Travel & Teach - United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates or states, the best known being Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. The Emirates enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, part of which is the fact that the states are relatively crime-free. Combining the traditions of the East with the technology of the West, you will find this Arab-Islamic country to have one of the most liberal societies among all the other Arab nations. It is a fascinating place to teach, with evidence of various cultures dating back to 3000 BC. Although Islam is the official religion, other faiths are tolerated.
Much of UAE’s wealth is founded on oil. Indeed, Abu Dhabi has approximately 10% of the world's oil reserves. This capital city is one of the most modern cities in the world with its tall skyscrapers and green parks and is the seat of government. Tourism is heavily promoted and with state-of-the-art communication services and transport, the presence of international luxury hotel chains, rich shopping malls and cultural centres.
Dubai is the second largest emirate in the UAE and is one of the world's leading trading and commercial centres. Its coastline runs to approximately thirty kilometres along the Arabian Gulf. Sharjah is known as the cultural capital of the Emirates and has grown in wealth and stature since the discovery of oil in 1971 and liquid gas fields in 1981. It is probably best known for being the capital of cricket in the UAE and has hosted a number of major matches.
The sun shines all the year round in the UAE but it does get HOT! October to March is the most comfortable time and during the daytime it is sunny, with an average temperature of 26C, but this cools down at night to around 15C. However summer is a different story and the temperature peaks at 50C with high humidity. Sandstorms are also common at this time of year.
British Council http://www.britishcouncil.org/
British Council in UAE: http://www.britishcouncil.org/uae.htm
UAE Embassy UK: http://unitedarabemirates.embassyhomepage.com/
UAE Embassy USA: http://www.embassy.org/embassies/ae.html
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I replied to an advert from an International school in Sharjah, UAE looking for a French and EFL Teacher. Within 2 days of the interview they called me to say they were offering me a
three year renewable contract. They sent an air ticket and an entry visa and asked me to leave for UAE immediately. So I did! I have been teaching both French and EFL in the Emirates since September 2003. I have fully furnished accommodation with two bedrooms and an annual return air ticket to the UK.
My salary is also very good: 8,000 UAE Dirhams, non-taxable too! So little spent and too much gained!
I have recently accepted a position in the UAE. I am in Sharjah, about 20km from Dubai. I've been here for about a month now and am still settling in (at school) and exploring (the souqs and malls). The position is at an International Private School and I teach Business Studies and Business English. I also have other duties as Coordinator: Internal communication and Project leader: Accreditation (the school wants to get accreditation within the next year). So, Jack of all trades it seems!
The school is a bit disorganised and 'tomorrow is another day'-syndrome rules. It is so unlike the UK! It seems the informal structure is very much a characteristic of private schools here. It is a business with the main objective the enrolment of students. The school has 1600+ students! My new colleagues are warm and friendly and very, very laid back. Sharjah is an emirate of contrasts - developed and bare sitting comfortably next to one another. I find the architecture amazing! The mosques specifically. Delicate, fine works of art!
l already miss so many things taken for granted in London - the markets, the quality fresh produce (organic and sell-by dates don't feature here), the theatre, art house cinema and last but not least the convenience of the tube! Speaking of Christmas - I am longing for the dark, cold evenings of shopping, the rushing masses with coats, scarves and shopping bags flapping, the Christmas carols, Christmas lights and tempting window displays!
But, I am looking forward to my new experiences amidst a very different culture in a very hot, humid climate. So far I have ridden a camel, done a 4x4 desert drive and I have spent most of my first salary in the local souq. I believe there are many similar pleasures awaiting me.
I was lucky enough to get this position through an agency based in South Africa. The same agency placed me in the UK 4 years ago. After I obtained my GE qualification, I emailed them an updated copy of my CV. The reply was swift and here I am! To be honest, I never thought of the UAE as a possibility to put my newly acquired skill to teach Business English to the test, but negotiations went well for me and this tipped the scale.
When appointing a new teacher from overseas, the schools here take care of all formalities. The school organised my visa, paid for the flight and made the travel arrangements. On my arrival, I was met at the airport and taken to comfortable temporary accommodation.
