Teaching in Abu Dhabi - a comprehensive guide to ADEC

Be informed and prepared for your move to the Middle East to teach with the Abu Dhabi Education Council - read our ADEC info guide. This 20 minute read covers a lot of ground - info on timelines and milestones in the process, how to prepare for your interview, how ADEC works, how the classroom environment and overall culture differs from what you're used to at home, advice on your move, feedback from teachers who have already moved overseas to teach with ADEC, and more.

Teaching Jobs in Abu Dhabi
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ADEC Info Guide:


Interview Prep

Preparation is the key to success in your ADEC interview! We have helped hundreds of teachers be successful in their ADEC interviews and have a very good idea of what you may be asked and how you should prepare. To help you prepare for the big day we will send you a number of articles that will give you an idea of the types of questions you may be asked. We also run a series of webinars to walk you through the interview day and what to expect.

About ADEC & New School Model

Footprints Recruiting are proud to be one of the principal partners of the Abu Dhabi Education Council and have recruited for this prestigious organisation for many years. As the oldest teacher recruitment agency in the world, we have supported hundreds of teachers worldwide to gain a teaching position with ADEC - you can trust us to offer you the best support and guidance and the best chance of success with your application!

So who are ADEC and what is the New School Model?

Established in 2005, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) was set up to develop and reform education and educational institutions in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The main goal of ADEC is to become a world leader in educational practice and they have set out an ambitious vision for this to happen by the year 2030. So if you’re looking for a role that’s exciting, challenging and meaningful then this could be just the thing!

One of the ways they are working towards this vision is by implementing the ‘New School Model’ in the public school classrooms. The idea behind the New School Model is to bring student-centered, innovative and globally competitive teaching into the classroom. This better prepares students to be the global citizens their society needs them to be. The model was initially based on the New South Wales, Australian curriculum, and now mixes curriculum approaches from around the world and is ever-evolving as the Emirate comes closer to achieving its vision.

What will you be teaching?

ADEC works with 265 public schools in Abu Dhabi and they break their grades into three different “cycles”. For the best chance of success, you will be put forward for the cycle you have the most experience with:

Kindergarten: You will be preparing students for Cycle 1 and you will be team-teaching with a teacher of Arabic.
Cycle 1: You will teach students in Grades 1-5 (broken down by Lower Primary, which is grades 1-3, and Upper Primary, which is grades 4-5). The subjects you will teach will be English, Math and Science.
Cycle 2: You will teach students in Grade 6-9 and teach either English, Math or Science.
Cycle 3: You will teach students in Grade 10-12 and teach either English, Math or Science.
Leadership: As the assistant Vice-Principal, you will take a leadership role in the school and work closely with the Principal and the teaching staff.

With the exception of KG, all of the classes are separated by gender, female teachers are able to teach male students but male teachers are not able to teach female students. All KG teachers are female.

Working and Living in Abu Dhabi

What do I need to know about living and working in Abu Dhabi?

Moving abroad can be a big and scary process, however there are a wide variety of people from other cultures and nationalities living and working in Abu Dhabi. A whopping 83% of the population are expats, making the Emirate of Abu Dhabi a melting pot of different cultures - this definitely helps with the transition when you first arrive. With a thriving expat community, there are countless opportunities to interact with people from other countries and we often hear feedback that making friends with people from all over the world is one of the best things about working in Abu Dhabi!

Despite the large number of foreigners living in Abu Dhabi, the Islamic Faith remains at the heart of how people should behave in the emirate. While foreigners are free to practice their own religion, it’s important for expats to respect traditional Arab culture and customs. Plus adapting to and learning about a new culture is undoubtedly one of the selling points of the experience!

Make sure to spend some time doing your own research on what is and isn't acceptable in the Gulf countries of the Middle East. Here are just a few of the important things you will need to be aware of:

▫ Dress Code

The dress code is fairly liberal in the emirate and with the beautiful sub-tropical climate, lightweight summer clothing will be suitable for most of the year. You can pretty much get away with wearing ‘normal’ clothes as long as they are reasonably modest and not too revealing.

▫ Dress Code for Women

It is not an expectation that women cover themselves completely in Abu Dhabi, although many Muslim women choose to do so. In more traditional environments, such as a mosque or a government building, women will be expected to dress conservatively and cover their shoulders, legs and hair. Whilst you are teaching it is advisable to wear clothes more on the modest side and make sure any shirts/ tops cover at least your upper arms and that any skirts/ dresses are a minimum of knee-length. There are many private beaches in Abu Dhabi and swimwear in these places is a little more relaxed - you can get away with wearing a bikini. Although when you are using the public beaches, it’s better to err on the side of caution and cover up with a modest one-piece; shorts and T- shirts are also perfectly acceptable.

