I was visited in school today by a gentleman called Ayedh Al Tamemi whom I mention here because I worked with him for a key part of last year in an advisory capacity. I was responsible for coaching and mentoring him as he worked his way through his first year in teaching. He represents, in many ways, the 'new' face of education in public schools here in the UAE. Forward thinking, experimental, adaptable and ambitious.
This sets Ayedh apart from other teachers, mostly expat Arabs (from poorer backgrounds), who make up the bulk of the system. Ayedh, whilst still growing as an educator, asked me to write him a recommendation so that he could eventually enrol on a Masters in Educational Leadership in New York. Paid in full by ADEC, whilst he will retain his teaching salary. Way to go! I only wish my MA was paid for in the same way and I got to travel. Sounds envious, but I speak here of the wider investment in people both small and on a global scale.
It's difficult for the other teachers in the UAE public system to raise their own motivation levels. Apart from being ill-prepared, their motivations cannot be the same as Emiratis, since they have less stake in the system. Laziness and apathy is only part of it - mostly expat teachers are on the fringes, dis-empowered and unable to affect change within. They are largely unsupported, have fewer opportunities for professional development and cannot grow roots within the UAE because of the expat set-up.
Public schools, here, are on the whole, poor and the process of change is hindered by these very obstacles. Give people a stake - a reason - and watch desire to see students achieve and professional commitment rise. As an advisor in schools and as a chalkface educator I have long recognised this struggle. It starts with teachers who are happy, supported and appropriately challenged; not with hurdles, bureaucracy, unrealistic expectations, inadequate resources and no clear sense of hope for tomorrow.
Whilst education costs because it requires financial commitment, it should not be at the cost of the individuals who educate.