Salaries are tax-free but I think the benefits are worth a mention. These include:
- 1 year fixed contract that will automatically be renewed unless one of the
parties give notice of non-renewal
- Furnished accommodation
- Medical insurance
- Transport to school
- Gratuity of one month's salary after every year of service
- Return ticket once a year
The school hours are the same than in the UK, but meetings don't feature. They have very much a crisis-management kind of approach. There is also a huge lack of communication between management and staff, between staff in departments, etc. You can very much do your own thing. International schools here range from Kindergarten to A-level. My school has 1600+ with a staff of around 120! The majority of teachers leave at the end of the school day at 2:05pm and I can only smile at the congestion around the time-out machine during these times! Bear in mind that these observations might relate to this school only - being a private school! There are many British-based schools around where the opposite may be true! The laid-back approach is very much a cultural thing, though. Coming from London, the slow pace, no haste approach really gets to me sometimes!
On the other hand, if you show initiative, you get what you ask for as far as resources, training needs, etc are concerned. During my first week here I was treated to a 2 day conference in Dubai in one of the best hotels! The same goes for accommodation needs. They provide what you need. What impressed me most was the fact that singles get their own flat - so no sharing!
Life is good otherwise. Your tax-free salary goes a long way. With all necessities taken care of by your employer, one only spends on taxi-fares (a must due to a lack of public transport), food and other personal treats. The prices of most commodities compare quite favourably with their UK counterparts.
I hope the above information will be useful.
Travel and Teach
Most adverts for UAE positions appear on the interenet on sites like www.tefl.com. Larger agencies, recruiting on behalf of the UAE companies, can also be found in the Guardian (Tuesdays).
Adverts also appear for primary or secondary teachers, and if you are living in the area with a partner who is employed in the oil (or other) industry, it should not be too difficult to pick up some local work teaching English. Several parents like their children to learn English from a native speaker and there is regular and well paid work. As with all Islamic countries, do be culturally sensitive in terms of the content of your teaching material, as it can be easy to unwittingly offend.
Teachers generally come to the UAE for one of two reasons: either they are attracted by the prospect of lucrative pay or they are accompanying a partner who is working in the region. The United Arab Emirates can afford to pay well for teachers from overseas and the Middle East in general still has some of the most enviable EFL contracts on offer in the world. Indeed, a number of Global English graduates have gone to work here and testified to the opportunities and lifestyle afforded (see Comments). Positions are numerous within the military, private schools and oil industries. Return airfare, 2-year contracts, paid accommodation and generous holidays are the norm. While such contracts are normally open to the only very well qualified (usually up to diploma level and beyond) and experienced (often 5 years’ teaching experience is a minimum requirement), you might find it easier to gain one of these contracts here than, say Saudi Arabia. Whereas adverts in many Middle East countries will probably specify that you need to be male or part of a married couple, the UAE is more flexible and the strong demand for English means that jobs for female teachers are available. Increasingly we have seen opportunities for new EFL teachers (again, see Comments). There is a large expat community in the UAE and while it should be remembered that it is an Islamic state, the laws that govern everyday social interaction are fairly relaxed in comparison to other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia.
It is not advisable to travel to the Middle East and find work on spec, but do get in touch with the UAE consulate or embassy to find out up to date regulations for entry into the state. Also get in touch with your local health centre for up to date advice on any inoculations necessary.
For many, life in the Middle East is not a long-term option. This is generally because of the challenging cultural differences to the West and the claustrophobia of living in what can seem a false expat community. But the UAE is perhaps a little different – with its more tolerant attitude towards other backgrounds. Although single women will not have the range of working options open to them, the UAE has less restrictions on the employment and movement of women. For this reason, it is an attractive proposition for those with the necessary qualifications who are financially motivated.
If applying from abroad, ensure everything is absolutely secured in writing before leaving. There are stories of teachers arriving in the region only to find that the salary and benefits are not as good as originally promised. However, you can expect paid airfares and a tax-free salary of around £12,000 - £25,000 (UK residents please note: to avoid a large tax bill on return to the UK, obtain a ‘working overseas’ form from the tax office). Accommodation often comes with the job and can be luxurious. If you have secured work as a married couple, the contract will often provide free health care and school fees; otherwise you will need to make sure you have some form of health cover before you go.