111. School

It would seem that no matter where you are in the world the topic of good school-bad school is never too far from the tip of ones tongue.  In the UK we have a superb system that provides free education, well tax-payer funded but basically free, for all kids up to the age of 16, and then up to 18 if they wish to continue.  You can decide whether you want to attend a regular state comprehensive, a grammar school or secondary modern school.  If your parents are flush then you could attend a private school, or public school as they are called, although they’re not public, they’re private.

What a grand system we have.  There is never a shortage of teachers and if one gets a tummy ache and can’t come into work then there is a supply teacher sitting at home waiting for the call.  Public schools (the expensive, non-public ones) are great; they allow the richer echelons of society to gather together in their own clique so they don’t clog up the system for everyone else.  Public schools are indeed a privilege for those who go on to join politics, manage the nation’s banks or merge airlines.  The rest of us make do with the state to pay for our maths books and Acorn computers.  The rich are few and far between in the UK, so 90% of us go the state schools and the lucky few go to ones that used to be Stately homes, but what if we were all rich?  Would we all go to public schools?

Head Teacher: Mercedes Gucci School for Bright Boys and Girls...

Head Teacher: Mercedes Gucci School for Bright Boys and Girls…

When it comes to working as a teacher in a school, what you face is no different to anything else.  You can either work in the private sector; earn much less money but have the benefit of impressing your boss so much so that you move up the order.  Or you can work in the public sector, earn a higher salary but be kicked out on your arse if your work falls below standard because there are hundreds of people queuing up for your job.

Anyway, we know that the UAE is a very proud nation, and although it is widely known that the country relies on the expatriate community to keep the cogs turning, they still want to champion their own people as much as possible.  Who could ever argue with that?  It was reported today that there is an alarming lack of Emirati teachers in Dubai’s private schools.  Even more alarmingly half of all the local children in Dubai attend these private schools.  Hang on there, half?!  That’s tens of thousands of children all in private schools?!  You see this is the problem you get when everyone is rich.

The state schools in Dubai are fine, there are plenty of Emirati teachers teaching prime values to the other half of Dubai’s kids, but because they’re not sponsored by Mercedes or Gucci the parents don’t want to send their kids there.  Schools are being treated like fashion accessories.

So why are there so few Emirati teachers in the private schools, and why are they all working in the state schools?  Well isn’t obvious?  If you willingly opt to work in a private school, as with any private sector company, you will work far longer hours, often without extra pay and your salary will be comparatively small.  In a state school, backed by a bloated annual budget, you will earn a far higher salary, work regimented hours, be paid for any overtime etc. etc.  Both jobs require you to have the same qualifications so if you had to choose, which one?

This one area highlights a major problem that the UAE is going to struggle to deal with in the not too distant future.  Everyone want to work in the public sector because the work days are shorter, you get more time off with extra public holidays, the salaries are far higher yet you don’t need any further qualifications, or any qualifications at all in some cases.  The private sector can’t offer you that, not even close.

This is why I fear that the Emiratisation scheme is going to flounder.  There really are only two possibilities to get more Emirati’s working in private schools (and the private sector in general) and that is to a) rule that all public sector employees receive a massive pay cut and are forced to work longer hours or b) fund the private schools with state money thereby turning them into state schools.

The UAE needs to stop for a second and get itself in order.  We live in a capitalist world, yep, even China, and money talks wherever you go, yep, even North Korea.  We chase money.  In Dubai, the families want to show off how much they have so they send their children to the Mercedes Gucci School for Bright Boys and Girls whereas the teachers want to earn as much money as they can so will work for the local state school.  If only there was a way the two could meet?  Get rid of the private schools for Emirati’s, they’re not needed and as far as I know the teaching is no better, since the higher paid teachers are in the comps.

They might not be as glamorous as the Mercedes Gucci School for Bright Boys and Girls but it will be a taster of what is yet to come…

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