4. Prioritising and supporting teacher well-being in Dubai’s private school sector

The OECD defines teacher well-being as the cognitive, emotional, health and social conditions pertaining to teachers’ work and their profession (Viac and Fraser, 2020[1]). Research has shown that teacher well-being has important implications not only for the individual, but also for teaching and learning. Teachers that report high levels of well-being tend to have better job performance (OECD, 2014[2]) and are better able to support school improvement (OECD, 2019[3]). In contrast, teachers that experience high levels of stress report lower levels of self-efficacy, job satisfaction and commitment (Collie, Shapka and Perry, 2012[4]; Klassen et al., 2013[5]; Skaalvik and Skaalvik, 2016[6]), and are more likely to leave the profession (Kyriacou, 2001[7]; Skaalvik and Skaalvik, 2018[8]). Given the importance of teacher well-being for the success of education systems, it has become a prominent topic in policy debate worldwide in recent years (Viac and Fraser, 2020[1]).

In Dubai, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has helped raise awareness of teacher well-being through initiatives such as the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey and the Teachers of Dubai campaign. In addition, KHDA has provided several opportunities for teachers’ professional collaboration and learning. All of these offer key dimensions of teacher well-being. Inspired by these efforts, private schools are increasingly providing teachers with tools and information to encourage them to take on healthy habits (e.g. exercise) that support their physical and mental welfare, so that they can better cope with the challenges that arise from work. Despite these achievements, some concerns remain. On average, in 2018, teachers in Dubai reported some of the highest stress levels across countries participating in the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), and many complain of heavy workloads, significant pressure from school management and parents, as well as employment instability.

High levels of stress and anxiety are not only harmful to teachers but may also impact students’ achievement and well-being. Supporting teachers is therefore not only important from the perspective of human dignity and good labour policy, but also for the performance of Dubai’s private education sector. Despite growing recognition among key stakeholders in the sector of the relevance of teacher well-being, this issue did not gain prominence in Dubai’s policy agenda until very recently. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped underline the importance and urgency of the matter.

This chapter looks at how KHDA – in collaboration with other government departments, Dubai’s private schools, the school governors school leaders and teachers – can build on current policies and practices to ensure the conditions that allow teachers to work effectively and to thrive are present across Dubai’s private schools. Policy Objective 4.1 argues that a strategy on teacher well-being with clear goals, benchmarks and a timeline will not only help guide efforts, but also, more importantly, will firmly establish teacher well-being as a policy priority for the sector. Policy Objective 4.2 looks at how teacher collaboration and professional networks can be leveraged to strengthen teachers’ well-being and the profession as whole. Finally, Policy Objective 4.3 discusses how KHDA can partner with other organisations to improve teachers’ working conditions and, in doing so, help strengthen Dubai’s attractiveness to expatriate teachers.

While it is commonly acknowledged that the success of education systems relies on the knowledge, experience and skills of their teachers (Barber and Mourshed, 2007[9]), the importance of teachers’ well-being to build and sustain a high-quality teaching workforce has only emerged in the policy debate relatively recently. As a result, research on teachers’ well-being – what it is, why it matters, and how it can be fostered – is still in its infancy, although it is becoming increasingly popular. This section presents a brief overview of the current state of research on teacher well-being, including the definition and analytical framework that will be used in this chapter, and key findings from the literature on the factors and outcomes associated with well-being.

The OECD conceptual framework defines teacher well-being as “teachers’ responses to the cognitive, emotional, health and social conditions pertaining to their work and their profession” (Viac and Fraser, 2020, p. 18[1]). This is based on the concept of “occupational well-being”, which refers to the meaning and satisfaction that individuals get from their work.

The teacher occupational well-being framework identifies four interrelated dimensions of teachers’ well-being (see Figure 4.1):

  • Cognitive well-being: this encompasses processes such as attention, the development of knowledge, judgement and evaluation, problem solving and decision-making.

  • Subjective well-being: this refers to good mental states, including all of the various evaluations, positive and negative, that people make of their lives and the affective reactions of people to their experiences (OECD, 2013[10]). It addresses topics such as satisfaction with the working environment and sense of purpose with the work.

  • Physical and mental well-being: this addresses psychosomatic symptoms and complaints experienced at work.

  • Social well-being: this refers to the quality and depth of teachers’ social interactions with their peers, school management staff, parents and students.

As observed in Figure 4.1, a number of external factors shape teachers’ working conditions and can affect their well-being. This includes, primarily, the quality of teachers’ working environment, which can be broken down into job demands (e.g. workload, performance evaluation) and job resources (e.g. training opportunities, level of autonomy). Factors at the system level, such as the teaching career structure and material conditions, also matter for teachers. Policies and practices must therefore act on and take into consideration the external factors that support (or hinder) teachers’ well-being.

Typically, interventions aimed at improving teaching practices have failed to recognise their impact on teachers’ well-being. This deserves closer attention from policymakers and practitioners in Dubai and elsewhere. This section explores some of the factors and outcomes associated with teacher well-being.

Research has identified several key factors associated with teacher’s occupational well-being, which include teachers’:

  • Job satisfaction: high levels of job satisfaction are positively associated with teachers’ self-efficacy, motivation and commitment to teaching (Collie, Shapka and Perry, 2012[4]).

  • Working conditions: psychosomatic complaints can often be traced to unfavourable work circumstances such as long working hours (Van Horn et al., 2004[11]), high job demands or low job control (De Lange et al., 2003[12]).

  • Social relations: collaboration between teachers signals a healthy working climate, which is a vital ingredient of social well-being (Viac and Fraser, 2020[1]). Moreover, it helps build networks where teachers can access knowledge and mobilise skills (Chan, 2002[13]; Collie and Martin, 2017[14]; Desrumaux et al., 2015[15]; Hakanen, Bakker and Schaufeli, 2006[16]). On the other hand, student misbehaviour, issues with parents, lack of support from management and leadership, and challenging situations that arise with students can be damaging (Mccallum et al., n.d.[17]).

  • Professional development and learning: Teachers’ participation in professional development activities, including induction and mentoring programmes, classroom observation visits and conferences, provide teachers with the skills, knowledge and expertise needed for effective teaching. This is conducive to teachers’ cognitive well-being (Viac and Fraser, 2020[1]).

As revealed in the OECD conceptual framework, teachers’ state of well-being can have a number of implications for themselves and the system more broadly (see Figure 4.1).

  • Inward outcomes for teachers include, for example, teachers’ work engagement, their willingness to stay in the profession, and teachers’ levels of stress and burnout. Evidence shows that high levels of job satisfaction are positively associated with teachers’ self-efficacy, motivation and commitment to teaching (Collie, Shapka and Perry, 2012[4]). In contrast, high levels of stress and feelings of burnout can lead to lower levels of self-efficacy, job satisfaction, and commitment (Collie, Shapka and Perry, 2012[4]; Klassen et al., 2013[5]; Skaalvik and Skaalvik, 2016[6])and a higher number of teachers’ leaving the profession (Kyriacou, 2001[7]; Skaalvik and Skaalvik, 2018[8]).

