News: Living and Teaching in the UAE - Nov 23, 2021
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Tuesday, November 23, 2021General News

Living and Teaching in the UAE

Dunecrest American School Director Jeff Smith (R) with Bill and AlisonSenior Associate Bill Turner and his partner Alison Turner have culminated their 2021 UAE school tour with their biannual Dubai Job Fair—the first in-person fair for over 18 months! SEARCH works with 22 UAE schools: 14 in the Emirate of Dubai, eight in Abu Dhabi, and one currently in the process of registering in Ras Al Khaimah. Prior to the Dubai Fair, Bill and Alison spent several weeks in Dubai meeting Search Associates (SEARCH) teachers and visiting member schools.

The UAE’s education landscape continues to be one characterized by rigor, quality, growth, and variety, for both learners and teachers. With the aim to challenge the heavyweights of Finland, Shanghai, South Korea, etc., UAE is working to join the top 15 of the TIMMS league tables  and top 20 of PISA. The main consequence of this, as far as teachers are concerned, is a tightly focused inspection regime. Schools are rigorously monitored and evaluated, with annual performance data shared with parents. Teachers should expect to gather plenty of data and be regularly observed! On a lighter note, they should also expect to be well-guided and developed, and collaborate actively in a variety of fascinating initiatives.

Dubai American Academy  Superintendent Tammy Murphy (C) with the TurnersAccording to local publication The Khaleej Times, there are now nearly 624 international schools in the UAE, more in Dubai than any other city in the world (Sirkar, 2021). Whether you are seeking to deliver the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme, an American, or British curriculum, there are plenty of schools to apply to. Other curricula, including varieties of Australian, French, and Canadian, among others, are also offered in some UAE schools.

The most popular international curricula are British and American, though there are plenty of IB schools too. Many offer hybrid curricula, with the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE)/IB Diploma one popular combination. Some schools offer American Advanced Placement courses as well as the IB Diploma to their senior students. Candidates often ask how they can get into an IB school. Principals at IB schools say they are open minded about employing teachers trained and experienced in other curricula, claiming they simply want fantastic teachers and will train them to cover gaps. In practice, this tends to depend on context; for example, a team with plenty of IB-experienced teachers already in place is more likely to take on a new teacher with little or no IB experience than vice-versa.

With Fairgreen IS Dubai Director Ed Pearce (L)While there are plenty of vacancies in the UAE, there is a lot of disparity in pay. According to, a person working as a teacher in the UAE typically earns around Dh14,500 ($3,948) per month. However, this depends on the school, its inspection rating, and the curriculum. Typically, more experience results in higher pay. Candidates can check the pay and packages of all SEARCH schools in the database.

In addition to the salary, expatriate teachers should expect at least accommodation, an annual flight home, and medical insurance. Pay tends to be in Emirati dirhams. Rest assured this very stable currency is pegged to the dollar! If you have children, carefully check how many free child places you may receive.

Many schools rent residential blocks to house staff. Some schools will allow expat hires a cash equivalent so they can find their own accommodation. Most teachers will buy or rent a car. It Is particularly important to check that the school prioritizes great professional development (PD). The good news is that almost invariably schools do prioritize PD and are keen to point this out. Finally, why not carry out a cost-of-living comparison via The UAE has become relatively expensive, though, of course, this depends on one’s lifestyle!

With administrators at GEMS World Academy Dubai: From left, Tom Meakin, Aukse Lightbody, and Kristen MurphyTen to fifteen years ago, some parents struggled to finds places for their children in “good schools,” and many would send their upper secondary-aged children home for the final years of schooling. Now, there are plenty of really strong schools, but they are frequently very expensive! Class size remains a popular topic of conversation for parents, and despite the inconclusive research, schools tend to promote the populist fact that they often keep class sizes below 24, and often lower in the Early Years.

The UAE has managed the COVID-19 pandemic with a very strong hand, and schools are inspected several times per week for COVID-19-compliant practices. One outcome of this is that almost all children are now back in school, and all assemblies, sports, and school visits are back to normal. Vaccinations are compulsory unless an employee has a medical exemption.

The pandemic, and the reduction of the number of expatriates in the country, contributed to a decrease in students in many schools and a reduction in school fees. These days, many parents can send their children to a school right in the vicinity, so students can to travel to class by bicycle or scooter rather than by bus.

From left: The Turners with  Universal American School HOS Janecke Aarnaes,  Operations Mgr. Susan Clegg, and Exec. Ass't. Susan TuckerThe UAE is a great place to bring up children. Your offspring will make friends from around the world. Nearly 90% of the 9.9 million population is expatriate! Children soon become used to a wide variety of different languages, cultures, and cuisines. Although six months of the year is very hot, the other six months are conducive to a fantastic outdoor life, with easy access to beaches, mountains, and the desert, as well as facilities, such as ski-domes, water parks, and a wide variety of theme parks. One can also attend premier sports events, including international golf, tennis and cricket, Formula 1, Dubai 7s rugby, as well as cultural offerings, such as the traditional souqs, the Dubai Opera House, and the new Louvre in Abu Dhabi.

The 2020 whichschooladvisor “Happiness and Wellbeing” survey results revealed the main reasons UAE residents like living in the country: standard of living, career opportunities, their children’s quality of life, safety and lack of crime (Survey, 2021). The UAE deserves its reputation as not only a popular place to live but also a place to develop a fantastic teaching career.


Sircar, N. (2021, March 16). UAE has highest number of international schools in region. Khaleej Times.

Survey: UAE Gains Strength During Covid Crisis. (2021, February 15.) Which School Advisor.

Did You Know…?

Search Associates has over 15 Senior Associates with offices around the globe, each bringing a wealth of experience in international education.