HE the Minister of Education and Higher Education, Dr Mohamed Abdul Wahed Ali al-Hammadi has attributed the achievements in the field of education to the support extended by the country's leadership to this vital sector, affirming that education is given the highest priority on the government's agenda and enjoys the largest share in the state budget.
In an address to the Advisory Council on the state of education in Qatar, the minister said that education in Qatar has undergone important changes over the last two decades and many achievements have been registered in the sector despite the challenges faced during the period.
HE Dr al-Hammadi reviewed the strategic objectives of the education ministry's plan, including the provision of the infrastructure of public and private schools, raising the level of their performance, improving the levels of students and their results in national and international tests and ensuring the enrollment of students with special needs in various educational programmes.
The minister said the sector's objectives include attracting talent, improving the performance of teachers, raising the quality of the performance of the ministry of education and higher education, ensuring the effective participation of the private sector in meeting the needs of schools and universities, improving the services provided to the public, and deepening Qatari cultural values in all stages of study, and promoting understanding of other cultures.
As for the outstanding educational achievements over the last five years, the minister noted the quantitative achievements in the education sector, thanks to the support given by the country's leadership to this sector.
He added that the number of public schools has increased by about 100 schools, the number of Qatari students has increased by 9,000, and that of expatriate students to 17,000, and the number of private schools has increased by 80, and the number of Qatari students enrolled in these schools has increased by 6,000 and that of expatriate students by 32,000.
The minister pointed out that the number of higher education institutions rose to 26 civil and military and private universities from 16 in 2013, while the number of students outside Qatar on the scholarship system reached 4,000 while those studying inside Qatar was 5,000.
In the last two years, he said, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education focused on raising the quality of early education, developing educational curricula, enhancing teacher performance, improving the learning environment, expanding private schools, developing its system, upgrading the higher education system and increasing the number of universities, promoting scientific research and innovation, increasing participation in international competitions, developing services and raising the institutional performance of the ministry.
Regarding educational curricula, HE Dr al-Hammadi said that the ministry has set the general framework of reference for the curriculum for the first time in Qatar, noting that this framework is based on the Qatar National Vision 2030, the identity of Qatar and its religious values.
He pointed out that the previous curricula included these issues, but did not have a reference document to ensure integration between them and the contents of the Qatar Vision 2030, especially in terms of strengthening religious and national values.
Touching on the changes in the curriculum recently, he said it is normal to introduce amendments time to time, to include political, social, cultural and scientific developments worldwide, and absorb the observations of experts and practitioners in the field of education on the previous curricula.
HE Dr al-Hammadi stressed that the ministry worked with its maximum capacity to complete the curriculum in one year, and that it was forced to speed up the completion of the amendments in view of the current challenges, adding this was a great achievement.
He said that one of the most important features of the new curriculum is the promotion of sense of belonging, identity and religious values, and the focus was on the competencies needed by students in terms of skills, values and behavior more than knowledge because it exists and available and easy to obtain.
He added that the ministry is focusing on enhancing students' abilities for criticism, analysis and innovation, rather than memorisation, as well as adopting new methods to measure learning gains to be more relevant to today's world, to enable extensive technology and to achieve complementarity between school materials.
As for professional licences, he explained that they have become more suitable for teachers and the field of education in general, and are currently dependent on the classroom observation of the teacher and his or her participation in training courses, while cancelling the professional achievement file.
The Minister of Education and Higher Education also pointed to reducing the burden on teacher, stressing that Qatar is among the lowest countries in the workloads for teaching and offers higher salaries than any other country.
Among the achievements presented by the minister was the improvement in the learning environment to be more motivating, unifying school holidays, reducing school hours, promoting purposeful activities, raising the level of behavioural discipline, and developing exam procedures among others.
He noted the adoption of clear standards for the recruitment and evaluation of teachers, with expanding the opening of specialised programmes in the College of Education of Qatar University to meet the needs for more teachers. Currently the college holds 14 specialties with more than 2,000 students.
The minister also said that the ministry launched important initiatives such as providing financial incentives for Qataris and residents, born in Qatar and Qatari children to join the college of education then join the teaching profession.
He said there is an increase in the demand for the programme, which aims to attract Qataris, Qatari children and those born in Qatar to join educational and scientific disciplines, to meet the needs of schools. He added that so far there are 900 students in the programme.
HE Dr al-Hammadi said that the indicators confirm the high level of confidence of Qataris in public schools and this was shown in the significant increase in the number of students who moved to public schools.
Other achievements the minister mentioned is achieving higher education law (in the process of being approved), the completion of the national qualifications framework, establishing the national commission for qualifications and academic accreditation to monitor the quality of institutions of higher education, and the modernisation of the system of procedures for equivalence of certificates, besides embracing all students affected by the blockade and establishing educational attache offices in a number of countries.
The minister said that despite these achievements, the ministry has a lot to do to reach complete satisfaction. He added that a great deal has been achieved in terms of global education quality and the ministry seeks to develop outputs, by focusing on the quality of the curriculum, teacher efficiency and student motivation.
His Excellency touched on the certificates equivalence and the procedure followed by the ministry for the matter. The State has provided all opportunities to Qatari students, and has provided them with educational opportunities in the world's top universities, there is no excuse for any Qatari students to enroll in low-level universities, he added.
With regard to residents' certificates authentication, HE Dr al-Hammadi said that the role of the ministry is to authenticate the validity of the certificate, but what is related to other technical matters and the suitability of the certificate holder to work is the responsibility of the ministries and agencies wishing to employ them.
In response to a question about the length of the academic year, the minister said that the ministry has reduced the daily school hours in exchange for an increase in the number of days to meet international standards.
In response to a question about private schools, he stressed the ministry's keenness on continuously evaluating quality control in these schools and measuring their commitment to basic subjects such as Arabic, Islamic and social sciences. HE Dr al-Hammadi said that the ministry is keen to strengthen the religious and national identity and values of students in these schools.
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