  • Outward outcomes refer to classroom processes (e.g. support for students, frequency of feedback) and direct outcomes on students (e.g. students’ motivation and attitude towards learning, students’ self-efficacy). For example, research indicates that teachers’ commitment to teaching lead to better job performance (OECD, 2014[2]). Chapter 5 discusses how the student-teacher relationship influences students’ well-being.

An analysis of well-being policies and practices in Dubai’s private sector first needs to examine the main issues related to teachers’ occupational welfare, or in other words, the challenges that policies and practices need to address. See Table 1.1 in Chapter 1 for a discussion on the methodology and main data sources used for this purpose.

Evidence from TALIS 2018 and the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey offer an overview – albeit incomplete – of the state of teachers’ well-being in Dubai. Overall, the majority of teachers in Dubai (90% of lower secondary teachers1) is satisfied with their jobs. This is similar to the average across the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (90%) as well as Australia (90%), Korea (89%) Singapore (89%) and the OECD average2 (90%). These findings are echoed in the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey (The Wellbeing Lab, 2018[18]). While causality cannot be demonstrated, the following factors may help explain Dubai’s high levels of job satisfaction:

  • Teachers feel valued: self-reported data suggest that nearly three-quarters of teachers in Dubai (72%) feel that their profession is valued in society, three times higher than the OECD average (26%). While it is still early to tell what the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been – and will be – in this regard, there is some indication that the educational community has recognised and appreciated teachers’ hard work over the past months. Data from the Dubai Student Well-being Census (DSWC) 2020 show that the share of students who report a high emotional engagement with their teachers increased significantly – from 59% and 57% in 2019 to 70% and 65% among Grades 6-9 and 10-12, respectively (KHDA, 2021[19]).

  • Teachers have plenty of opportunities for professional collaboration and networking: Table 4.1 shows that a high percentage of teachers in Dubai engage in collaborative activities in their schools, such as team conferences and discussions. In addition, 59% of teachers report participating in inter-school professional networks for professional development purposes. These types of networks are important for building a support system that goes beyond the boundaries of a given school. Although participation is higher than the OECD average (40%), it is lower than the UAE average (70%). Moreover, a high share of teachers participates in other forms of development: 71% of teachers participate in induction, compared to 59% of teachers in the UAE and to 29% across the OECD. Nearly 30% of teachers have a mentor, compared to 42% on average across the UAE and to only 9% of teachers in OECD countries. These forms of support can be particularly important for new or incoming teachers to become familiar with the culture, policies and procedures of the school and sector.

    The move towards digital or hybrid modes of schooling – brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic – can pose a challenge to teacher co-operation. At the same time, recent developments have created new opportunities. Initiatives such as What Works X have not only helped sustain the culture of collaboration across Dubai’s schools during this period, but may prove valuable in the medium- to long-term as well.

Nevertheless, teachers experience issues that can negatively affect their well-being, including:

  • A high degree of turnover: less than one-third of teachers (29%) have been at the same school for six years or more (KHDA, 2020[21]). Moreover, TALIS 2018 data show that 41% of teachers of Dubai would like to change to another school if that were possible, which is higher than the UAE average (38%) and double the OECD average (20%) (Figure 4.2). In addition, 26% of teachers under 513 would like to leave teaching within the next five years (OECD average 14%). Although a regular rotation of teachers might be desirable for the professional development of teachers and to provide students with equal access to high-quality teachers, high levels of attrition can reflect poor management as well as challenging working conditions within schools. Teacher turnover is expected to increase in the short- and medium-term because of the impact of the pandemic (see Chapter 1).

  • High prevalence of short-term contracts: 59% of teachers in Dubai’s private school sector have a fixed-term contract in contrast to 18% across the OECD. Around 10% of teachers have fixed-term contracts of under a year, although this is lower than the UAE average (20%) (OECD, 2019[22]). This type of working arrangement gives schools the flexibility to respond to changes in their organisational and teaching needs and evaluate the skills of new teachers without the commitment that a permanent contract would bring (Bruns, Filmer and Patrinos, 2011[23]). However, from teachers’ perspective, fixed-terms contracts – in particular short-term fixed-term contracts – can cause anxiety and stress, which can undermine their well-being and performance. Moreover, the dual market that emerges from this state of affairs can create inequalities (e.g. teachers with fixed-term contracts may have different statutory rights) and hinder collaboration and professional growth (OECD, 2019[3]).

  • High levels of stress: 28% of teachers in Dubai’s private schools report experiencing stress a lot, compared to only 18% on average across the OECD. The main sources of stress relate to having too much marking, keeping up with changing requirements from authorities, being held responsible for students’ achievement and having too much administrative work to do (see Figure 4.3).

  • Mental and physical health issues: 9% of teachers in Dubai report that their job negatively impacts their mental health (OECD average: 7%), and 10% report that their job negatively affects their physical health (OECD average: 8%). According to the 2018 Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey, teachers tend to get less sleep than most other school staff (The Wellbeing Lab, 2018[18]).

Quantitative and qualitative evidence reveal a high degree of heterogeneity in terms of teacher well-being and working conditions. According to TALIS 2018 results, 15% of the variance in teacher’s well-being levels is explained by differences between schools in the United Arab Emirates. Across private schools in Dubai, 9% of the variance is explained by differences between schools, suggesting that the Dubai private sector is more homogeneous than the UAE school sector as a whole. That being said, the variance explained by schools differences is higher in Dubai than in Australia (8%), England (United Kingdom) (4%) and Singapore (4%) (OECD, 2019[22]). In other words, school differences could be playing a larger influence in teachers’ well-being levels in Dubai than in aforementioned systems. Likewise, stakeholder interviews indicated considerable differences in teachers’ experiences and perceptions. While most reported working in positive and open school environments, some reported feeling disregarded and isolated in the schools in which they work or had worked. This points to the need for KHDA to undertake a more disaggregated analysis – and, potentially in the future, reporting – of the data to identify and monitor the schools and sub-sectors in which teachers’ well-being may be particularly at risk.

KHDA can help build the impetus and commitment to strengthen teacher well-being much like it did with regards to school improvement and collaboration (Cuadra and Thacker, 2014[24]) (Thacker, Abdo and Nichifor, 2019[25]). By developing a long-term strategy for teacher well-being, KHDA will not only direct stakeholders’ efforts, but also, more importantly, help place teacher well-being firmly as a policy priority for the sector. Clear targets and performance indicators can enhance accountability and monitoring. In conjunction with the other measures discussed in this chapter, a strategy will be critical for the sector to retain its attraction to highly-qualified expatriate teachers and sustain its improvement path (see Chapter 1).