▫ Dress Code for Men

Again, men can get away with wearing ‘normal’ clothes, although they should take care to avoid wearing shorts that are too short and anything that is too tight fitting. Generally, wearing sportswear should be reserved for when you are actually playing the sport, not at any other time. At school long, smart trousers are a good idea, although a suit jacket won’t be necessary unless there is someone high profile visiting the school! For men hitting up the beach, shorts and T-shirt are a good idea.

▫ Alcohol

Even though the UAE is under Sharia Law, you are still able to drink alcohol - but there are very strict guidelines around this. To be able to consume alcohol, you will be required to obtain a personal liquor license (which you can apply for online) and have this stamped by your employer. There are quite severe punishments for those caught drinking without a license (as in up to five years in prison!) so our advice is get yourself a license before enjoying any alcohol! It is also illegal to drink anywhere in public - anyone caught breaking this rule will again, be severely punished. Sometimes, expats can get complacent with this law, as Abu Dhabi is so liberal compared to other Middle Eastern areas. But do not fall into a false sense of security: drinking on the street and without a license really is a big no-no!

▫ Relationships

The UAE are an Arab Muslim country and have strict laws around how couples can behave. Unmarried couples are not allowed to live together and sex outside of marriage is considered illegal. If you are travelling in the UAE as an unmarried couple, you need to be very discreet and stay mindful that displays of public affection are also not allowed (for married couples too!). If anyone suspects you’re not married, then you could be reported to the police and face imprisonment.


One of the big benefits of the ADEC package is that free accommodation is included! The size of the accommodation will be based on whether you are coming to Abu Dhabi as a single traveller or with a family. It’s usually either an apartment or a villa within a complex and is often located nearby other teachers. You’ll need to set up your own Internet and pay your own utility bills, which are usually around 300 AED per month. Unlike other schools in the region, ADEC doesn’t provide an accommodation allowance as an option for you to secure your own living arrangements. Once you’ve moved in, you’ll join a large community of teachers and other expats from around the world - our ADEC teachers often say it’s like having an instant group of new friends. In some cases, your accommodation could be up to 45 minutes away from your school and you’ll need to drive. Public transport is rarely a viable option in Abu Dhabi - most teachers will purchase a used car or car share with others.

Saving Money

With housing already paid for and the contract's other benefits, many teachers find that they can save 60%-70% of their take-home pay (depending on their lifestyle in Abu Dhabi). For many, their time in the UAE is a unique opportunity to save up for big goals back home.

In the Classroom

Top ten tips for succeeding in the classroom in Abu Dhabi!

All good teachers know the importance of strong classroom management and this is no different when it comes to managing behaviour in Abu Dhabi public schools! One of the big differences you may find when you teach in the Abu Dhabi public schools is regarding the socio-economic status of the students. Many of them will come from very wealthy families and this can have an impact on how they value their education, we hear from some teachers that students do not necessarily see the value of their education as they will not have to work in the future due to their families wealth. Parental involvement can also vary from school to school and region to region. Some teachers tell us they have experienced parents in the city who are heavily involved with their child’s education to the point where they wander the corridors during the lessons (!) and we speak to other teachers who say that the parents don’t want to interact with them too much due to their inability to speak English… so it just depends!

Ultimately behaviour can really vary depending on the age and gender of the students you are teaching - some teachers have an easy time with managing behaviour, while for others it can prove to be more challenging. Here are some of our top tips for managing behaviour ...

  1. An awareness of Emirati culture is very important to allow you to build solid relationships with the students and their parents. That cultural awareness is the key to classroom engagement. Some children won’t want to learn if they feel their teacher does not care about them or their culture.
  2. Be culturally sensitive to the resources you use in the classroom e.g. appropriate videos. There have even been reports of teachers being dismissed for showing culturally insensitive videos to their class, so this is a very important point. For example, in the Islamic faith, pigs are seen as unclean animals, so it’s best to avoid using books and videos that reference them (so you might want to avoid The Three Little Pigs or Charlotte’s Web!). Your lesson plans should also avoid talking about Western holidays such as Christmas and Easter, as these typically aren’t culturally appropriate. Another example is making any reference to the Persian Gulf. There are cultural sensitivities and disputes over the naming of this body of water due to historical events linked to the Muslim conquest of Persia, and in the UAE it’s known as the Arabian Gulf. These are just a few examples of many - it’s best to double check with your principal or colleagues if you aren’t sure.
  3. Adapt to the rhythm and pace of the school, take things slowly and take your cues from the other teachers and administration.
  4. Collaboration is the key! Your ability to build positive working relationships with social workers, school staff, the principal and other members of the administration can make or break your time in Abu Dhabi.
  5. A common phrase you will hear in Abu Dhabi and from your students is insha’allah which translates to ‘if God wills’ / ‘God willing’. This phrase refers to how we can never be sure of the success of plans we make and that things will happen as God wills it. Understanding this concept will help you to understand how mindset and pace of life can be much more relaxed that in Western cultures.
  6. Accept that there will be frustrations and challenges along the way, take each day as it comes and work hard to adapt to the cultural attitude and way of your Emirati students.
  7. Get to know your students’ names! This is the golden rule for any teacher! It can be tricky to learn such a large number of names in a short space of time, and especially getting your head around the Arabic pronunciation… but this is an important way to build trust and show your students you really care about them. Be proactive in learning them sooner rather than later; use name cards, ask some of your Arabic colleagues to help you with the pronunciation, get the students to correct you and make the effort, you won’t regret it!
  8. Positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to keep your students on task and engaged with your lessons; reward and recognition tools, such as sending letters and certificates home, will go a long way in motivating your students. Catch them being good! Focusing on students who are behaving will bring far more reward that giving your attention to the ones who are misbehaving.
  9. Planning, planning and more planning! Well-planned lessons will make the difference between a lesson that achieves its outcomes and one that falls victim to chaos and confusion.
  10. Please make sure to read info on managing behaviour on the ADEC website for some practical tips and suggestions.

