GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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The Status of Arab Migrant Teachers in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar
Paper Proposal Text :
The discovery of oil in the mid-twentieth century in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council instigated decades of rapid economic development in the region. Key to this development agenda was the use of migrant labor to build infrastructure and fill middle management roles. Over time, as national populations have become more educated, the majority of public sector positions have been filled by nationals. However, the education sector has been unable attract nationals in sufficient numbers and continues to depend on migrant teachers. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), 90% of teachers in boys’ government schools and 20% of teachers in girls’ government schools were expatriate Arabs as of 2010/2011. In Qatar, Arab migrant teachers comprised approximately 87% of teachers in government schools in 2013.
Globally, studies on migrant teachers have tended to focus on Africa and Asia, while the topic of teacher migration in the Middle East in general, and the Gulf in particular, has not been examined before. Studies from elsewhere point to factors such as security, better employment opportunities, and higher salaries as motivators for teacher migration. However they also find that teachers seek greater professional development opportunities and workplace satisfaction when making decisions to migrate. The lack of research on this topic in the Middle East, given the large and continued demand for Arab migrant teachers in the Gulf, means that local policy makers have little to guide them in terms of considering how to get the best out of these teachers and as a result many Arab migrant teachers are failing to fully engage. The cost of their disengagement is high as they are teaching the future generations of these countries and as such there is a need to look more closely at these teachers to understand why they have come to the UAE and Qatar, what retains them, and how they might be better motivated in their work.
This study therefore examines the status of Arab migrant teachers through both an educational and institutional lens. The research employs a mixed-methods comparative approach to investigate contractual agreements, employment experiences, and social integration of Arab teachers in both countries. The first stage of the study involves surveying a total of 48 teachers from the UAE and 43 teachers from Qatar on their personal and professional background, recruitment, compensation and benefits, integration, and overall experience in the UAE or Qatar. The second stage involves conducting in-depth interviews with seven Arab migrant teachers, five based in the UAE and two based in Qatar, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of some of the challenges that arise as a result of reduced salaries, shorter-term contracts, and fewer promotional opportunities for Arab expatriate teachers compared to their national counterparts.
The results of the study are consistent with literature on the economic motivation behind migration. Arab migrant teachers come to the Gulf largely in order to make money and in turn to be able to provide more for their families. While economic motivation was the primary factor in teachers choosing to come to the UAE and Qatar, professional development and career opportunities were also greatly important in their choice. This was particularly true for males and approximately 28% of teachers in the UAE and 33% in Qatar ranked professional development opportunities as the draw to teach in the two countries. This is consistent with previous literature on international migration of Indian teachers where opportunities for professional development were found to be the single most important determining factor in the migratory decision of Indian teachers. This desire for career progression and professional development indicates that for many of these teachers they have not simply come to the Gulf to take a pay check but that they have come as part of a career move whereby they not only make more money but they also have the chance to improve their skills and to potentially rise through the ranks. If this does not happen, it could be reasonably be hypothesized that these teachers become demotivated and disengaged.

In addition to examining the motivations for migration, the study also found that the majority of Arab migrant teachers come to the Gulf with the intention of living and working in the Gulf for significant periods of time. They are also a unique and indispensable part of the Gulf population due to their shared language, culture and, religion. Despite their significance in the education systems, responses from the interviews indicated that the precarious status of Arab migrant teachers as temporary workers may be creating perverse outcomes in the education sector, whereby they are highly invested in the present rather than the future and as such are more incentivized to engage in additional income generating activities such as private tutoring and not holding national students to high standards but rather taking the path of least resistance. With that, there are real benefits to host countries, national students and teachers alike in considering these teachers less as temporary workers and more as permanent residents. Examining issues such as how the uncertain employment conditions for expatriate Arab teachers manifest in their commitment to teaching, the paper concludes by providing policy recommendations for improving the conditions and output of Arab migrant teachers in the UAE and Qatar.