KHDA has built a rich dataset on teacher well-being. In collaboration with The Wellbeing Lab, KHDA has been conducting the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey in Dubai’s private schools annually since 2018 (see Box 4.1 for further information on the survey’s design, implementation and dissemination). The Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey covers a comprehensive set of well-being dimensions, including individuals’ positive emotions and social relations. The selection of indicators is not only aligned with what international evidence shows matters for teachers’ well-being (see section “The research on teacher well-being”), but also focuses on factors that can be improved upon through individual, school and system action. The UAE’s participation in TALIS in 20184 provides internationally comparable data on teachers’ and school leaders’ working conditions and learning environments. This includes indicators on teachers’ employment status, working hours, participation in professional development opportunities and job satisfaction.

The implementation of the surveys and the dissemination of the results have raised awareness around the importance of teacher well-being and its many dimensions. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has also helped elevate the issue on Dubai’s policy agenda. On one hand, school closures and the move to distance learning have magnified existing challenges (e.g. work-life balance) and/or created new difficulties for teachers (e.g. use of information and communications technology [ICT] for teaching). On the other hand, the crisis has exposed some of the gaps in Dubai’s policy framework, in particular with regards to teachers’ contracts (see Policy Objective 4.3). While it is still early to tell what the outcomes of the COVID-19 crisis will be, growing pressures could help accelerate changes in the sector.

The OECD fact-finding mission revealed that most interviewees, including board members, school leaders, teachers, parents and students, were aware of the importance of teachers’ welfare. Some revealed, however, a “utilitarian approach” to teacher well-being, seeing this as a means of improving students’ and schools’ outcomes rather than as a goal in and of itself.

In addition, there was a reported feeling among many teachers that existing policies and practices could be more attuned to their needs and circumstances. With the exception of the Teachers of Dubai social media campaign, there are few programmes at the sector level that specifically target or cater to teachers. While teachers can participate in most programmes and events organised by KHDA, such as What Works, the emphasis of these activities is often placed on schools as a whole. As a result, discussions or trainings can be unsuitable or insufficient for teachers, both in terms of format and focus. This prevents them from making the most of this experience.

Across schools, the emphasis on and commitment to strengthening well-being still rarely extends to teachers. Even in schools that invite and encourage teachers to take part in well-being initiatives (e.g. Mindfulness Mondays), these tend to be much too broad. While a comprehensive approach to school well-being is crucial and can support teachers’ well-being (see Chapter 3), it is important that it be complemented by targeted interventions that address teachers’ specific needs.

The Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey has provided periodic and reliable data on teachers’ well-being (see Box 4.1). The clear language and presentation of the reports have enabled a clear understanding of the results and encouraged discussions around the topic. However, there is scope for making this a more effective tool, yielding actionable information to support stakeholders make improvements and monitor progress.

First, because this is an off-the-shelf workplace survey that has undergone few adaptations5, many items are quite broad and not specific to education. For example, questions include whether interviewees had “opportunities to build competence”, or were “satisfied with their work”. While it is important for a survey to include general questions, introducing more specific questions could not only enable respondents to reflect on a deeper level, but also provide much more detailed information on their well-being. This can help schools and teachers identify the precise issues that require addressing. Survey items could be further detailed or complemented with follow-up questions. For instance, the example provided above could be accompanied by the following question: “I had opportunities to build competence around: a) administrative tasks, b) classroom management, c) pedagogy”.

Second, by collecting data on teachers’ working status and conditions (e.g. type of contract, working hours, roles and responsibilities of teachers in the school) (see Policy Objective 4.3), the Survey could offer relevant evidence for policymakers. For example, this type of information can reveal whether specific teacher groups are struggling, and/or which dimensions of their working conditions may be particularly concerning (e.g. residency status, length and conditions of contract). These results can guide KHDA’s efforts in improving teachers’ working conditions (see Policy Objective 4.3)

Similarly, a more systematic linkage of the Survey with other sector-level programmes could enable more tailored and effective policies in this area. For example, linking the Dubai Student Wellbeing Census (DWSC) and the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey results could provide relevant evidence on the associations between teacher and student well-being, as well as teacher well-being and student achievement. Chapter 5 will discuss the some of the steps KHDA can take to support this type of exercise.

Neither schools nor KHDA can access or identify individual-level results from the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey. Nevertheless, according to stakeholder interviews, many teachers and other school staff doubt the anonymity of the survey. One of the main reasons for their distrust comes from the fact that they often receive the link to the Survey in their professional emails, which they believe to be easily accessible to schools. Teachers’ uneasiness around the survey means that many are wary of expressing their true thoughts for fear of retaliation from the schools’ management and leadership. This has important implications for the reliability of the survey’s results and might explain why a large share of school staff fails to take part in this exercise. In the 2018-2019 iteration, only around half of teachers in Dubai’s private schools (54%) answered the survey (The Wellbeing Lab, 2018[18]). Improving coverage can enhance the usefulness of the tool, in particular for schools where staff participation is particularly low. Reassuring teachers will be critical to encourage them to participate in the survey in an open and truthful manner.

In Dubai’s private school sector, discussions and interventions around teacher well-being tend to place a strong emphasis on individuals’ self-reliance and self-accountability. For example, mindfulness practices are encouraged as a way for teachers to cope with and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Research has shown that individuals’ actions and perceptions play a large role in determining their own well-being (OECD, 2020[20]; Van Droogenbroeck et al., 2021[26]). However, relying solely on this type of approach can make teachers feel isolated and unsupported, in particular when they are struggling with job demands, including many which may be beyond their control (e.g. lesson preparation and classroom management). As KHDA sets up a policy framework for well-being in schools and an increasing number of schools develop a whole-of-school approach to well-being (see Chapter 3), there is scope for strengthening the message that teachers’ well-being is also a collective responsibility.

While there is growing recognition of the importance of teachers’ well-being in Dubai’s private sector, for the most part, policies and practices do not cater to their specific needs and circumstances, and few explicitly target teachers. This policy gap is concerning given that Dubai’s teachers face high levels of stress and employment instability, among other issues, concerns that have escalated during the pandemic.

A long-term strategy can create the blueprint for improvements in the sector. First, it can help crystallise and disseminate a sector-wide commitment towards teachers’ well-being that sends an important signal to teachers in the Emirate and abroad. Second, it can offer direction to stakeholders’ actions. This can not only help bring cohesion to existing initiatives, but also guide stakeholders’ focus towards the most important and urgent issues as well as the most effective strategies. Third, it provides a tool for monitoring that can keep stakeholders accountable and on track, and enable policies to be adapted in light of experience.

