Before you start reading, “6 Things You Must Know When Applying to Schools in the UAE,” I’d love to introduce myself to you! My name is Sorcha Coyle and this is my 8th year teaching in the Gulf region (Qatar and Dubai). I run the Empowering Expat Teachers community and my mission is to empower all future and current expat teachers to lead personally, professionally, and financially rewarding lives! Click here to join our private Empowering Expat Teachers Facebook group to meet lots of like-minded supportive members! Now onto the article!
Schools in the UAE (and the rest of the world) start advertising their jobs A LOT EARLIER than schools in Ireland, the UK, and the USA!
Many of the reputable schools in Asia will have FINISHED their recruitment by October/ November for the next academic year! The Middle East/ Gulf region tends to be a bit later but still earlier than what we are used to… I’d highly recommend having your CV and cover letter updated and ready to apply by November/ December as schools in the UAE tend to start advertising their teaching positions from January onwards for the next academic year.
2. You shouldn’t rely on only one way to find a teaching job in the UAE…
To maximise your chances of finding a great teaching job abroad, based on my 8th year living and teaching abroad, you should always apply directly to international schools’ ads. If you wish to use a teaching agency, then definitely do, but do it in addition to your own research when applying directly to vacancies abroad. This is so you give yourself as many choices and jobs as possible.
The 2 teaching jobs I’ve had in Qatar (2011-2015) and Dubai (2016- Present) are at schools that have one of the top teaching packages in each of their respective countries. If I’d used a teaching agency, I wouldn’t have found either of them because the schools I’ve worked at do not use teaching agencies to find teachers to fill any job vacancies. This is because both of the schools have great reputations and are well-known, so that they can advertise openly and receive thousands of applications from candidates applying directly to them. This is why you shouldn’t rely on only one way to find your perfect job abroad.
Click here to check out the “10 Ways to Find Your Ideal Teaching Job in Dubai and the UAE” checklist. In it, you’ll find 10 of my best tried-and-tested methods to job hunt successfully, boosting your chances of securing that perfect job in Dubai!
You can also download the “10 Ways to Find Your Ideal Teaching Job in the Middle East” checklist here as well as the “10 Ways to Find Your Ideal Teaching Job in Asia” checklist here!
3. Headteachers in the UAE receive THOUSANDS of applications each year…
So yours MUST be outstanding and memorable to even get an interview! This means they must:
- highlight your positive skills, talents, and experience
- include your contact details + qualifications – including your Skype ID and email address!
- use an easy-to-read font (style and size) -so it is legible to the reader
- leave out the fancy and complicated formatting and keep it simple and CONSISTENT!
- have clear obvious headings in the same colour, font style and size
- include all work dates with no gaps in the employment history, as many heads will not consider an application from a CV with unexplained gaps
- list your education and experiences with the MOST RECENT first
- name referees who are professional, including your current employer
- include a photograph at the top of your CV, but make sure it is a professional-looking photograph!
- I have heard from so many teachers who didn’t follow the guidelines above and then never heard from any school they applied to in the UAE, so be sure not to make the same mistake! Make those changes above and then ask yourself if you are proud of your CV and cover letter. Do you feel confident that it will sell you as the best candidate to headteachers abroad who receive THOUSANDS of applications each year? If you are unsure and would love more guidance from an expat teacher who has been offered 12 teaching jobs abroad at outstanding schools and saved over €190,000 from my time teaching abroad (aka me!), check out my Teach Abroad Transformation service here!
Right now for a limited time only, Teach Abroad Transformation has 20% off! Use TAT20 at the checkout to save money plus get lifetime access to the online TAT course (Module 1 – Self-exploration, Module 2 – CV, Module 3 – Cover Letter, Module 4 – Interview) plus 3 bonuses. Click here to enrol!
4. You must always research the school before accepting the contract!
I cannot stress this enough because there are so many schools in the UAE, all with different ways of treating teachers. If the school has issues, you need to know about them beforehand, so you can make a fully informed decision. You can do this by:
- Googling the school name + reviews /employee reviews to see what you might find! Indeed.ae often lists rated and helpful employee reviews of various schools in the Middle East.
- Asking current expat teachers general questions on the Empowering Expat Teachers private FB group – join here!
- Checking the comprehensive (and free!) Dave’s ESL Cafe International Job Forums to get honest reviews about schools all around the world.
- For schools in the UAE, joining the Dubai Teachers’ Network FB group and the Dubai Irish Exchange, to see recent teaching vacancies, as well as a place to ask about different schools.
- Becoming a paid member of the International Schools Reviewto see how past and current teachers abroad rate their workplace.
- Using the Which School Advisor website and their sister site Schools Compared to find out about schools in the UAE.
- Another site you can register for free to see international school reviews is the International School Community. The great thing is you can see if there are reviews for your school before you pay a membership fee.
