Belfast Telegraph

Salary and housing cited as reasons Irish teachers work abroad

Education Minister Joe McHugh is on a two-day trip to the UAE to talk to Irish teachers overseas.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh is on a two day trip to the UAE to speak to Irish teachers (Brian Lawless/PA)
Minister for Education Joe McHugh is on a two day trip to the UAE to speak to Irish teachers (Brian Lawless/PA)

Salary, pay inequality, housing and lack of permanent positions are some of the main reasons teachers leave Ireland to find work abroad, a survey has found.

The Embassy of Ireland in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) carried out the survey of teachers working in the Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait.

It comes as the Education Minister Joe McHugh kicked off a two-day trip to the UAE to talk to Irish teachers about coming home.

Described as a fact-finding mission, the minister will meet with Irish teachers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to get their views on teaching abroad.

It is estimated that around 6,000 Irish teachers work abroad, with around 2,000 working in the UAE.

During his trip, the minister will hold meetings with UAE Minister for Education, Hussein Al Hamadi to discuss links between the Irish and UAE education systems.

Mr McHugh will visit Brighton College in Abu Dhabi where he will meet Irish teachers.

This trip is part of a learning process Education Minister Joe McHugh

He will also visit Khalifa University before travelling to Dubai to visit the local Choueifat School and also the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland-Dubai.

“This is a great opportunity to see first-hand the education links between Ireland and the UAE and to see how we can build on these as well as seeing for myself the work of our highly-regarded teachers in the classrooms in the Gulf region,” he said.

Mr McHugh said the survey has provided an “invaluable opportunity” to understand the key issues for teachers who want to return to Ireland.

He added: “They are a huge asset to the schools and the education system in the region and they are phenomenal ambassadors for our country.

“This trip is part of a learning process.”

He denied, however, that the trip is to recruit teachers or convince them 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,” he added.

The survey also found that more than half of Irish teachers in UAE are planning on returning to Ireland with just 10% saying they would not. The remainder were undecided.

Some 59% have been living in the Gulf for less than three years, while 25% have lived there for between three and five years.

Over three quarters of teachers moved to the Gulf for financial opportunities.

Some 40% cited lifestyle change, 35% unemployment or underemployment in Ireland and 30% for career development.

Salary was the most common issue raised by teachers about returning to teach in Ireland while 69% cited pay inequality for post-2011 entrants, 62% said housing was an issue while 58% cited lack of permanent teaching positions.

Just over a quarter said they were on a career break from an Irish school or institution.

Mr McHugh also expressed condolences to the family of Irish teacher Fiona Geraghty who died in a road accident in Dubai last week.

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