Engaging schools, teachers and other key actors in the development of this strategy will be key to build a sense of ownership and ensure its take-up by the community. It is also a way to ensure it addresses the practical challenges teachers face (see Policy Objective 4.3). Likewise, this strategy needs to be firmly aligned with other key documents, including KHDA’s strategy map and the Policy Framework for Well-being in Schools (see Chapter 3) to ensure a coherent approach to well-being in Dubai’s private school sector.

KHDA has significant experience with strategic plans, which should be leveraged during this exercise. The strategy’s successful implementation will require:

  • Clearly defined goals: a strategy on teachers’ well-being should define concrete goals guiding the action of stakeholders. The goals should specify areas of intervention (e.g. teachers’ training, school community, recruitment, workload, etc.). Performance indicators – linked to the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey – and a timeline can enable monitoring. The Australian Northern Territory Teacher Wellbeing Strategy 2021-22 (Box 4.2) offers an interesting model of this approach that have valuable insights not only for monitoring at a system level but also for school operations.

  • Sector-wide consultation with stakeholders: given the relevance of this strategy, it needs to be developed in consultation with key stakeholders, including school governors, parents, principals and teachers. It is particularly important that teachers recognise themselves in this strategy and feel a sense of ownership towards it.

  • Sector-level coherence: the teachers’ well-being strategy must be aligned with other initiatives, including those recommended in this report, notably the Policy Framework for Well-being in Schools (see Chapter 3) and guidelines of teachers’ working conditions (see Policy Objective 4.3).

  • Periodic reviews: the strategic plan would benefit from periodic reviews to assess whether key targets are being met and/or additional goals and indicators need to be included. These reviews offer an opportunity for reflecting changes to teachers’ working reality.

  • A collective approach to teacher well-being: the Emirate’s current focus on individual accountability and self-care should be complemented with a message on collective responsibility. It will be crucial for the strategy to emphasise this message.

At present, issues related to the design, implementation and dissemination of the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey mean that the data collected is not as reliable and relevant as it might be, therefore preventing stakeholders from using it to action change effectively.

The OECD review team would encourage the organisation’s leadership to reconsider its current approach. The next steps would depend on whether KHDA can work together with The Wellbeing Lab to adapt the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey in order to make it a more useful tool for the Emirate’s private education sector. If there is limited flexibility to make the necessary changes to the current instrument, KHDA could consider developing its own survey in-house and/or in partnership with other stakeholders. Regardless of the approach KHDA opts for, the OECD would strongly recommend that the organisation continues collecting sector-wide comparative information, which will be key for KHDA to monitor teacher well-being across the sector and design and implement relevant policies and practices.

If KHDA opts to maintain the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey it should consider the following actions:

  • Promoting and building trust in the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey: As reported, the percentage of teachers answering the Survey is relatively low. This presents a significant limitation if the instrument is to inform action at the sector and school levels and to monitor the implementation of the teacher well-being strategy (see above). To address this issue, KHDA may consider:

    1. a. Organising a communication campaign to promote the Survey and debunk any misunderstandings. Involving teacher representatives and networks (see Policy Objective 4.2) will be important to ensuring that the tone and messaging are adequate.

    2. b. Asking teachers and other staff to sign a confidentiality agreement before answering the survey. It will be equally important to clearly communicate to teachers what protection this offers them.

    3. c. Reminding teachers that they are able to respond to the Survey by logging in through their personal email addresses. In the immediate term, this might be an option to help teachers feel secure.

  • Taking advantage of the periodic implementation of Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey to build longitudinal data that supports policy design and implementation: Since the Survey is implemented on a yearly basis, it presents the ideal vehicle to track the progress of school and individual teachers across time. The Wellbeing Lab already undertakes some analysis of these data. However, there are opportunities to make further use of these results. For example, to monitor the progress of the strategy (see above), and to enable timely interventions. The Australian Northern Territory Teachers’ Occupational Health and Wellbeing Survey collects longitudinal data (see Box 4.2).

  • Revising the questionnaire to ensure that it collects useful evidence: in consultation with schools, teachers and teacher networks, KHDA and The Wellbeing Lab should revisit the questionnaire to ensure that it provides stakeholders with useful data, and the appropriate level of disaggregation to inform action. Current items could be expanded to collect more detailed information. For example, the current item “I had all the resources I needed to successfully do my work” could be revised to cover the types of resources that individuals might need (e.g. infrastructure, computers and other ICT tools, books, etc.).

If, however, KHDA opts to discontinue the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey, it should consider:

  • Developing its own teacher and staff well-being survey: this exercise should be undertaken in consultation with schools, teacher networks and teacher representatives to ensure that the new instrument collects useful data, and the appropriate level of disaggregation to inform action. As will be discussed in Chapter 5, this could help promote – and at the same time, would benefit from – a stronger research culture and further technical capacity in KHDA. Nevertheless, KHDA could also partner with relevant and capable organisations with expertise in the field to undertake this operation.

  • Organising a communication campaign to promote the survey: given the issues faced with the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey, KHDA should plan a communication campaign from the onset of the project to promote participation and trust in the survey. Stakeholders’ participation in the survey’s development will likely help in this regard, but further steps will also be required, including potentially some of the points raised above.

In either case, KHDA should prioritise:

  • Undertaking an in-depth analysis of the evidence available: as will be discussed in Chapter 5, KHDA and the Dubai Schools Inspections Bureau (DSIB) could make more effective use of existing data collection tools, such as the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey, TALIS and the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), to identify and monitor system-, sector- and school-level issues, patters and trends. In the case of teacher-related data, it is important for current collection, analysis and reporting to enable a more disaggregated perspective of the sectors’ performance.

One of the key features of high-performing education systems is the existence of a highly professionalised teaching workforce. An important dimension of professionalism, in teaching as in other jobs that require specialised knowledge and skills, is giving teachers a leading role in defining policies related to their practice, development and career. This implies the existence of fora – such as teacher professional bodies and networks – where teachers can collectively reflect upon and shape such policies and practices. For teachers, participation in such fora can create a sense of ownership of their work, identity around knowledge and skills and agency and responsibility for the profession’s development (Guerriero, 2017[28]). This can support teachers’ job satisfaction and status (Ingersoll and Collins, 2018[29]), which are key dimensions of their well-being. International evidence has also shown that the successful implementation of key policies, such as the one recommended in Policy Objective 4.1, depends on the engagement and support provided by teaching bodies (OECD, 2019[3]).

Since the mid-2010s, KHDA’s efforts to strengthen collaboration across Dubai’s private school sector have led to the development of informal professional networks of teachers. In addition, quantitative and qualitative evidence points to a strong collaborative culture among teachers within schools. However, the types of collaboration that are common fail to promote a sense of professional agency and identity that supports teachers’ well-being and high-quality teaching. This section argues that a key step in supporting teachers will be to professionalise their role further and to strengthen their collaborative networks.