Remember that the teacher review websites like Dave’s ESL Café International Job Forums, the International Schools Review (ISR), and the International School Community (ISC) host teachers’ opinions of the schools and its working conditions. Remember that these are subjective, so do not necessarily take one negative review as being reflective of every teacher’s experience there. Check out a few of the other options above before making a fully informed decision.
5. You must know what to expect in a good teaching contract and package before saying YES…
DO NOT accept a job until you’ve seen the contract- that’s perfectly normal here and you can’t say yes to a 2-year commitment without knowing all the nitty gritty details.
When you get offered the job (usually a few days later via email, I’d imagine), write something like, “I’m delighted to have been offered the job working with your school and I look forward to receiving the contract shortly.” You haven’t officially accepted the job but you’re showing your interest by asking for the contract. Once you get the contract, read it carefully and see if it is an ideal teaching package.
A good international teaching package should include:
- a competitive salary.
- furnished accommodation or a housing allowance, which varies depending on your status, i.e. single, married, or with dependents (children). If you have a housing allowance, you may find my blog post about finding accommodation in the Middle East.
- medical insurance (check if it is just for you or for your spouse and/or children).
- visa costs (check if it is just for you or for your spouse and/or children).
- an annual flight allowance, including your flights at the beginning and end of your contract (again check if it is just for you or for your spouse and/or children). I have heard of some schools only offering one return flight (at the beginning and end of your contract) and not each year (which is the norm here), so check your contract carefully!
- free school places for up to two dependents or a tuition allowance if your dependents cannot attend the school where you work (e.g. in the case of Dubai’s Ministry of Education schools and other government/public schools that are attended only by local or other Arabic-speaking pupils). Schools fees are sky high in the Middle East so you need this help from your school employer. Otherwise, it really wouldn’t be worth your while coming out here in terms of financial gain.
- by law, you are entitled to a bonus upon completion of contract, which works out at one month’s basic salary for each year of continuous service.
- shipping and/or baggage allowance.
- check how long the probationary period is. In this time, your contract can be terminated if the school feels you are not meeting their expectations, so it is important to be aware of the timeframe.
- note how much notice you must give your employer if you decide to resign.
- in the UAE, if you break your contract, you most likely will need to pay a fine/penalties and you can’t work in the UAE for 6 months afterwards. You might need to pay back your flights, accommodation allowance, settling-in allowance, etc. Read your contract very carefully and see what the implications are. This article from the National newspaper gives a great insight into what the legal ramifications are in the UAE.
- if you have found a teaching job abroad through an agency, ask the agency if they have a penalty should you break your contract. I’ve heard of one case where the teacher had to also pay a penalty to the teaching agency too because they lost commission from the school due to the teacher’s early exit.
- read this article by Roger Keen. It offers more great advice about what to do before signing your contract in the UAE.
If you get offered more than one job, definitely request the contracts from each one, so you can compare job offers. You need to think about what is best for you and your situation so have all the necessary information to make an informed decision.
6. You must know what the difference is between working at a private school and a public/ government school in the UAE…
Some expat teachers in the Middle East work at public (or government) schools while other teach at private schools (or international schools). Both types of schools recruit Western-trained teachers (e.g. British, Irish, American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, etc.) and both types teach their curriculum through English, so you may be asking yourself:
- What’s the difference between them?
- And what does all that mean for me as a teacher?
As an expat teacher in the Middle East, we can work at:
1) PRIVATE SCHOOLS
2) GOVERNMENT/ PUBLIC SCHOOLS
So what are GOVERNMENT/ PUBLIC SCHOOLS in the Middle East?
Government schools are also know as public schools. These schools are in the process of educational reform. They are changing their education system from Arabic to English as the medium of instruction/ teaching. In the UAE, the Ministry of Education (MOE) recruit for public/ government primary and secondary schools.
As they’re changing from Arabic to English, the majority of students will be local and Arabic-speakers. This is a very unique opportunity to experience the culture firsthand and learn so much about local traditions and customs. Consider your teaching skills because in most cases, you will be a language teacher first and a subject teacher second. Does this suit your teaching style, strengths, & priorities? Remember that there will be pupils with varying levels of English in the one class. You may need to adapt your teaching to:
- teach English as a Second Language (ESL) in addition to your subject
- include strategies to keep up motivation among students
- use behaviour management and positive reinforcement techniques, as these students are studying a brand new topic in their second language, so some may they may not even know these new words in Arabic. This may cause some of them to become distracted and misbehave.
- with the MOE, you will most likely NOT know your school location until you arrive to the UAE.
- the package may not suit teachers with children, as their children can’t get a free place at those Arabic-medium schools and the MOE do not offer help with school fees at other schools.
Finally, don’t forget to join our supportive Empowering Expat Teachers FB group here where every #workwednesday I do a Facebook Live to share CV tips and resources to help you become a personally, professionally and financially empowered expat teacher!
Be sure to share this post with all your teacher friends who are thinking of moving to the UAE to work!