Buthaina Ali Al Nuaimi, President of Pre-University Education, Qatar Foundation, talks about the organization’s achievements in the field of pre-university education, and its contribution to building the next generation of leaders and change-makers throughout its 25-year journey.
Why does Qatar Foundation invest in pre-university education, and how does this benefits Qatar and integrate with the country's educational system?
Education has always been the key to development, whether it is social or economic, or within the fields of science and knowledge. Investing in education reflects Qatar Foundation's vision to contribute to Qatar’s progress in various fields, as well as to support the nation’s transformation to a sustainable and diversified economy.
A quarter of a century ago, pre-university education was the seed that emerged from Qatar Foundation’s first entity, Qatar Academy, which was established in 1996.
Based on Qatar Foundation’s belief that early years and pre-university education pave the way for shaping an young person’s life before moving on to university and their careers in the future, and our awareness that we are part of a larger system of education in Qatar, we have worked to continually strengthen our relationship with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Qatar, which has always been solid, and have signed a Memorandum of Understanding which aims to exchange experiences and best practices in various fields, such as teacher training and the field of early years education. Between the ministry and ourselves, cooperation continues.
The most important element that distinguishes our educational system is that we start from the inside and look outwards, rather than the other way around
What are the characteristics of pre-university education at Qatar Foundation? How has the foundation sought to benefit from, adopt and adapt international education models to the national context, and how can Qatari identity and culture be strengthened within a global education and learning perspective?
The most important element that distinguishes our educational system is that we start from the inside and look outwards, rather than the other way around. We have not simply relied on importing external education models; we have worked on developing new programs to align with our local requirements and needs. Every new initiative we undertake, whether in terms of opening new schools or launching education programs, is typically either in response to a specific need, or to fill specific gaps.
Identity, culture and heritage, values, and ethics are an integral part of the general framework of our educational programs at Qatar Foundation.
This is evident in many of our endeavors, as we have worked to integrate these concepts into our academic curricula. We introduced the first specialized curriculum for teaching Qatari heritage in Qatar Foundation schools as an independent subject in 2014, from elementary school to middle school. We have also introduced our ethics and values curriculum, and integrated it into our educational curricula.
Since 2016, we have also organized the annual Educational Forum on Heritage and Identity to celebrate initiatives related to the elements of Qatari heritage and its identity. This forum brings together an elite group of teachers and specialists from all schools and relevant authorities in the country, including from the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and the Ministry of Culture and Sports, and this is organized and sponsored by the Education Development Institute, part of Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education.
The culture of lifelong learning is one of the basic concepts that Qatar Foundation is keen to instill in everyone
How does Qatar Foundation educate individuals in a way that extends beyond the classroom? And how does this contribute to nurturing the next generation of future leaders and change-makers, and in strengthening community cohesion?
The culture of lifelong learning is one of the basic concepts that Qatar Foundation is keen to instill in everyone, from students, teachers, and parents to every member of the community. We live in a changing world that requires new educational structures and a special focus on developing skills and talents.
When it comes to the experience of continuing education at Qatar Foundation, I see it as being on two levels. The first is the student level, as the educational and life experiences we offer extend beyond the classroom through our Learn 365 program that offers internal and external programs and activities throughout the academic year and school holidays, in the fields of science, literature, arts, music and sports.
The experiences of our students confirm the extent of the impact of such programs, as they involve students in the educational process and develop both their personal and academic aspects – such as stimulating thinking and exploration – all of which reflects on their personality and future orientation, and contributes to cultivating a new generation of researchers and thinkers.
Basic skills that we work to instill in our students include learner agency, encouraging them to lead the process of their own education and take the initiative, and developing their motivation to explore topics that interest them, which are skills that a person will need throughout their life.
On the professional level, we invested in the Education Development Institute, which is one of our initiatives focused on supporting teachers nationwide through curriculum development and capacity building. During the past year, more than 4,500 male and female teachers benefited from our training programs, in addition to the several thousand others who attended our annual conferences in the fields of education and learning, science, heritage, and culture. We have also partnered with the University of Bath and University College London to offer an MA program in Educational Leadership.
We are proud that we have developed different specialized models for education, as the strength of our system lies in its variety
What are the main aspects of the development of Qatar Foundation’s pre-university education system? And how does this system interact with the research, innovation and community development sector at Qatar Foundation?
Perhaps one of our most important and prominent achievements is the expansion of our portfolio of schools. We are proud that we have developed different specialized models for education, as the strength of our system lies in its variety.
The pre-university education journey at Qatar Foundation began with one school, Qatar Academy, and over the course of 25 years the Qatar Academy model has expanded to encompass 13 schools. We also established specialized schools, in response to the needs of society and through our belief that every child has the right to study in a place that provides them with the best chance of success and growth, and that all of our students should receive the education that matches their abilities and helps to unlock their potential.
The advantage is that they all belong to one community that is characterized by integration, cooperation, and shared values
This unique model of diversity in education is reflected through schools and academic and specialized programs such as Qatar Academy for Science & Technology, Renad Academy – which supports children with Autism – Awsaj Academy, Academyati, and Qatar Leadership Academy, catering to students of all ages and abilities, starting from pre-school level until Grade 12.
And this, in turn, reflects the diversity of our students; enhancing their capabilities and giving them multiple opportunities that enable them to develop, grow, and prosper. It also provides parents with many options, as they can choose from multiple schools according to what best suits them and their children. The advantage is that they all belong to one community that is characterized by integration, cooperation, and shared values. The basis of our pre-university education system is always the same, but with different programs being provided.
We also have close collaborations with the higher education system at Qatar Foundation, which opens up many great opportunities for our students. We have joint programs with Qatar Foundation’s partner universities and Hamad Bin Khalifa National University that enable our students to participate in competitions, programs, and workshops, such as Texas A&M University in Qatar’s science and technology platform, and the robotics training programs at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, among others.
Through this cooperation, universities at Qatar Foundation also work to guide our students, through mentors who support them in their fields of interest and research. Indeed, we have students who have won international research competitions thanks to specialized mentors from universities at Education City.