A black sheep of liberalism in a sea of conservative countries and people, teaching abroad in Dubai can be an easy transition for most Westerners. The city is not only the urban center of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, but also the capital of modernism in the Middle East. Interacting with students from a diverse intersection of cultures, religions, and races will help international teachers learn about a different take on life and learning, and present unmatched challenges to their teaching style. Dubai is on the leading edge of innovation in the Middle East, and as a result, it is a fascinating place to teach abroad.
Teaching Jobs in Dubai
The most popular types of teaching jobs in Dubai include test prep trainers for math and verbal tests, private tutors, and English as a foreign language (TEFL) instructors.
Those who are teaching in Dubai will likely focus on higher-level thinking than in TEFL jobs in other locations around the world. English is a commonly used language in the U.A.E., and many students will have a solid grasp on the English language already, so the goal will be for advanced development rather than learning the ropes.
Since Dubai is such a wealthy city in an affluent nation, many people who send their children to school send them to private institutions. Some private schools in Dubai look teachers to manage subjects outside of English, such music.
No matter where you teach abroad in Dubai (public or private), the Emirati government is making a big push for education in information technology. Technical training courses on computer basics, programming, designing for mobile devices, and setting up networks are in high demand. As with most Western educational institutions, schools in Dubai are transitioning, or adapting, to a mostly-digital world and teaching environment. Those who teach abroad in Dubai will find that using modern technology in classes is a necessity, and being able to use creativity to incorporate those tools into lessons is of the utmost importance.
Due to the nation’s proximity and history, the UAE sees a lot of influence from the UK, including in its education system. Compared to the North American model, teachers can expect lessons to include more lectures, less projects, and less grading opportunities. Students’ grades usually depend more on two or three tests than on assignments and projects throughout the semester or year.
A typical school year in Dubai runs from late summer/early fall to late spring/early summer (August to June, on average). Teachers will always have a couple days off in the fall for Eid Al-Adha, a Muslim religious holiday and a couple weeks off in the winter around Christmas and the turn of the new year. Finally, a two-week break in the spring time is customary as well.
Life in Dubai
People living in Dubai like to say there are two seasons: summer and even hotter summer. There is very rarely a partly-cloudy day in Dubai, and it’s important to always have sunscreen. Foreign teachers should be prepared to restock their supply of sunscreen regularly and apply liberally. Even a short commute to school or changing rooms between classes calls for protection against the immensely strong sun in Dubai.
Dubai is situated between the coastline of the Arabian Gulf (also called the Persian Gulf) and the Hajar Mountains. For the more adventurous, Dubai is known as a prime spot for skydiving. It also plays host to some very quirky aerial views. The city’s Palm Jumeirah and Palm Deira man-made islands make for a one-of-a-kind, iconic aerial view of a palm tree. Adrenaline junkies posing as teachers can look forward to dozing off on one of Dubai’s beaches or off-roading on dune buggies.
As a high tourist destination for people from all over the world, Dubai offers plenty of places for teachers to meet with colleagues after work and get to know one another. In contrast to strict Islamic law in neighboring countries, Dubai is less so and more open to Westerners.
Dubai’s modern quality means that those who prefer an indoor, controlled environment, will still have plenty to do and see. Dubai boasts a varied and popular nightlife, with a slew of bars and clubs. During the day, teachers can find plenty to peruse at the Dubai Mall, one of the world’s largest shopping malls. But those who prefer to shop elsewhere, can do that too, nearly anywhere. Dubai has plenty of shopping malls and teachers will never find themselves running out of options. In this way, Dubai is a shopaholic's heaven.
Getting around the city is usually pretty straight forward. The public transit system works, but the easiest way to get around is to use a taxi. The cars are clean and the prices reasonable.
Salaries & Costs
Most (if not all) teaching jobs in Dubai are paid. Foreign teachers can expect a monthly salary equivalent to $2,800 to $3,500. Depending on housing arrangements and spending habits, this can be enough to live on, but teachers likely won’t save much if they aren’t careful. The good news is teacher’s salaries in the UAE are tax-free!
The cost of living in Dubai is higher than most large international cities. Rent and groceries are expensive, and particularly in the downtown area. Gasoline, as with most major cities in and around the Arabian Peninsula, is relatively cheap, though Dubai has one of the highest gas prices of the region. In Dubai, it will cost about the equivalent of $1.81 for a gallon (3.75 liters) of gas.
Some teaching jobs in Dubai will provide housing for international teachers with utilities paid. This generally means the company or school will secure a place for teachers to live but the teacher will be responsible for paying the rent, so teachers should be sure to check with their employer on the details. Health insurance is often provided for those who teach abroad in Dubai as well, and annual round trip flights to the UAE are a standard perk for teaching jobs in the UAE.
Accommodations & Visas
Those who teach abroad in Dubai will most likely live in apartments. Since the cost of living is so expensive in Dubai, teachers shouldn’t be surprised if apartments are very small. Just prepare to pack light and be ready to fit your belongings into a small space. It’s always good to check with the school or individual employer ahead of time to confirm housing details, such like amenities and furnishings. Most apartments provided by employers will be furnished.
Anyone who wants to teach abroad in Dubai will need a visa. To get a visa with work permission for up to three years, teachers will need to go through the UAE government. Each individual will be required to show proof of a legitimate work contract to get visa approval. Teachers should ask their employer for help with the visa process, and they will likely need to provide teachers with documentation to confirm employment. Start the process early as possible as it can be a long process.
Benefits & Challenges
Eager Students. One of the benefits of teaching abroad in Dubai is that the students are easy to work with. Students of all ages are eager to learn and apply whatever they can, whether it’s a technique in coding or a new idiom in English.
Diversified Teaching Style. The vast backgrounds teachers will see among students and the stark contrast they will witness between life in the city and life in the Arab countryside will provide them with invaluable skills for teaching individuals from all walks of life and backgrounds. Those who teach abroad in Dubai will become a vital and irreplaceable part of any educational institution they work for in the future.
Adjusting to the Climate. Dubai averages highs above 100 degrees fahrenheit in the summer months. With little rainfall, it can be a brutal transition for people not accustomed to the weather. Be ready to adapt and keep an open mind about the lack of cool weather.