|Towards Establishing a New Reality|
QU President Professor Sheikha Abdullah Al-Misnad recently participated in a panel discussion on "Qatar Education Reform: Towards Establishing a New Reality" held on the sidelines of the UNESCO Educ
QU President Professor Sheikha Abdullah Al-Misnad recently participated in a panel discussion on "Qatar Education Reform: Towards Establishing a New Reality" held on the sidelines of the UNESCO Education For All mid-term review regional conference in Doha.
Alongside Professor Sheikha were other senior and influential people in Qatar's educational reform program including: Dr Abdulla Bin Ali Al-Thani, Vice President for Education, Qatar Foundation; Sheikh Hamad Bin Jabor Al-Thani, Director General of the General Secretariat for Development Planning (GSDP); Ms Sabah Al-Haidoos, Director of the Education Institute of the Supreme Education Council; and Khalid Al-Jufairi, a student at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. The event was organized by Qatar Foundation.
Professor Al-Misnad said that Qatar's education model would result in a generation of assertive and critical thinking problem-solvers skilled at facing the new economic realities. "There is a culture of not asking questions and we must begin by training a generation to ask questions, analyze and express themselves. Democracy is not just about parliaments and protests, but how we think as individuals," she said.
Both panelists and audience, which included senior government officials and journalists from across the region, suggested that Qatar's education reform experience could provide lessons and a viable model for other countries in the MENA region.
An example of this was Qatar's move away from a reliance on traditional teaching methods and 'rote learning.' Panelists were careful to draw a distinction between this learning approach and the much wider subject of Islamic studies. Making this point, Qatar Foundation's Dr Abdulla said: "The problem with rote learning is a problem with methodology and not of religious science. Religious science explores new horizons and is very creative."
Dr Abdulla underlined the importance of diversity and inclusiveness in Qatar's education goals, pointing out that there are over 50 nationalities of students enrolled at Education City in Qatar. He said: "Qatar Foundation is not an island separate from society."
Addressing the question of how targeted Qatar's reforms have been in creating a highly skilled pool of talent ready to enter the workforce, the GSDP's Sheikh Hamad said: "We have a better link between our education outputs and the labor market than ever before and this will only develop further."
He said that the greater use of career counseling to help students make the right study choices would help them find jobs in an increasingly competitive workplace.
However, stressing the broader benefits of a 'liberal' education, Khalid Al-Jufairi, a student at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Qatar, said: "Education is not just about jobs but wellbeing and justice and all sorts of other things. There are many goals for our system as people are more than just engineers or scientists.
His views were supported by the SEC's Sabah Al Haidoos who said: "Education is not geared solely to the labor market. It is about diversity, not just jobs. It is about critical thinking and that is a lifelong learning process. Rote learning is no longer acceptable as we now seek transparency, and through that greater democracy.
Audience members were encouraged to participate in the discussion and included a question as to whether the pace of education reform in Qatar is running faster than changes in wider Qatari society. Responding to this, Qatar University's Professor Sheikha insisted: "We must try our best - despite any fears. For reform to bear results requires time as education is an integrated process."