Teacher checks to make schools safer, improve education quality in UAE

[The UAE Government is placing a greater focus on carrying proper background checks on teachers, who have to get police clearance certificates for their teaching licence.]

Safer recruitment is an essential aspect of keeping students secure.

Leaving a child under the supervision of a school and its teachers can be a difficult choice for parents. Education is essential, but, who exactly are the teachers that take care of their kids?

The UAE Government seems to be placing a greater focus on carrying proper background checks on new and current teachers – this means obtaining police clearance certificates from them to ensure they don’t have a criminal background, double-checking their qualifications and references, as well as making a teaching licence compulsory for all educators.

A former secondary Dubai teacher, who taught at the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai (SISD), was arrested in February in Florida for attempting to solicit sex with a minor.

Now, the same school has updated their staff policy and requires all staff to provide a police certificate of good conduct during the start of each academic year.

“Safer recruitment is an essential aspect of keeping our students secure and is at the heart of our recruitment process. Our priority is to ensure that the people we employ have the right attitude and behaviours to provide a safe and positive learning experience to our students. This extends also to our after-school activity providers, security, cleaners, caterers and lifeguards. At SISD, safer recruitment is a continuous process of improvement. Our procedures are continually reviewed to ensure they are robust and in line with statutory guidance and best practices,” Caroline Ann Millman, head of human resources at SISD, said in a statement to Khaleej Times.

The school also requires all new employees to provide a police certificate of good conduct, confirming no criminal convictions and giving clearance to work with children.

Taaleem, one of UAE’s major education groups, also asks all of its teaching staff to provide police check certificates from their home country as well as their country of residence.

“Taaleem’s highest priority is the welfare of our students and we expect all staff and volunteers to share this commitment. We have extremely robust processes built into our recruitment procedures that minimise risk and supports a rigorous framework for safeguarding our community,” Rowan Bell, head of human resources at Taaleem, said.

“All teaching staff at Taaleem are required to provide relevant police checks from both their home country as well as their current country of residence. Comprehensive reference checks are also carried out on all staff. For the teaching staff, one of the references must be from the applicant’s current principal and our references contain specific questions relating to child protection. We welcome the recent announcement from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) regarding five-year background checks and believe this can only contribute to ensuring the safety and protection of students across the emirate. Given the processes we already have in place, we do not foresee any challenges with complying with the new regulations.”

Khaleej Times reported last week that all new teachers will be required to submit a police clearance certificate to relevant government authorities in the UAE as one of the requirements to obtain a teaching licence. After receiving the licence, the teacher will have to apply for a teaching permit from the educational authority in the emirate he or she chooses to teach at.

Some parents want to make surprise class visits

Some Dubai parents feel they should be allowed to make “surprise visits” inside classrooms to assess the quality of teachers.

Farha Khurram, a parent of two children, said she trusts the school where her two daughters study. However, she added parents can also play a role in assessing the teachers.

Khurram said that this technique would also help parents to see if teachers are using the “expensive books” and other classroom items their children are asked to purchase. “It sounds like helicopter parenting. Yes, but what’s wrong with us going into the classrooms in surprise visits and seeing how the teachers are teaching? Sometimes, they make us buy all of these books and stationary items, and the teacher ends up teaching on a powerpoint presentation. It would be helpful to see what really goes on in a classroom,” she said.

“I’m not saying we go and sit with our children every day – but once or twice a month would put our hearts and minds at ease.”

Another parent, Adnan Iqbal, supported Khurram’s idea of paying surprise visits to classrooms.

Iqbal, a father one child, said: “I don’t think schools would allow this, but, it is a good point. It could also help us in making a decision if the teachers’ style of teaching is suitable for our child. Or, maybe, we can do the surprise visits if our child is struggling in the classroom. It will give us the opportunity to help more.”

However, one parent, Salma Farooq, said showing up inside a child’s classroom “can create distrust” between the parents, school and the child. “There are systems put in place that protect our children. There are dedicated parent-teacher meetings that happen very often. If you think you need to go see inside your son or daughter’s classroom, then you need to change the school. You’ll know if your child is in a good school by just seeing his or her attitude, skill development, exam results and other behaviour,” she said.

Teachers should be able to reach out to their students

(Afshann Lhawer Lodhi, parent)

Parents and teachers play a crucial role in the development of mental strength and personality of a child.

As a parent, my main concern has always been the way a teacher treats my kid. Before hiring teachers, the schools need to do proper background checks. Teaching, no doubt, is a challenge for many as it requires a lot of patience, communication skills and the ability to be flexible. The teacher should be able to adapt to the changing times and work out different strategies with different students. Smart kids become pets of the teacher and she/he guides them the most whereas weaker kids are left to struggle on their own. They have little patience with kids who ask questions multiple times.

Some of the teachers bring their home frustrations to school and take them out on the weaker kids, which in turn, makes them more self-conscious and unable to express themselves.

Teachers should be able to reach out to the kids and be a part of them, ask for their feedback, and spend some time, which is not related to school or studies.

An enthusiastic teacher may contribute to a classroom atmosphere of energy and excitement which inspires the students learn the subject. Student motivation and attitude towards school are closely linked to student-teacher relationships.

A teacher must guide a student in aligning their personal goals with their academic goals. Students who receive this positive influence show stronger self-confidence and have more personal and academic success.

Teachers are in a unique position because they work with children, some of whom may be very young. School administrators, parents and the government want to do everything they can to protect children in schools and ensure that they are educated in a secure environment. One way to keep kids safe at schools is to conduct background checks on prospective teachers before they are hired, to find out if they have a criminal record or any other red flags.

Many states check the backgrounds of people applying for teaching positions to find out if they have a record of child abuse or neglect. A background check will show any previous convictions for offences involving children – the age of the children involved, and the sentence that was imposed, in such cases. Schools need to make sure that they are hiring only qualified people who will keep the students safe. Conducting background checks on prospective teachers is a critical part of the hiring process.

Will teachers’ background check make it safer?

Teacher checks are incredibly important in maintaining the academic standard at institutions. I think teachers should have their previous experience examined to see how well they fared where they worked before. They also need to be assessed for their required academic credentials, teaching credentials and how well they communicate. They should also be checked of any criminal records, especially for important factors like child abuse.

(Ayesha Ahmed, university student)

In Dubai, I think schools are much safer as compared to other places. The crime rates are really low here and if anything happens at a school here, it will be a big issue and immediate action will be taken. Teachers are coming from all over the world to teach here and they know about the strict laws that are in place, which protect our children. But of course, it is still safe to do all of the extra checks before a school hires a teacher.

(Maria Armando, parent)

I feel that schools and their students should have an awareness about the background of the teachers because it’s important that we promote an element of safety and reassurance in schools. Knowing their backgrounds can enhance students’ knowledge about what to expect from the teachers and in turn be able to interact and learn from them accordingly. It’s one of the effective measures to ensure that students can maximise learning from school teachers knowing that they have the necessary skills and qualification that they would need to impart to students.

(Justin Paolo M. Arevalo, university student)

Source: Khaleej Times