What will the school day look like?

Your working week will begin on a Sunday and finish on a Thursday, so your weekend days are Friday and Saturday. The working hours are typically from 7:30am-2pm (boys usually start school half an hour before the girls). Class sizes are typically between 20-30 students. Classes are separated by gender after kindergarten. During the day, the teaching schedule is typically quite busy and you won’t get much prep time or long breaks between classes. You will be busy, but you’ll still get plenty of prep time due to the overall shorter teaching day and UAE’s frequent public holidays - on balance, it’s a good trade off. ADEC also doesn’t usually require teachers to run extra-curricular activities. Staff meetings and professional development opportunities are often limited to two nights per week.

Where will I be teaching?

Being flexible and adaptable is the key to enjoying your ADEC experience! You could be placed anywhere within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. There are three different regions in Abu Dhabi you could potentially teach in:

  • Abu Dhabi City
  • Al Ain
  • Al Gharbia

Each one is unique in it’s own right and the schools vary in size and provisions. ADEC staff will make the decision about where you will teach based on the needs of the schools and where they feel you will be able to make the biggest impact. They need teachers who will be able to roll with the punches and have a positive attitude! Al Gharbia (the Western Region) is one of the more rural areas within the Emirate. In our experience, many teachers who are placed here end up renewing their contracts because they love the area and the closer connections they form with the colleagues. Another bonus of teaching in Al Gharbia is the extra stipend you’ll receive for being a more remote area - this is in addition to your base ADEC salary.

So what can you expect from the schools?

ADEC are working towards a vision where all of their schools have state-of-the-art facilities. Like any reform this takes time, and subsequently the facilities and resources offered at each school will vary. Many will be furnished with ICT rooms, touch screen computers and SmartBoards, but this will not necessarily be the case for all schools. Being adaptable is important, so be prepared to work with whatever your school can offer!

A student-centered approach is at the heart of the ADEC New School Model and teachers are expected to use a range of exciting and stimulating resources. Technology is a big one here and ADEC are really looking for teachers who are tech-savvy, or who at least have the capability to use technology in the classroom!

There will be many resources available to you when you start teaching in Abu Dhabi. There are also teaching stores where you can stock up on any materials you may need, although you may want to be bring some of your own resources from home on a USB stick or portable drive. *Please always check with your Principal or colleagues to make sure your materials are culturally appropriate!

Teaching English Language Learners

One of the biggest challenges you will face when teaching in the Abu Dhabi Public schools is teaching local Emirati students who largely do not speak any English. So you will be teaching challenging core curriculum subjects whilst overcoming the challenge of a language barrier. To succeed with ADEC, you will need to be a teacher with a huge range of strategies, teaching methods, tricks and creative ideas hidden up your sleeve ready to use at any given moment to help your students understand your lessons!

Here are a few of our top tips for succeeding when teaching English language learners:

  • Get a base understanding of your students’ language proficiency. How competent are they in all four areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening?
  • Technology - videos, website, blogs, smart boards, tablets, ChromeBooks, and whatever else you can get your hands on!
  • Model to students - demonstrating tasks will give them clearer expectations about what you want them to do and increase their self confidence
  • Visuals - nonverbal cues really help language learners and will also tap into different learning styles. Think about using pictures, sketches, gestures, intonation to engage the learners and make your lessons more memorable.
  • Slow down! Speak slowly, clearly and use shorter sentences wherever possible to make things as simple as possible for your students
  • Repetition: repeating key words and phrases that your students need to know will help to reinforce their knowledge and understanding.
  • Make it relate! Choose topics that will engage your students. Lessons based on popular culture and topics the students can relate to will make the lessons far more enjoyable for the students and increase their motivation.

