The UAE is an Arabic speaking country where English is spoken widely. Therefore, there is a demand for English lessons. The various ways that you can teach English in Dubai are related to your visa status and qualifications. Accordingly, the types of jobs and pay associated vary considerably.
The Need for English Teachers
Because of the large number of expats in the UAE, more than 80% of the population, there is a demand for English language primary and secondary schools to cater for the children of these expat employers and employees. There are Indian, Pakistani, French, Japanese and Arabic schools, but there is still a big demand for English language schools. These schools want teachers from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In addition, in general the government schools in Dubai and the UAE teach most subjects in Arabic; English is introduced in high school, but not to a high level of competence. This means that students graduating from these schools often need considerable language support if they are to attend any of the prestigious English language universities in the region.
These students require tuition of various kinds which they access through bridge programs attached to the universities or through other tuition consultants. So there are plenty of job opportunities at all levels.
Can Anyone Work as an English Teacher?
The better schools and tertiary institutions require suitable teaching qualifications. A bachelor of master’s degree is essential depending on the institution. In addition, some places want applicants to have a certificate or diploma of language teaching – CELTA or DELTA.
Transcripts of degrees are often asked for, and in the case of some universities the transcript has to be sent directly from the issuing university to the prospective employing university. In addition, in the current political climate some institutions require a background check be done on each prospective employee before a fulltime position is offered.
As well as fulltime teaching posts, it is possible to get work as an English teacher in less formal situations as long as you speak English well. These jobs do not offer visas and generally the pay is lower than fulltime work especially as there will be no benefits package.
The lack of a visa is a huge hurdle to employment in the UAE. To hold down any type of job, you have to have either a work visa, a spousal visa or, in the case of unmarried women, a parental visa.
Young expat men over the age of 18 cannot stay in the UAE unless they have a fulltime job, and therefore a visa, or a student visa. They cannot be sponsored by their parents the way their sisters can.
The visa policy is strict. You can come to the UAE on a visit visa and look for work, but in the education field, this is not the best approach. One other implication of the visa requirements is that unless you have a spousal or parental visa, you cannot work part-time. There are no independent visas issued for part-time work.
The Government Schools
In an effort to raise the standard of public schools, the UAE has taken the initiative of pairing English teachers with Arabic speaking teachers currently in the system.
Many of these teachers are Egyptian. This approach was started in Abu Dhabi. The intention is to move the teaching methodology from a traditional knowledge-transmission approach to a more modern approach through a form of team teaching. This appears to be a demanding teaching role and not for everyone.
The Private Schools
There are many private English language schools in Dubai and in the UAE. Some have a good reputation amongst both teachers and parents, but not all. If you are thinking of coming to work in the UAE, make use of the internet and see what you can find out about the school/s you are interested in. Where the administration is weak and does little to assist teachers with unruly students, teaching can be a difficult job. This is true of any country.
Schools in the UAE are very keen on accessing new faculty through personal recommendation. If you have a friend or colleague successfully making a career of teaching in Dubai, the school is likely to be very interested in anyone that teacher vouches for.
The more prestigious schools pay very well for the right teachers. The benefits packages are very attractive especially for singles. It becomes more difficult if you are married with children. The reason for this is that the accommodation you will need is likely to be expensive. But the biggest expense is likely to be the education of your own children as they will have to go to a private school. This can work if the school you are working for offers tuition at a discount to staff.
As a visa holder and English language speaker you can make contact with the many tuition organizations. Some may require more formal qualifications, but not all. If you are already teaching and have spare energy, this is a way to make extra income. And anyone on a spousal or parental visa can apply to work part time for these companies.
Also, often parents will engage teachers to come to the house after school and offer private tuition. This is common practice and usually pays well.
The Tertiary Institutions
It is no secret that, just as in the private schools, there are more and less desirable places to work, the same applies to the tertiary institutions. The differences are related to the following in no particular order:
• World load
• Class sizes
• Retention requirements
• Research opportunities
• Vacation allowance
These are generally recognized as the best places to work: The American University of Sharjah (AUS), The University of Sharjah, Zayed University (ZU), The Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research (KU, or Kustar), UAE University in Al Ain (UAEU) The Petroleum Institute of Abu Dhabi, and The American University of Dubai.
The universities generally advertise in the journals of higher education and possibly also the TESOL Arabia Conference. They also advertise on their websites.
The HCT is probably the largest employer in the region as it has separate colleges for both men and women in each Emirate. It is more of a college than a university in the way it views and relates to both students and faculty.
Zayed University has a presence in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It is similar to the HCT in many ways.
The American University of Sharjah is probably the most like a typical American university. While it employs many Americans, it employs people from all over the world and is one of the few universities that is co-ed along with American University of Dubai.
So, the choice is yours and of course theirs. Push the envelope and see what is on the table in this current economic climate. There is still plenty of buzz about the UAE, and if you can adapt to the culture, it is a great place to work.