Tuesday 15 October 2019

Education Minister Joe McHugh meets with Irish teachers in UAE to see what would encourage them to return home

Joe McHugh in Abu Dhabi, hand delivering a passport to Michael and Avril Carr, from Kilcar, Co Donegal, for their five week-old daughter Carabella
Joe McHugh in Abu Dhabi, hand delivering a passport to Michael and Avril Carr, from Kilcar, Co Donegal, for their five week-old daughter Carabella
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Education Minister Joe McHugh has heard first hand from Irish teachers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) about what would help sway them to return home.

The minister is on a fact-finding visit to the UAE, and he attended the first of two planned “town hall” meetings with Irish teachers in Abu Dhabi today (Wednesday).

Education Minister Joe McHugh at a meeting with teachers in Abu Dhabi .
Education Minister Joe McHugh at a meeting with teachers in Abu Dhabi .

Mr McHugh wants to gain a better understanding of issues for Irish teachers if and when they consider coming home and the second meeting is taking place in Dubai tomorrow.

There are about 2,000 Irish teachers in the UAE and many more in other Gulf states such as Oman and Qatar.

About 1,000 of them responded to an online survey conducted ahead of the minister’s visit and cited salary, pay inequality, housing and lack of permanent positions as their main reasons for leaving Ireland.

More than half of them plan on returning home, but 10pc are not and many more are undecided, the survey found.

Education Minister Joe McHugh at a meeting with teachers in Abu Dhabi .
Education Minister Joe McHugh at a meeting with teachers in Abu Dhabi .

Some 76pc said they moved to the Gulf for financial opportunities, 40pc cited lifestyle change, 35pc cited unemployment or underemployment in Ireland and 30pc said it was for career development.

While 25pc have lived in the Gulf for between three and five years, 59pc have been there for less than three years.

More than 65pc of those who responded were female and more than 75pc were aged 25 to 34 .

And for the overwhelming majority there was no qualifications barrier to working in Ireland, with 80pc registered with or eligible to be registered with the Teaching Council of Ireland.

Education Minister Joe McHugh at a meeting with teachers in Abu Dhabi .
Education Minister Joe McHugh at a meeting with teachers in Abu Dhabi .

Some 56pc were teaching primary level and just under 33pc are post primary teachers, with 27pc on a career break from Ireland.

A huge majority, 86pc, said that the quality of life is better in the Gulf than in Ireland while almost all of them, 93pc, said they would recommend a career as a teacher in the Gulf to others

Mr McHugh said the trip was part of a learning process.

“We are not in the UAE to recruit teachers or convince anyone to come home. It is about trying to see what practical measures can be taken for teachers who have made a decision to return home and whether that journey can be made easier for them.”

During the visit, he is also meeting the UAE Minister for Education, Hussein Al Hamadi to discuss links between the Irish and UAE education systems and methods of deepening relations.

Mr McHugh said many issues were discussed at the Abu Dhabi meeting, including pay, rules on career breaks, the cost of living in Dublin and recognition of experience.

Challenged on Twitter about pay inequality, he said since his appointment “I’ve said that pay inequality is unfinished business. I stand by that."

Read more here: Salary and housing cited as reasons Irish teachers work abroad

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