The UAE is extremely popular among young expat teachers. With Abu Dhabi being the capital, it is growing in popularity among expats moving over for teaching jobs, not least because of the enormous benefits that teachers can reap compared to their hometowns. Thousands of teachers each year travel to the capital to become involved in the education system here, but why is it so popular?
About Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is a large international beachside emirate of 1.6 million people. It is one of the fastest growing and modern cities in the UAE and is the wealthiest of the emirates. It is blessed with year-round sunny weather and is a popular tourist destination that offers many attractive benefits for expats, and particularly teachers, who choose to reside here. Abu Dhabi is slightly less conservative than some of its neighbors, which may make it more appealing to Western expats who are used to a different lifestyle. The laws, rules and regulations of the UAE should be observed by those who choose to move here, but the country is welcoming to people from all over the world as long as they are respectful of the culture.
How do you become employed as a teacher in Abu Dhabi?
To become employed as a teacher in the UAE, you require a bachelor’s degree, or a 4 year university degree or higher in a related field. You also require a clear criminal record, a medical fitness report, your educational certificates and attested certificates for qualifications recieved in other countries. By the end of 2020, you will also require a UAE teacher’s license to legally work in the UAE as a teacher in any private or public school, which will require passing tests in teaching and your teaching specialisation. You can also complete training courses to pass the test if you do not meet the required criteria in the exam. Usually schools will offer a 2-3 year contract with an opportunity to extend its length depending on your performance.
What salary can I expect as a teacher in Abu Dhabi?
If you are successful at the interview stage, you will be informed afterwards of your offered salary by the Education Council. You can expect to make between AED 11,000 – 20,000 a month and teachers are paid by direct debit at the end of the month. Often your school will set up your bank account when you get the job and have confirmed you will be coming to work in Abu Dhabi, but otherwise it is relatively simple to open one yourself. You will be paid in the local currency of dirhams, and your earnings will be tax-free. This is a huge positive for many expats working here compared to their home countries and not only will your salary be tax-free but it is also likely to be quite generous compared to your salary at home! There are many ways to send money home for those who want to convert their earnings to their home currency.
The cost of living in Abu Dhabi can vary greatly depending on your lifestyle. Necessities are mostly inexpensive, but there are lots of opportunities to spend more money, so you can save a little or a lot depending on your lifestyle and your preference. Many people like to work in Abu Dhabi because they are able to benefit from the tax-free earnings and spend more of their money on the things they like and take advantage of the wealth of opportunities available to them in terms of things to do. Some people like to work in Abu Dhabi because they are able to save a lot of money as they are earning a higher amount, paying less tax and have lower necessary daily spending.
What are the benefits for teachers in Abu Dhabi?
Aside from earning a higher salary and paying less tax, there are also many other benefits for teachers in Abu Dhabi. The school will usually pay for your annual flight home after you have completed 1 year of employment, and they will be responsible for arranging and covering your health insurance. Your school holidays will be similar to holidays around the world, if not longer, with many schools offering an 8-week summer holiday. The differences will be the UAE’s national holidays that are different to those elsewhere in the world and usually on Thursdays, teachers will finish work early. As a teacher, the school fees of your children will be covered, too. In addition to this, there are many industry offers for teachers around Abu Dhabi that you can take advantage of such as discounts at certain restaurants, bars or salons.
Where do teachers live in Abu Dhabi?
Your employer will usually offer accommodation, the price of which will be covered by them. It will usually be an apartment that is up to a maximum of 45 minutes away from the school and it will be appropriately sized for yourself or your family if you are moving with them. The accommodation provided by your school can help enormously with getting settled in if you are new to Abu Dhabi, as the school will arrange it for you and your colleagues will most likely live in the same area or building too. This means you can start off by meeting and making friends with others who live close by and who have also moved over to teach. If you move to the accommodation provided by the school, you will still be responsible for covering your own utility bills and travel expenses to and from work, although in Abu Dhabi this shouldn’t be very expensive. Your utilities shouldn’t be much more than AED 300 a month, taxis are affordable and petrol is cheap. Many teachers will rent a car, or you can buy a car and it’s easy to find them second hand at a low rate. There is limited public transport other than taxis, however. You could take a bus which is excellent value for money but there isn’t currently a metro service.
If you choose not to live in the accommodation provided by your school, you can receive a cash alternative which should cover you for renting accommodation that you find by yourself or through a real estate agent that is close to your school. If you require support with finding accommodation, Betterhomes has an Abu Dhabi team of agents who are very knowledgeable about the different areas and who have helped many others in your position.
What are the students and teachers like in Abu Dhabi?
The teachers in Abu Dhabi are generally young expats, which may be different from your home country. Currently, at around 49%, the highest percentage of school teachers in the UAE are British and the vast majority are Western expats. Surprisingly only around 1% of teachers are Emirati or Arabic. Around 15% of the students are Emirati, due to the low population of locals in the UAE compared to the 80% expat population. Students tend to be from wealthy families and many will be cared for or dropped off and picked up by nannies or drivers which may affect the opportunities teachers have to interact with students’ parents. Students are often from Western families but have been raised in the UAE or have grown up moving between multiple countries. Another factor to consider is that children start school slightly earlier than in other countries so the youngest students are from 3 years old.
What are the other main differences about being a teacher in Abu Dhabi compared to in other destinations?
There will be some similarities and some differences to your home country when working as a teacher in Abu Dhabi. The school hours differ from other countries. The beginning of the school day is usually around 7:30 am, however, the school is usually finished by 3pm. During Ramadan, these hours are even shorter and weekends are Fridays and Saturdays, according to the Islamic week. Teachers are required to dress professionally whilst at work, with shoulders and knees covered, and they must be respectful of the range of different people of all cultures they will encounter whilst at work. Schools here are international, so the children, parents, and colleagues will have different native languages and varying levels of spoken English. They will be from all kinds of backgrounds and nationalities which can necessitate a different style of teaching, working, and relationship building to accommodate their needs. This may be very different from the way you teach in your home country, but it is also likely to be an enriching experience that will build extremely useful life skills for both your professional and personal life.
What are the schools like in Abu Dhabi?
Most children in Abu Dhabi attend private schools, there are around 190 in the emirate. All expat children must attend a private school, for which the fees vary depending on the school’s reputation and facilities. Some parents’ employers will cover school fees, but otherwise, the parents of expat children must pay for the child’s school fees. The schools in Abu Dhabi offer curricula from all over the world and whilst most schools are English speaking for international students, there are schools in lots of different languages across the emirate. Since the schools are international private schools, many primary school classes are likely to be taught by specialised teachers rather than class teachers. This could include the teachers who come specially to teach languages, sports, and music, for example. It is also mandatory in the UAE for students to take classes in Arabic language and Arabic studies. The UAE dedicates around 25% of government spending on education and Abu Dhabi’s government has identified education as a top priority. The Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge is appointed to manage, guide, adopt and implement educational development strategies and initiatives. It is advisable to do lots of research on the school you apply for so that you can find which role will suit you the best, as the schools do vary greatly in terms of the organisation’s management, values, subjects, pay, and facilities.
If you are moving to Abu Dhabi to become a teacher and would like any further advice about setting up home in the UAE’s capital we are happy to help! If you require an accommodation, browse our properties for rent in Abu Dhabi here or give our team of experts in the area a call on 02 556 4122.