Through social media campaigns and other initiatives, KHDA has helped raise awareness of and appreciation for the important role that teachers play in Dubai’s education system (see Box 4.3). The fact that KHDA’s initiatives are organised in collaboration with other key stakeholders, such as parents and KHDA Director General, Dr. Abdulla Al Karam, reveals the widespread support for teachers. Moreover, these programmes have helped establish important bonds between teachers and different actors, which have helped foster a sense of a community. While causality cannot be established, it is possible that these campaigns have fostered teachers’ sense of worth. As discussed above, the share of Dubai’s teachers that report feeling valued in society is much higher than in OECD countries. Given how important it is for teachers to feel appreciated, KHDA may try to find mechanisms to promote and expand these initiatives to reach more teachers.

Over half of teachers in Dubai’s private schools (59%) participate in professional networks (Table 4.1). Stakeholder interviews suggest that inter-school teacher collaboration is particularly common within large networks, such as SABIS or GEMS, and across schools following similar curricula (e.g. the International Baccalaureate or the British curricula) or targeting a similar population group (e.g. German speakers). For the most part, these networks have emerged organically from common challenges and interests, and participation remains informal.

KHDA’s initiatives to foster collaboration across Dubai’s private schools (see Box 3.6 in Chapter 3) have mainly targeted schools as the principal target of intervention, although teachers have also been beneficiaries of these initiatives. This has had a number of positive effects in the sector. First, by bringing together teachers from very different backgrounds, curricula and pedagogical approaches, KHDA’s initiatives have helped break some of the silos and clusters that had emerged. Second, the programmes have provided teachers and other stakeholders from disadvantaged or more isolated institutions with access to professional networks, which many previously lacked. With schools moving to distance or hybrid education models because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the value of these networks for teachers has heightened. What Works X events have not only helped keep teachers connected and supported throughout this period, but have also focused on many issues related to teachers’ well-being (e.g. balancing workloads).

However, stakeholder interviews suggest that, with the exception of What Works, teachers are not always familiar with or active in KHDA’s collaborative initiatives. A number of potential explanations were raised for this, including programmes’ requirements and teachers’ busy schedules. The fact that programmes rarely focus on teachers’ needs and contexts may also be an explanation. On the other hand, nothing indicates that low participation is due to a lack of interest from teachers – quite the contrary. The emergence of the Living Arabic initiative – a bottom-up initiative by Arabic teachers in Dubai – illustrates teachers’ growing appetite for opportunities to network and connect with others (see Box 4.3). Given the benefits of professional networking for teachers’ professional development and well-being, the challenge for KHDA will be to encourage teachers’ sustained participation in these types of programmes and to ensure they make the most of these opportunities.

There is a strong culture of collaboration within Dubai’s private schools. As shown in the results of Table 4.1, a high share of teachers engage in professional collaboration on a regular basis. For example, over half of teachers in Dubai report engaging in exchanges and conversations with colleagues at least once a month. These activities can support co-ordination and strengthen social bonds within a school. This is likely possible because of a strong sense of trust within schools. TALIS 2018 data show that 91% of lower secondary teachers in Dubai believe they can rely in their colleagues (OECD average: 87%).

Still, teachers in Dubai are less likely to take part in more systematic and prescribed forms of collaboration, such as teaching jointly or observing other teachers’ classes that exist in other high-performing systems, such as Shanghai (China) (Box 4.4). This is a missed opportunity for the sector, given that it is the deeper forms of teacher collaboration, such as team teaching, that promote the establishment of professional learning communities (OECD, 2016[31]) and that have a more significant impact on teachers’ job satisfaction, self-efficacy and retention (Mostafa and Pál, 2018[32]; OECD, 2020[20]).

While the benefits of collaborative cultures in schools are widely recognised, there is still limited knowledge regarding the policy frameworks that best support them. Top-down attempts to impose professional collaboration may be counter-productive. Compulsory time requirements can overcrowd staff schedules and in turn inhibit teacher-led collaboration and innovation. On the other hand, relying exclusively on stakeholders’ agency, without providing supports in the form of dedicated time, evidence-based protocols and policy environments that encourage collaboration, feedback and innovation risks leaving many teachers behind (OECD, 2019[3]).

An important feature of highly professionalised teaching workforces is the existence of formal and informal collective bodies at the national and/or subnational levels, which have the legitimacy, autonomy and responsibility to exercise a degree of self-regulation and to actively shape their work and its conditions (OECD, 2019[3]). In Dubai and the UAE, there are few inter-school teaching professional bodies, and those that exist are relatively different from those present in most OECD and high-performing countries in structure, membership and focus. The most notable example is that of the Teacher Socials, a grass-roots network established in 2016 by a group of expatriate teachers from the public and private school sectors. Teacher Socials allows teachers to connect through online platforms, including Facebook and more recently an app. Membership is informal, and teachers do not need to register officially or pay a fee. The network has predominantly focused on supporting teachers’ social connections and well-being, by organising events, offering discounts on products and services and disseminating tips and articles on how teachers can enhance their quality of life. The resources on offer are relatively general and not specifically related to or targeted at teaching or teachers.

The Teacher Socials is still some steps away from being a teaching professional organisation as those observed in OECD and other high-performing countries and are rarely invited to take part in policy debates at the sector or national level. However, they have been progressively taking on a more active role, articulating teachers’ collective needs and advocating for change (Rizvi, 2020[34]). For example, Teacher Socials members have raised the need for stronger sector and system-level accountability over teachers’ working conditions (see Policy Objective 4.3). An important step to promote the professionalisation of teaching in the Emirate will be for KHDA to develop closer links with the Teacher Socials, as well as with other teaching professional bodies (e.g. Teacher for All).

Over the years, KHDA has developed a number of mechanisms to engage with the wider community. Social media and other digital platforms and tools have been expertly used to communicate with the public. KHDA has also set up – more or less formalised – groups, such as the KHDA Well-being Reference Group and the KHDA “Moms of Dubai”. Through these networks, KHDA is able to consult the perspectives of key stakeholders (e.g. parents) on planned activities or initiatives underway. For example, the KHDA Well-being Reference Group has been closely involved in the adaptation of the DSWC to the Dubai context. While teachers can take part in these groups, at present, few do, and there are no specific groups targeted at teachers.

Moreover, at the school level, teachers are rarely consulted by the school leadership/management. For example, most school boards include representatives of the main school actors, including principals and students, but few invite teachers. School principals are often expected to raise issues on behalf of teachers. Having teachers’ voice filtered by the school administration is not only inadequate to capture teachers’ needs and concerns, but could also ultimately hinder teachers’ sense of professional agency. There is, therefore, scope for ensuring more effective teacher engagement, as well as wider representation of teachers at the sector and school levels.

