%) teachers earn $4100-5500 per month, over three quarters of Indian teachers (76.47%) who took the survey earn less than $2000 per month. (An equal number of Indian and British nationals took the survey). Addressing the disparity, Eteach International managing director Jonathan Price says: "The survey does not surprise me. There is a huge disparity in the way in which professional teachers are treated by their employers. Teachers understand the norm is that schools who charge higher fees can invest in their teachers in terms of salaries, package and professional development.
"There are of course some exceptions to the rule but overall, this is the situation. The current annual inspection of quality, based on agreed KPIs, takes a note of the annual staff turnover but schools often find themselves in a perpetual cycle whereby their lower grade is linked to a fee rise that is not passed onto the teacher and teachers leave for extra benefits. We now have a situation where 'good' teachers know their value."
Moreover, when asked how teachers think their salaries compare with their peers in similar roles at other schools, 37.93% of teachers believe their salaries are below average, while 48.28% believe their salaries are nearly the same, and 13.79% believe their salaries are above average.
However, while most teachers might think their salaries stack up favourably against their peers, the majority of survey respondents (75%) are not happy with their current salary. This is hardly surprising when you compare salaries for teachers at international schools around the world.
Data from International Schools Consultancy (ISC Research), presented during the International Private Schools and Education Forum (IPSEF) showed that teachers at premium international schools in the UAE earn $45,228 per year, which is significantly lower than markets such as Switzerland, the UK, or Hong Kong, where teachers earn an average of $86,583, $83,928, and $68,418 respectively.
Additional benefits make up a large part of the decision when teachers choose which school they wish to teach at. Price notes: "As a recruiter, we speak with a vast number of teachers from all over the globe.
"There is a communality with the questions that we get asked: what is the salary, is it shared accommodation, will I get paid in the summer, how long do teachers tend to stay at the school.
"Then we move to curriculum and location. Very rarely do we get asked by a prospective teacher about the CPD programme that a school offers."
According to the survey, 42.24% of respondents are offered accommodation by the school, while 29.31% receive housing allowance. Schools also offer annual flight tickets for teachers and their families (26.72%), while 37.93% receive annual flight tickets for themselves only.
Other benefits teachers enjoy include free schooling for their children (14.66%) or subsidised fees for their children (26.72%).
All in all, the majority of teachers (66.38%) are not happy with their overall remuneration package.
Gabbitas Middle East director Fiona McKenzie notes: "We know that with fewer teachers coming through teacher training, we will be facing a teacher recruitment crisis in the next few years, particularly in STEM subjects and in leadership roles. Therefore, schools who are wishing to attract the best talent are going to need to take the results of this survey very seriously. Teachers need to be properly remunerated for their work and valued for the professionals that they are."
The shortage in qualified teachers was also highlighted by Diane Jacoutot, managing director of Edvectus, during IPSEF.
Speaking at the event, she said: "Too few teachers are being trained in the west to meet domestic demand. In the UK, for instance, in the past 40 years, the government has missed its own targets for recruitment of teacher trainees. The 7,000 teacher places that were meant to be filled have not yet been filled. 84% of schools in the UK who are doing teacher training reported unprecendented challenges in the recruitment of trainees. And on top of that, by 2025 the UK will require about 25,000 new teachers to be trained.
"In the US, over the past 10 years, the number of teachers applying to become teacher trainees has dropped every single year. Also by 2025 in Ireland, they are going to require 3,000 more teachers and in Australia 1,250. So in these regional markets for teachers, the domestic demand is increasing but we don't have enough teachers coming in."
To add to operator's worries, Jacoutot revealed: "International schools are needing more and more teachers. Based on projected growth and demand, the number of domestically trained western teachers is growing by 8% between now and 2025, and the demand from schools is 88%. So international schools need more and more teachers and we just don't know where they're going to come from."
While more schools are focusing on professional development of teachers, 60% of survey respondents said their school has not offered them a professional development plan. Professional development for most teachers at the moment seems mainly concentrated on in-house training and workshops (80.53%), while peer observation (27.43%) and off-site workshops (26.55%) are also popular. Only 10.26% of teachers receive online training, while 7.96% are offered opportunities to earn additional qualifications.
Overall, 68.14% of respondents are unhappy with the PD opportunities their schools offer.
However, McKenzie also notes the challenges schools face when offering professional development for teachers who are likely to leave after their contract expires. However, she believes enhancing PD opportunities is one way to keep teachers in schools.
She explains: "Schools are caught in a dilemma here they invest in professional development for staff who leave after two years; if they don't invest in professional development they will leave anyway. Schools need to make the commitment and invest in their staff this way you have trained qualified staff who will commit to the school, which has to be better than the untrained, unhappy high turnover model."
The majority of teachers are bound by one-year (50.46%) and two-year (36.70%) contracts. Most of these teachers (61.47%) have between six months to one year left on their contracts.
Over two thirds of survey respondents (65.14%) have said they are considering moving to a new school when their contract expires. This is also reflected in the number of respondents who say they are very unhappy at their current schools (19.27%) or somewhat unhappy in their current jobs (28.44%).
Only 14.68% of respondents are "very happy" working at their current school, while 37.61% of teachers are "somewhat happy".
However, if schools are looking for ways to stem the teacher exodus, there are a number of things they can try. Nearly half the respondents (46.79%) say they would continue working in their current schools if they are offered a higher salary, while 29.36% of respondents would continue to work under better leadership at their current schools.
More professional development opportunities and better additional benefits could also sway teachers' decisions to leave.
Anonymous suggestions by survey respondents include praising teachers on their efforts, linking performance to pay, and assigning fewer administrative tasks in order to allow teachers to plan activities for the next day.
In conclusion, UAE Learning Network co-founder Shaun Robison cautions schools that if they fail to address teachers' concerns, they could continue to lose staff in an inceasingly competitive market.
He notes: "The survey results confirm what many in the industry have felt for some time teachers are not valued enough. Schools have a responsibility to make teachers happy so their children build long lasting relationships develop a sense of community.
"The salaries of teachers are a primary concern and without this basic health necessity for teachers taken care of, they will continually be looking at other options. With two-thirds of teachers unhappy with the remuneration package (including health insurance and accommodation) offered by their schools, it signals a warning to new and established schools that we must do better. The global competition for teachers means that your average teacher has options in Qatar, Asia, Europe and the Americas so the highlights from this survey need to be addressed."
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