Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Education Development Institute (EDI) has emerged as the country’s key facilitator of, and authority on, the International Baccalaureate curriculum, reducing QF schools’ use of education-focused expertise from abroad by at least 90% in five years.

Before EDI started its professional learning initiatives, 70% of QF schools’ professional annual learning budget was spent on sending teachers abroad for workshops and conferences, it was announced on Tuesday. The remaining 30% was for bringing in experts to deliver in-school training. Despite such investment, this model was covering less than 20% of schools’ faculty.

In the meantime, QF’s Pre-University Education saw rapid growth resulting in 18% increase in teaching faculty in four years.

“Within two years, we helped QF schools reduce their spending on travel-based professional learning to less than 25%,” says Mehdi Benchaabane, director of EDI. “In 2018, EDI led 75% of local training, and schools were only spending 25% of their budget on non-EDI professional learning.”

In 2016, a professional development management system was developed in-house, providing the data to initiate changes and support a more equitable distribution of professional learning opportunities.

A new policy was introduced in QF schools in 2017, entitling teachers to minimum 10 hours of professional learning yearly. In 2018-19 academic year, 92% of QF teachers received at least this level of professional learning opportunities via EDI.

“When EDI was established in 2014, our mandate was not only to limit spending on travel costs, but to design and offer context-specific training in key curriculum areas,” says Joanna Moe, assistant director, Teaching and Learning.“To be more impactful, EDI opened its doors to teachers across the country.”

One way EDI does this is through its annual Teaching and Learning Forum. Last year alone, 1,800 delegates, together with international educators and speakers attended the event.

During the second semester of each academic year, EDI organises iSTEMed (Innovation in STEM Education) focusing on innovation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education across all schools in Qatar and abroad as well as an Education Forum for Heritage and Identity.

EDI also initiated a Heads of School Summit, another first for the country. Its first edition brought together 60 heads of private and international schools in Qatar, offering a common platform for school leaders to share their expertise and challenges. According to Moe, the gathering also inadvertently served another purpose.

“Up until two years ago, most staff from schools in Qatar could travel across the region to attend workshops and conferences,” she explains. “The recent developments in the region affected these movements. This forced schools to readjust their strategies. So it made a lot of sense for heads of schools to sit together, share their concerns, and discuss solutions.”

EDI has also become the primary provider of International Baccalaureate (IB) workshops in the country. It started helping non-QF schools transition into IB schools through workshops and outreach programmes. Currently, EDI offers three sets of IB regional events a year, with attendees and presenters from around the world.

EDI also initiated the development of the Qatar Heritage Curriculum. It provides students from kindergarten to Grade 9 with age-appropriate content on Qatar’s culture and heritage to ensure the preservation of the country’s cultural identity and traditions.

In 2019, EDI activated its partnership with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education by designing and offering multiple professional learning programmes including the training of around 300 teachers at the early childhood and elementary levels.

EDI also offers teachers from both within and outside QF workshops and conferences, to one-year programmes, all the way to newly-launched masters’ degrees.

“We collaborated with UCL to launch a Masters in Leadership in Education programme,” says Benchaabane. "This year, we welcomed our first cohort.

“We’re also starting a Post Graduate Certificate in International Education with the University of Bath in the UK, and those who complete the certificate have the option of extending their studies into a Masters course.”

To encourage homegrown talent and expertise, EDI has initiated two new programmes, titled Petal (Programme for Effective Teaching and Learning) and Palme (Programme for Aspiring Leaders and Managers in Education).