Developing a sense of professional identify has benefits in terms of teachers’ cognitive, subjective, and social well-being. In addition, it can support higher-quality teaching. Teachers’ professional identity, as in other professions like medicine and law, can be strengthened and supported through organisations, both formal and informal.

Moreover, these organisations provide a vehicle for teachers to influence policies that affect them. Effective stakeholder consultation and engagement can ensure that key needs and concerns are considered in the policy design and implementation, which, in turn, can raise the effectiveness of interventions (Viennet and Pont, 2017[35]).

Offering opportunities for open dialogue and co-construction of policies and practices that relate to their working conditions and professional agenda can also help strengthen the status of the profession as a whole. This is particularly relevant given that a significant proportion of teachers in Dubai are expatriate and many come from countries with a tradition of and expectation for active engagement and public debates.

Given Dubai’s diversified school system and highly mobile teacher workforce, teachers will need even greater support to connect and build the types of relationships that foster a professional identity and agency. KHDA could support these efforts by:

  • Developing stable and formal linkages with the teaching workforce: KHDA would benefit from establishing more stable and formalised connections with Teacher Socials and other relevant professional networks, as well as with the teaching workforce more broadly. This can take different forms such as:

    1. a. Establishing one or multiple KHDA Reference Group(s) on Teacher Well-being, with a representative sample of teachers (i.e. different curricula, background, socio-economic profile).

    2. b. Organising periodic meetings (e.g. once a month) with the KHDA Reference Group(s) as well as with existing professional organisations to update and discuss the latest policy developments affecting the educational sector and teachers, in particular.

  • Involving teacher organisations and representatives in policy discussions that impact the teaching workforce. For example, KHDA could request their input to the development and implementation of Dubai’s well-being in schools policy framework (see Chapter 3), the strategy of teachers’ well-being (Policy Objective 4.1) and the school guidelines to foster and improve teachers’ working conditions (Policy Objective 4.3).

  • Advocating for the establishment of an Emirate-wide body that includes teacher representatives from the public and private sectors. If this consideration is taken forward, this body should also be involved in policy discussions.

  • Providing teacher-led organisations with platforms to facilitate their collaboration. The What Works events might be leveraged for this purpose (see next section).

  • Encouraging schools to engage teachers in decision-making. Similar to the concept of well-being champions that KHDA has disseminated across the sector, KHDA could encourage schools to develop well-being committees made up of staff, teacher and student representatives. Committee participants would be elected by their peers on a regular basis (see Chapter 3). In addition, KHDA could encourage schools to invite teacher representatives to join school boards.

There is an emerging culture of teacher collaboration within and across schools in Dubai’s private sector. Looking ahead, there is scope for expanding existing programmes to allow more teachers to take part in these activities, and to make them more effective at strengthening teachers’ professional development and well-being. Reinforcing peer collaboration among teachers can also support professional identity and agency, thereby reinforcing the activities proposed in the previous section.

KHDA should consider:

  • Mapping the offer for professional learning and collaboration opportunities, as well as identifying teachers’ needs and barriers to participation: KHDA could identify and categorise the current offer of professional learning opportunities and teacher networks. Information should be collected on suppliers (if applicable), target audience, fees, provision mode, content focus, frequency, teachers’ participation rates and profile. In parallel, KHDA could conduct surveys to identify teachers’ needs for or challenges with regards to professional learning and collaboration. Alternatively, items could be included in the Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey. Based on this exercise and in collaboration with external partners, KHDA could identify and address gaps and issues, in terms of content and format (see some suggestions below).

  • Supporting peer learning, collaboration and networking within and across schools: Teachers require support to collaborate with peers. From schools’ perspective, this may mean providing additional time for those that engage in collaborative learning activities and/or financial compensation for those who lead these programmes.

    KHDA can also support teacher-led or school-led efforts by:

    • Revisiting UAE teacher professional standards to ensure that they promote (or at least do not hinder) well-being and professional collaboration. This step could be taken at the same time as stakeholders revise UAE’s teacher standards to ensure they support the different dimensions of teachers’ well-being (see potential next steps under Policy Objective 4.3).

    • Investing in platforms for professional exchange. KHDA could consider organising What Works events targeted specifically at teachers or creating a spin-off What Works event for teachers. Regardless of the approach, it will be important that KHDA consult with teacher organisations and representatives on the topics, formats and speakers. Engaging teachers in the development of these programmes could be even more beneficial to support teachers’ sense of agency.

    • Developing schemes whereby participation in What Works events or similar programmes count as credits for teachers’ professional learning requirements (if applicable).

Dubai’s private schools offer, for the most part, clear career paths, attractive salaries and benefits to teachers. This is important in a context where nearly all teachers are expatriates. In addition, as discussed in previous chapters, an increasing number of schools have set up programmes to support students’ and staff’s well-being. Nevertheless, evidence collected by the OECD review team suggests that school-level practices may be negatively affecting teachers’ well-being. Pressure from schools’ management and parents, heavy workloads, as well as uncertain contractual conditions have left many teachers feeling stressed and anxious, and a significant share report wanting to leave the school in which they work. While rare, there are also cases of more severe malpractices as documented by interviewees. These issues – many of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic – can have significant detrimental effects on teachers’ quality of life and on teaching. In the medium to long run, this could damage the attractiveness of the Emirate for expatriates.

Efforts are therefore needed to improve and regulate teachers’ working conditions, as a way to strengthen teachers’ well-being and ensure the sustainability of Dubai’s education system. The next steps for KHDA will be to collaborate with other government institutions, teacher representatives, existing teacher professional organisations and Dubai’s private schools to support decent working conditions across the sector.

Given the relatively limited pool of local teachers, private schools in Dubai are heavily reliant on expatriate teachers. In order to encourage highly-qualified individuals to relocate to Dubai – often from another continent – schools have made efforts to offer attractive contractual packages. Since the cost of living in Dubai is high, contracts often include additional benefits, such as accommodation (e.g. housing allowance or shared accommodation with other teachers), flights (yearly air ticket), health insurance and visa assistance. Over time, these endowments have come to be considered the minimum benefit package for teachers. While uncommon, there have been cases of schools using these benefits to manipulate teachers once in the job, for example, by delaying or holding them (Rizvi, 2020[34]). These tactics6 can generate more stress and anxiety in teachers, in particular for incoming teachers who may be unfamiliar with the system.

Limited data prevent an in-depth analysis of teachers’ salaries, either across the sector or relative to international benchmarks. However, evidence suggests that teacher salaries and endowments vary significantly across the sector, with teachers in certain schools – mainly those following Western curricula – earning considerably more than their peers in Indian schools, for example. Nevertheless, a clearer understanding of salary in relation to well-being is needed.