Extra things to consider when teaching academic subjects to English language learners:

  • When teaching subjects like Math remember that your students are going to have limited vocabulary and will need extra support in learning subject-specific vocab so they can understand mathematical concepts. Some people think that because Mathematics has a universal language that this will make it easier for students to understand. This is not necessarily the case.
  • Students will need to read and understand written Math problems and in order to do this will need to grasp the language being used. Some ways teachers can support with this is by reading the questions together, providing interactive and hands on activities that allow the students to engage with the question, and drawing images to illustrate the meaning of the question
  • Students can get very confused if they do not understand the context of the question. Some ways to overcome this is by simplifying the language being used to make it more accessible; you could also try building understanding by using real life examples or something that they can relate to.
  • Get them using the language! It is critical to make sure students understand the subject-specific vocabulary and have plenty of opportunity to use it. Get your students to discuss their answers in pairs, or perhaps to keep a journal where they can reflect on what they have learned and process it.

Leadership and working with your Arabic Co-Workers

Like any education system there are set Professional Standards and expectations that all teachers and members of the administration must work towards. At the heart of any performance management system in a school is the focus on the following: professional attributes, knowledge and understanding and skills. For the Principals in the school, the most important thing is to ensure that all of their staff are doing well in these areas, as well as providing leadership and direction. How much interaction you will have with your school Principal depends on the school that you are working in, but building trust and respect will be an important factor of our time at the school. The same goes for working with your Arabic co-workers. Here are some of our top tips for building these relationships:

  • To build positive, long-term relationships with your colleagues you need to get to know them on a personal level and and understand that building relationships takes time and it won’t just happen overnight. Show an interest in your colleagues and getting to know them and you won’t regret it!
  • Be mindful of disagreeing with co-workers in public. It is important never to be critical of someone else in public, even to the point where some Arabic co-workers may agree with someone even of they actually don’t agree, in order to save embarrassment for that person.
  • Be aware of your body language! You will often find that in the UAE male coworkers will greet by rubbing noses and also will stand very close to each other. This is not acceptable behaviour for females; being aware of your body language will help you gain respect from your coworkers.
  • Pace of life: remember that the pace of life in the UAE will be much slower that what you are used to. This may be initially frustrating for newcomers but it is important to learn to adapt and take the time to chat and make polite conversation, even when things are busy!

The Big Move

Moving with a family

The ADEC package will allow for you to bring a spouse and up to three biological children under the age of 18. If you were hoping to travel with your family, then this is definitely one of the best programs for you! It is recommended that your family join you at least 4 weeks after you arrive in Abu Dhabi. When you first arrive, the first two weeks will be spent undergoing an orientation (ADEC will put you up in a hotel during this time). Afterwards, you will be very busy settling into your new home, getting to know your new school and colleagues, having your medical exam, arranging your residency visa, etc etc!

Foreign students are not allowed to be educated alongside local Emirati pupils so it will necessary for you to send your children to a private school. The costs of this can vary greatly and can range from 15,000 AED - 45,000 AED ($4,000 CAD- $10,000 CAD) per month. This is not a small amount of money so we really encourage you to do your research before you commit to bringing your family! You should also be aware that if you’re bringing your kids with you from day one, you’ll need to make your own childcare arrangements during the orientation period. For more information on bringing your children to the UAE, you can read personal experiences our teachers have shared here and here.


"My experience with Footprints was truly a good one, I enjoyed the frequent updates and the professionalism. Previously I worked abroad and made use of another recruiter and... let's just say FPs impressed me! :) As far as working for ADEC, I am blessed to be in a good school, with happy and vibrant young girls."

"A year on into my teaching experience abroad I can truly say it's been awesome! I've gained an insight into the Emirati culture, lifestyle and teaching in Abu Dhabi. I love it! Thanks Footprints!"

"It was the best experience professionally, enriching, and unbelievable! I enjoyed every single moment that I was there! In the beginning I was scared and uncertain but embraced the challenges and made the best of it! Working with Footprints was great and I always recommend the company all to other colleagues!"

"Footprints eliminated ALL my questions and concerns about teaching in the UAE. All the information given concerning the living conditions was clarified. Footprints also took me through the application process step by step and even though the paperwork is daunting, I never felt alone or overwhelmed."

"I used Footprints Recruiting to secure my teaching job here in Abu Dhabi. They were amazing and helped me every step of the way. Next year will be my 4th year working with the company that Footprints got me in touch with. I would whole-heartily recommend them to anyone wanting to get a teaching job overseas."

"Right from the moment you do your assessment with footprints and are found to be qualified and suitable for a position , you will never be alone. Footprints recruiting will guide you on application process, preparation for interview, and help you with departure from your home country to you primary place of assignment. As soon as you secure your job, you will receive useful information on the country you're going to work in. Great follow-up to find out how you have settled in to your new cultural environment. I highly recommend footprints for this ADEC program."