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Special needs teachers in Saudi Arabia propose overhaul

Special needs teachers work with students suffering from all kinds of disabilities including autism

Published: Updated:

Increasing the incentives given to special needs teachers in Saudi Arabia will positively reflect on their performance and productivity. It will also encourage them to go the extra mile to achieve the goals of the schools they work for, Al-Riyadh daily reported, citing several teachers in the field.

Special education teachers work with students suffering from all kinds of disabilities including autism, Down’s Syndrome and other developmental and physical impairments.

Thus, incentives and extra benefits can help retain these vital teachers, keep their morale high and ensure they will take good care of students in their care.

Many special education teachers have called on the authorities to increase their incentives, give them a housing allowance while doubling their transportation allowance, offer more training courses and provide them with medical insurance.

They also said most special education classes are poorly equipped and lack modern smart devices designed specifically for teaching students with disabilities.

Heavy workload

Abdullah Al-Raba works with hearing-impaired students and he believes the number of classes assigned to special education teachers should be capped at 10 a week.

“We’re dealing with students who suffer from hearing problems. We need to allocate more time to them,” Al-Raba said.

Teacher Majed Al-Khreaji said special education teachers should not be assigned more than 15 classes a week so they can work with students individually and develop their skills more effectively.

“We exert immense efforts to educate these students and spend a lot of time with them. The number of classes should be cut in order for us to intensify our efforts and focus more on the important skills students should learn,” Al-Khreaj said.

“Every special education teacher needs to improve his/her skills constantly and enroll in courses that help them stay abreast of the latest educational advancements,” he added.

Al-Raba called for increasing end-of-service benefits, giving outstanding teachers a bonus at the end of each semester and added that teachers should be allowed to retire after completing 25 years of service.

“The rate of annual salary increment should be raised and teachers should be given special discounts for flights on the national carrier,” he added.

Teacher Fahad Al-Shenaifi special education teachers should be treated differently from their counterparts who teach other students.

“Our job is difficult. We need more incentives to improve our performance and learn new skills to apply in the classroom. It’s extremely difficult to teach a special needs student.

We need to exert twice the effort other teachers exert,” he said. Ahmad Al-Saif, member of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) who is also an expert on disability affairs, agreed that incentives are important for improving job performance.

“There is no doubt that incentives will have a positive impact on the way teachers educate students and make them more loyal to the school or center they work for,” Al-Saif said.

He also pointed out that the Kingdom, as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, has a duty to better train and compensate its special education teachers.

“Section (i), Article (4) of the convention stipulates that, ‘to promote the training of professionals and staff working with persons with disabilities in the rights recognized in the present Convention so as to better provide the assistance and services guaranteed by those rights’,” he said.

e-Curriculum

Special education teacher Mishari Al-Tamimi said a unified e-curriculum should be designed for all students who have learning difficulties.

“Most classes have primitive equipment and this doesn’t help us as teachers to be creative with special needs students.

The Ministry of Education should adopt an e-curricula policy and unify tests for students. Most importantly, teachers should be provided with courses that hone their skills,” he said.

Al-Tamimi also said special education teachers are often assigned to work in schools located very far from where they live.

The time they spend on commuting negatively affects their performance as they have to drive for hours to and from their assigned school.

“Teachers should be given a chance to complete higher studies in their fields and help train other teachers who do not have a chance to study abroad,” he added.