Teachers’ working conditions in Dubai’s private sector are regulated by UAE labour regulations7. However, in a review from 2015-16, the International Labour Organization (ILO) identified a number of shortcomings and gaps in the UAE’s labour market inspection system and normative framework (ILO, n.d.[36]; n.d.[37]). While these issues are not exclusive to the education sector, they can put teachers – as well as other staff members – at risk of unlawful practices. Incoming teachers may be particularly vulnerable to this. As discussed above, they may be unfamiliar with the system and more specifically, with their rights, existing support systems and reporting mechanisms. With smaller networks, incoming teachers may feel less supported or have no one to turn to for advice. The establishment of a modern labour market inspection system will be key to ensuring decent working conditions and health and safety standards at workplaces across all schools in the sector.

KHDA’s efforts to raise awareness on well-being more generally (see Chapters 2 and 3) but also, increasingly, teacher’s and staff’s well-being more specifically, are yielding encouraging results. A growing number of private schools has introduced measures such as awareness raising campaigns (e.g. Well-being Wednesdays), information sessions, and/or in-school activities (e.g. mindfulness programmes) to help members of the school community develop the knowledge and tools required to live healthy and fulfilling lifestyles. While more reliable data would be required to assess their take-up and effectiveness, stakeholder interviews suggest that teachers tend to appreciate these initiatives. However, the fact that these initiatives rarely target teachers can pose obstacles for their participation. For example, activities may take part during the school day – i.e. teachers’ working hours – preventing them from joining. Teachers are also frequently expected to organise and conduct initiatives, which might put further pressure on their workload.

Teacher standards set common definitions, goals and expectations for teachers. Internationally and in the UAE, teacher standards guide the development and revision of initial teacher education and training programmes, performance appraisal systems, licensing processes and professional learning opportunities (Guerriero, 2017[28]). Teacher standards ensure a shared language around expectations for teachers and teacher practices, which is particularly relevant for education systems such as Dubai’s private school sector, with a heterogeneous teacher workforce (OECD, 2020[38]).

Standards are also an enabling condition for teacher well-being. Research has found that workers can experience stress when the work demands placed on them do not match their support at work, knowledge, skills or ability to cope at work (Kyriacou, 2001[7]). Therefore, clear expectations concerning the knowledge, experience and skills that teachers require at each stage of their careers and ensuring that teachers are adequately prepared to take on these roles can ease and prevent anxiety, stress or feelings of inadequacy among teachers.

Self-reported data from TALIS show that, on average, teachers work 41 hours per week, which compares to 38 hours across OECD countries. However, according to national reports, many school disregard the contractual number of hours, leading in some cases to teachers working over 70 hours per week8 (Rizvi, 2020[39]). Tighter regulation and monitoring will be important to identify such practices and curtail them. This is particularly urgent given anecdotal evidence that these types of issues have become more common after the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

Evidence suggests that the way teachers use their time could also be reviewed to strengthen their well-being. At present, teachers in Dubai’s private schools spend a considerable amount of time teaching in the classroom. As a result, many teachers find it quite challenging to find the time to devote to the preparation of lessons. Insufficient time to plan classes not only impacts the quality of classes, but also the time available for teachers to recover, which can exacerbate teachers’ work-related stress, long-term motivation and efficacy (Boeskens and Nusche, 2021[40]). In addition, many teachers complain about having to take care of administrative tasks, which many believe could be better served by administrative or support staff. TALIS data show that teachers in Dubai spend more time in general administrative work (3.6 hours) than the OECD average (2.6 hours). Administrative overload is frequently cited as a source of frustration among teachers and one of the factors reducing the attractiveness of their profession (OECD, 2019[41]). Dealing with parents’ request is also time-consuming, and at times prevents teachers from focusing on students. This is a common issue in other high-performing systems. According to a recent report by Ofsted, England’s (United Kingdom) evaluation agency, open and frequent communication between parents and staff, coupled with an instant response culture, have added to teacher’s workload (Ofsted, 2019[42]). The COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have made this considerably worse. Box 4.5 discusses how England (United Kingdom) and Estonia were able to balance the workload of teachers. The next section will discuss some options private schools can take to address this challenge.

Most teachers in Dubai are employed on fixed-term contracts, often running no more than a year (Gallagher, 2019[45]). While renewable contracts provide the opportunity to periodically reassess and acknowledge teachers’ performance, uncertainty about employment opportunities can be a significant source of stress for teachers, in particular given that their residency status is often tied to their job contracts. Short-term contract also signals that there are limited opportunities for career-long trajectories in Dubai, leading many teachers to see their positions as a stepping stone to a more stable and long-term career elsewhere. According to a study conducted with expatriate teachers in Abu Dhabi, many feel they are “fix(ing) a temporary problem” (Ibrahim and Al-Taneiji, 2019[46]). Fact-finding interviews confirmed this belief is also shared by many in Dubai: many teachers revealed feeling like “expendable inputs”. This perception can be detrimental to teachers’ self-confidence and professional identity. In addition to posing an issue for teachers’ well-being, these challenges can hinder efforts to build a sustainable, long-term, high-quality education system in the Emirate (Gallagher, 2019[45]).

Teachers in Dubai are fully committed to the UAE’s and the Emirate’s vision for the future. They have not only embraced the country’s high aspirations, but also play an important role in supporting the system achieve its goals. Depending on the circumstances, working under pressure can motivate individuals. In fact, a recent TALIS-PISA study revealed that some of the most successful schools are the ones where teachers report the highest levels of stress (OECD, 2021[47]).

However, it can be challenging to strike the optimal equilibrium between incentive and stress. At the system or sector level, this depends on finding the balance between external accountability and promoting stakeholders’ internal motivation. Systems that, like Dubai, the United Kingdom and the United States, have placed strong emphasis on external test scores as a measure of student, teacher and school success have tended to see increased stress and well-being concerns among teachers (see Chapters 1 and 5 on how this impacts students). According to TALIS 2018 data, for 49% of teachers in Dubai’s private system “being held for students’ achievement” was considered a source of stress. This compares to 44% of teachers in OECD countries.

In interviews, stakeholders revealed a number of concerns. First, the time and energy teachers spend on the annual inspection process, in addition to their regular tasks, can add to their stress levels. Second, the fact that the inspection results carry high stakes for schools is said to create a high-pressure atmosphere in schools, in particular right before and during the days inspections are carried out, and this affects teachers. Third, and perhaps more concerning, schools’ inspection results can sometimes have a direct impact on teachers. In certain cases, when schools are not awarded the right to a fee increase (linked to high ratings in the school inspection), teachers’ salaries are frozen or even cut, and their contracts’ renewal delayed or even terminated. This puts enormous pressure on individual teachers.

