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Teaching English in the United Arab Emirates

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Abu Dhabi skyline.

The UAE or United Arab Emirates is a federation 7 small states or emirates in the Middle East, namely Abu Dhabi, Dubai‏‎, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah.

The UAE have a cosmopolitan population with many nationalities here for business and work, primarily in the oil industry. English is, obviously, extremely important as the UAE has many business concerns throughout the world.

Finding Work

Most jobs are found from overseas. Due to visa issues it’s very difficult to arrive in the country on spec and look for work; instead you must arrange things beforehand. Likewise locally found jobs tend to pay much less than jobs arranged from outside the country.

Jobs can be found on both local websites to the UAE as well as expat websites.

Most jobs for English teachers are in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Here there are a number of international schools, Universities, private English schools and military institutions which require teachers. Generally speaking the schools will want General English‏‎, the Universities English for Academic Purposes‏‎, the military institutions English for Special Purposes‏‎ and so on.

Some schools are owned and operated by locals, others are internationally owned and operated and these latter schools tend to offer better conditions and a more career oriented path for teachers. State schools also teach English from an early age.

You will need a degree and TEFL Certificate to teach in the UAE. Note that ICAL TEFL have a large number of graduates working in Dubai at various schools on the basis of their qualifications with us.

Pay & Conditions

Depending on where you work, the salary can be very good indeed starting at about 10,000 AED or $2450 USD (€1939, £1559) per month and if you have the experience and qualifications going above 3 times this amount.

Perks can include the salary being tax-free as well as reimbursed airfare. Most overseas hire packages will include health cover (a government health card or a more substantial health cover package), and in some cases transport and utilities allowances.

Some jobs offer accommodation but you should check this as it can be expensive to rent there. Most schools will arrange accommodation for you which is ideal, however check that you will live alone as sometimes the school will arrange for you to share with another teacher. Note that some schools offer an allowance (instead of finding accommodation for you themselves) which can sometimes take time to come through.

The contract is usually a minimum of 1 year with 2 being commonplace.

Teaching Conditions

Classes tend to be noisy and good classroom management skills are helpful. Teaching in this region relies upon traditional methods so it can be an effort to begin with to get your class used to a more student centered approach to learning. Self-learning is a new concept to most students, so getting them motivated to work on their own or in small groups can sometimes be a struggle.

Private lessons are also available amongst the large expat population (and their children).

Schools start early. Lessons begin around 7.30 or 8 am and finish around 14.30 or 15pm. There is an hour break for lunch. The working week is from Sunday to Thursday.

Gender

Many people have the misconception that women are second-class citizens here. This is not generally the case however there can be certain restrictions and taboos in some areas. Some jobs will be exclusively given to male or female teachers depending on the class and school.

For women teaching here it can be more a struggle since many male students will treat them with less deference than they would a male teacher.

Outside the classroom being female may well bring unwanted attention. Some women choose to wear a wedding ring to avoid this. Also discretion in dress is a must; covered shoulders and no short skirts!

Some jobs will require that you are part of a married couple.

Cultural Notes

This is a list of cultural notes which may affect English teachers working in the UAE.

  • To drink alcohol you may be required to get a license which requires a letter from your employer, along with a copy or your passport and a copy of your residence permit.
  • Dancing in public along with any overt displays of affection are considered indecent.
  • Weekends are Friday & Saturday.
  • Dress is conservative (no bare arms or legs).

Useful Links

Dubai‏‎ Infographic – an infographic on differences in life between the UK and Dubai

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