Minister to meet Irish teachers in Gulf to lure them home
More than 500 Irish teachers working in the Gulf have registered to meet Education Minister Joe McHugh, who is heading there to ask what would entice them home.
The minister departs tomorrow for a three-day visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), during which he will host "town hall" meetings with teachers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
There are believed to be thousands of Irish teachers in the Gulf - at a time of severe shortages at home, which is raising concerns about the maintenance of education standards.
Teachers attending the UAE meetings will be asked for their views on returning and there will be discussions on the opportunities at home, and what the teachers see as barriers to coming back.
Mr McHugh told the Irish Independent that he wasn't going to the UAE with the "specific purpose of encouraging people to come back home, but if there is a way of making a return journey easier, I feel I have a responsibility".
He said he also wanted to acknowledge the contribution that Irish teachers were making abroad. "It is something we don't do enough as a Government is to acknowledge their role and what they are doing to build relationships with the UAE," he added.
The minister said it was important to "build a bridge" with the teaching diaspora and said the only way to do that was to have their input.
He acknowledged that factors in teachers' decisions about whether to return home included outstanding pay inequality issues, the cost of living in Dublin and the bureaucracy involved in applying for jobs.
"I know there is frustration among the ranks of teachers abroad in terms of these issues," he said.
Another issue is that not all the Irish teachers working in the Middle East received their teaching qualification in Ireland. Many graduated in other disciplines and have pursued an online post-grad through a UK higher education institution, which is not automatically recognised in Ireland.