Academic journal article College Student Journal

Pre-Service Teachers Attitudes towards a Career in Special Education in the United Arab Emirate

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Pre-Service Teachers Attitudes towards a Career in Special Education in the United Arab Emirate

Article excerpt

The United Arab Emirates University as the main provider for qualified teachers in the country is seeking to improve educational services offered to children with special needs through teacher preparation programs. The study investigates how cultural, moral, societal, and professional factors affect student teachers selection of, and attitudes towards special education as a teaching profession. The study examines such factors in the contexts of current policies and trends that are adopted in the country.

To achieve the aims of the research, several qualitative research methods were applied to collect and analyze data, such as interviews, observation, and questionnaires. The study ends with a discussion of the main issues that emerge from researching this area and recommendation for future practice.

Introduction

The United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) was established in 1977 as the first higher educational institute in this young, but fast growing Gulf country. It is the premier national university whose mission is to meet the educational and cultural needs of UAE society by providing programs and services of the highest quality (UAEU mission statement). As the main provider for qualified teachers in the country, this university is seeking to improve educational services offered to children with special needs through teacher preparation programs. While trying to prepare all future teachers for meeting the needs of learners in regular classrooms, there is always the need for professional special educators who can teach students with specific special needs. It is assumed that a complex group of cultural, moral, societal, and professional factors affect construction of children with special needs in general, and their teachers in particular. That includes cultural values and beliefs towards the children and their educators that might shape or affect pre-service teachers attitudes towards a career in special education. The study investigates such factors, and any others that may have a significant effect. The study found that the status of teachers of children with special needs was a primal factor in seeking a career in that field. The study also looked at encouraging and discouraging factors towards this career for pre-service teachers.

Research in the area of attitudes towards children with disabilities in UAE has focused on surveys that investigate the efficacy of the special education placement (El-Sewidi & Abu Shehab, 1995), and educating certain categories of children with special educational needs such as Down Syndrome (Gaad 2001). There are some promising research projects going on examining teaching effectiveness of special education teachers (Funded research Duqmaq & Alghazo, 2003 in progress), and meeting the educational needs of all learners in the regular classroom (Funded research Gaad 2003 in progress). However, empirical research that focuses on that effect of social factors on career choice of pre service teachers is something new.

The study also examined the role of current policies at the university, and at national level that affect teachers of children with special needs and their status in society. Researching such area has become important.

Research Methods

Several methods and research approaches were used. They were mainly qualitative, such as interviewing pre-service teachers who are not yet specialized as well as Special Education pre-service teacher. I have also interviewed some newly serving Special Education graduates as well as some of those with experience that exceeded five years of teaching children with special needs.

One may argue that qualitative research in general has been helpful in describing educational interventions but weaker in documenting the relative efficacy of educational interventions (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1995). I argue that the use of a qualitative approach here is required as we are dealing with cultural issues and beliefs that need to be analyzed in a qualitative manner. …

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