Why such disparity in teachers' salary in UAE?

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Dubai - Expert says demand-supply equation hugely impacts teachers' salaries; demand is for British curriculum schools and teachers


Kelly Clarke

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Published: Mon 19 Sep 2016, 9:19 PM

Last updated: Wed 23 Aug 2023, 12:30 PM

The difference in monthly salary between Indian expatriate SM and British expatriate BR, is Dh15,400. But how much do their job roles differ? Well, not a lot actually, because they are both teachers.

SM teaches Grade 6 to A-Level students at a British curriculum school in Dubai. She's been doing so for seven years now, but her teaching experience goes far beyond that.

Earning just Dh6,600 a month, she told Khaleej Times it leaves her with no savings at all.

"My salary doesn't allow for luxuries. I have received regular increments but they have been very minimal, even as low as Dh60 one year."

Significantly younger than SM, BR is a primary school teacher at a British curriculum school. He is the head of his department, but his teaching duties closely mimic that of SM's.

All in, BR's total package, including accommodation, is Dh22,000.

"The salary is not that much higher here than it was in the UK, but what helps is the exchange rate, and obviously no tax means my take home is quite a lot higher."

Despite earning more than he did in the UK, BR said his savings opportunities are limited due to the high living costs here.

But he earns significantly more than SM.

As a college lecturer in India, SM would take home just Dh2,100 a month. Despite getting three times more than that here, she said living expenses are taking its toll.

But her frustrations don't stop there. "I have seen a huge difference in salaries for native English speakers and non-native speakers. We are not less qualified or less experienced, but we are never given the same chance or same pay."

So why is there such a disparity in pay among teachers here?

Although different education authorities regulate private schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi (Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) in Dubai and the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) in the Capital), neither of these authorities regulate teachers' salaries.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, a spokesperson for KHDA said: "We look after private schools, and private businesses are able to set their own salary structure for teachers."

The same rules apply in the country's capital.

"Each private school is in charge of setting its own pay trends for their teachers," an Adec spokesperson said.

As such, Khaleej Times reached out to several education institutions in the country to find out more on the issue.

Although some refused to comment, others were keen to share their insight.

The consensus here is that salaries in Asian curriculum schools are dramatically less compared to their western counterpart.

But for Clive Pierrepont, Director of Communications for Taaleem, there should be no discrimination in salaries.

"Our salary bands recognise responsibility, experience and expertise regardless of the section they work in whether KG, Primary or Secondary. Neither do we discriminate by nationality."

At Taaleem, the average teacher's package is around Dh325,000 a year. Although many have called for a standardisation on salaries here, Navin M Valrani, CEO of Arcadia Preparatory School, Dubai, said this would be harmful.

"I don't think this is the answer. I should be able to pay a premium salary if the need is there."

He told Khaleej Times that payment of teachers' salaries defers widely on the curriculum, and that is largely due to the demand-supply equation.

"In the UAE, the demand is for UK curriculum schools, which in turn means there is a demand for British teachers. The salary for British teachers is on the rise because supply is down."

But he said with the demand for Indian teachers also on the rise, coupled with the fact that India has a high economic gross, salaries should be going up for them, too.

"If an operator wants to survive here, it needs to increase its salary offerings."

And with the advent of new schools, he said the UAE is seeing an increase of about "20 per cent in packages" for teachers today.

How to budget a teacher's salary

The UAE teachers' budget would primarily depend on the salary scales on which they work, said Atik Munshi, Managing Partner, Horwath mak. "Teacher salaries in Asian curriculum schools are normally dramatically less compared to their western counterpart.

The budget of teachers would be different in the above scenario. Many teachers are paid housing allowance, airfare and insurance by the employer hence such a major component of the budget is taken care off," he said.

"For others, they would need to allocate 25-45 per cent of their monthly income towards rent. If the teacher is the main bread winner then his budget will work in a reverse manner which means he would decide the percentage of income which they want to save and only the balance would be utilised for various lifestyle expenses.

For teachers who are not the bread winner in the family, most of the amount is used for their personal effects and the balance goes towards savings."


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