Over the years, Dubai’s private education system and schools have proven to be flexible and innovative, attentive to emerging needs and opportunities. Keeping up with this demanding pace can, however, become a source of stress for teachers in Dubai, as observed in TALIS results (see Figure 4.3). The need to familiarise oneself and accommodate to changes (e.g. introduction of new strategies and plans, and the revoking of previous programmes) can be time-consuming and frustrating, in particular when changes are perceived to be too frequent, unnecessary, burdensome or confusing. For example, in interviews, many teachers reported being anxious about the UAE’s new teacher licensing system. First, there seems to be considerable misunderstanding among teachers about the requirements and consequences of the process. An OECD review of Abu Dhabi’s education system revealed that while teachers in public schools were provided clear guidelines while preparing for the licensure exams, their colleagues in private schools received little information on what to expect from the test (OECD, 2019[48]). The same pattern might be taking place in Dubai as well. Other issues have been reported, including the feeling of either unpreparedness or overqualification, technical difficulties to register online, and fear the embarrassment if they do not pass the test (Gallagher, 2019[45]).

The flexibility of the UAE’s licensing system to have a grace period for in-service teachers and validate the certification of selected countries speaks to the willingness of the system to reduce the burden of these requirements on teachers. Still, more could be done to ensure that teachers have adequate information about its objectives, rollout and impact. It is crucial that the introduction of performance management tools, take place in a constructive and fair manner, and is responsive to teachers’ legitimate concerns.

As stipulated in Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers (UNESCO/ILO, 1966[49]), decent working conditions for teachers are crucial to promote effective learning, as well as teachers’ professional and personal development. Ensuring decent working conditions is also critical for Dubai’s private school sector to maintain its attractiveness to expatriate teachers in the Emirate and abroad, and to sustain its improvement trajectory.

Despite growing recognition of the importance of teachers’ well-being and an increasing number of programmes targeted at supporting teachers in Dubai’s private education sector, working conditions remain highly variable across schools. As the private sector regulator, KHDA can help advocate for teachers’ well-being and collaborate with key stakeholders to ensure high-quality working conditions for all.

KHDA should consider undertaking the following actions:

  • Drawing on KHDA’s compliance visits to monitor teachers’ working conditions and well-being: schools’ compliance with regulations, including workforce conditions, could be monitored during schools’ compliance visit. This would require collaboration between KHDA and Dubai’s Labour Department. DSIB’s evaluation visit, on the other hand, could focus on the quality of processes and relationships and how they impact teachers (e.g. how the school and school community engage with teachers, and how teachers engage with each other).

    The United Kingdom’s Ofsted has recently integrated staff well-being as part of their Education Inspection Framework (Ofsted, 2019[42]). Similar steps could be taken as part of the process of revising the UAE School Inspection Framework (see Chapter 3). Leveraging KHDA’s regulatory arm can send a strong message that teachers’ well-being is a system-wide commitment.

    In the future, Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey and TALIS data could also be used by KHDA and DSIB to identify schools and sub-sectors where teacher well-being might be at risk and require more regular and/or intense monitoring and follow-up.

  • Collecting data on the causes of teacher turnover/attrition: KHDA should conduct research on the factors driving teacher attrition to inform the development of responses at the system and school levels. Two possible approaches should be considered:

    1. a. Developing an exit survey that schools carry out when teachers leave their post or the country. The results should be collected by KHDA data and research team (see Chapter 5) and analysed. This information could help KHDA understand the main reasons for teacher turnover/attrition.

    2. b. Partnering with professional teacher organisations, such as Teacher Socials, to have a clearer understanding of the main issues affecting the well-being of teachers.

  • Fostering conditions that promote teachers retention across the Dubai system: KHDA could initiate a discussion with the relevant stakeholders in the education sector to encourage teachers’ retention.

    1. a. KHDA could partner with other UAE and Dubai government bodies to:

      1. i. Revise UAE’s teacher standards to ensure they support the different dimensions of teachers’ well-being. Given that this might be a lengthy process, KHDA could consider, as a first step, developing its own supplement to teacher standards. Later, when revising the UAE’s national teacher standards, Dubai’s supplement could be used as the basis for KHDA’s dialogue with other federal authorities.

      2. ii. Incorporate elements of teacher and staff well-being in the new UAE School Inspection Framework (see Chapter 3).

      3. iii. Promote teachers’ contractual stability, by advocating for minimum time period requirements for work contracts for teachers (e.g. six months).

      4. iv. Advocate for expatriate teachers that have passed the licensing process and their probation period to be given the right to access teacher residency status/visas, which are longer-term and not linked to schools or their family member’s contractual status.

    2. b. Drafting school guidelines to foster and improve teachers’ working conditions: In partnership with other relevant educational and government stakeholders, KHDA can develop a guide/platform that:

      1. i. Clearly delineates the responsibilities of schools and providers towards teachers and teachers’ rights.

      2. ii. Offers evidence-based advice on best school practices and interventions on different issues related to teachers’ well-being (e.g. the development of contracts, ensuring balanced workloads, how to encourage appropriate teacher-parent interactions, and how to develop positive working environments).

        The KHDA data and research team could support these efforts (see Chapter 5). For example, KHDA may develop a workload reduction toolkit to help schools navigate through the areas. The toolkit consists of a mechanism of self-diagnosis and action to tackle the workload of teachers. The United Kingdom has an excellent model for this toolkit.

    3. c. Partnering with the private sector and professional organisations to develop a support network for teachers’ mental health issues: although many schools have sought to provide support to teachers who are burnt out, stressed or depressed, a more systematic approach might be needed. A notable example is that of the United Kingdom’s Education Support.

  • Offering relevant and timely information to teachers through an online platform on key matters related to their well-being and jobs (e.g. local legislation, contact points, school inspection, licensing). Involving teacher professional organisation and teacher representatives can help KHDA scope the most important information teachers require.


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← 1. Unless stated otherwise, TALIS data on teachers will refer to lower secondary teachers henceforth.

← 2. An OECD average is estimated based on the arithmetic average of lower secondary teacher data across the 31 OECD countries and economies participating in TALIS. In the case of principals, an OECD average is estimated based on the arithmetic average across 30 OECD countries and economies in TALIS. More information is available at: www.oecd.org/education/talis.

← 3. The reason why teachers over the age of 51 are not included in this calculation is to discard individuals who might be nearing retirement age.

← 4. The Emirate of Abu Dhabi has participated in TALIS since 2013.

← 5. The Dubai [email protected] Wellbeing Survey was translated into Arabic, and a handful of additional questions (e.g. around sleep, wellbeing literacy, working hours and student-teacher relationships) were included in the original questionnaire.

← 6. Actions such as these are unlawful in the UAE, and can be reported to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE).

← 7. This includes: Federal Law No. 24 dated 7 November 1981; Federal Law No. 15 dated 15 December 1985; Federal Law No. 12 dated 27 October 1986; Federal Law No. 14 dated 17 October 1999; as well as multiple measures, decrees and resolutions. (Viennet and Pont, 2017[35])

← 8. According to the UAE Labour Law, the maximum number of hours is 48 hours per week or 8 hours per day.

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