What makes you a “teacher”?


There is some interesting news out of the UAE this week; the teacher licensing exams in Dubai have been piloted and are ready for large scale testing of teachers in the country. There are a huge number of issues related to this that cannot possibly be covered in one post. There are measurement issues related to deciding what is measurable in teaching, whether tests can accurately differentiate between good teachers and poor teachers, and the blatant discrimination based on national origin (certain teachers have to do it while others don’t) embedded in this particular system. There just isn’t time for all of that here, so let’s pick one issue.

Because I’m particularly passionate about poor reporting of statistics, let’s start there!

Here were the two headlines I saw:

Over 100 Dubai Teachers Receive Teaching License

Fewer than half of teachers pass UAE licensing test

While both of these headlines are interesting and they tell slightly different stories.

The first article states that over 100 participants received licenses and within the article they clarify that 227 teachers participated and then report in the following categories:

Teacher category

Number Pass Number in category

Internationally licensed teachers


(100% pass rate)


(23% of test takers)

Teacher trainees and teaching assistants without teaching qualifications


(88% pass rate)


(15% of test takers)

Teachers without internationally recognised teacher licenses



(67% pass rate)


(62% of test takers)

The article clarifies that the final category was also “including 35 candidates with no teaching experience, who participated in the Teach Best programme”. I’m curious how many of those 35 passed — only a few more than 35 failed to pass — but that part of the story isn’t included. Strangely, it doesn’t add up to 227 as the article states and it seems that 173 passed, not just over 100.
It is interesting because not only is this well over 100 teachers passing, but it is also many more than half as the second article claims. It is explained in a different way:

Number Passed Number passed but have not completed their English proficiency test Total
Teachers Tested 106

(47% of test takers)


(30% of test takers)


So, the second article reports the number who passed the teaching exams but have not finished their English proficiency tests to be considered licensed teachers.

Both of these headlines were misleading, only together do they create a comprehensive story and even reading both, it is not entirely clear what the results were!

The most striking thing about these numbers is the incredible 100% pass rate of “internationally recognized” teachers and the excellent 88% pass rate of trainee teachers and teaching assistants (many of whom may have licensure in the Philippines, India, etc.). This is interesting compared to the significantly lower pass rate of 67% for teachers without recognised credentials. But it is worth noting that 62% of all the test takers were in that category.

This was just a quick break down of the interesting ways that the numbers were reported for this new program. There are several other issues with this licensing program that I hope to get to in future posts.


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