By Noor Al-rawi
Qatar Foundation is keen to continue providing the best education standards for its students and support its endeavour to help Qatar transform into a competitive and diversified economy with knowledge-intensive sectors by enhancing comprehensive learning opportunities for students in Pre-University Education of Qatar Foundation (PUE).
Upon rapid transition to distance learning following the outbreak of the coronavirus in Qatar educators had to adapt quickly to the new learning system in order to continue providing high quality education to all students and avoid any disruption to the learning process.
QF stressed the importance of co-operation between all institutions in Qatar to support each other and overcome the ongoing crisis.
In this context, PUE institutions have provided various workshops for all teachers from different schools across the country in both Arabic and English in order to support their knowledge in the online tools and platforms.
Joanna Moe, Assistant Director for Teaching and Learning at Education Development Institute (EDI), has explained in an interview, the different initiatives organised by EDI and its collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education to support teachers from different schools in Qatar to help them practise the best ways of e-learning.
Q. What is the main function of QF’s EDI?
A. Support the professional growth and learning from Kindergarten - grade 12 educators in Qatar and internationally. This is implemented through the support of the best, promising practices that have been developed specifically to improve the level of educational attainment among students. Additionally, to promote their success, nurture the next generation of leadership and perform a pivotal role in ensuring a bright and prosperous future for Qatar. EDI's mission is to lead professional learning, support curriculum improvement and build leadership capacity to improve student outcomes in pre-K - grade 12 education.
Q. How does QF’s EDI help elevate education in Qatar, and not just within QF?
A. EDI provides workshops for all teachers in both Arabic and English, no matter which school they work at. Most of our events and workshops are open to all educators, in addition to IB workshops and partnering with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education on specific projects, focus areas and events to share ideas and learning with and from each other such as Mathematics for the Ministry of Education, which contained several parts for reviewing the curriculum and train teachers to apply them. Additionally, Science and early childhood teachers training within the Ministry. There have been more than 250 school directors trained in PALME (Programme for Aspiring Leaders and Managers in Education), which is offered exclusively by the EDI. Our conference is open to all educators in Qatar and internationally, both as presenters and attendees. The number of conferences and events carried out in 2019-2020 was 125 events and the total number of attendees was 4,544 attendees.
* Teachers had to be fast learners
Q. What were the main challenges you faced with teachers and educators when shifting to e-learning?
A. Most teachers had been using different forms of online teaching, but not necessarily consistently or as a focus for learning – designing for full time learning online was challenging. Educators were given specific platforms by their schools to use and there were differences in how comfortable each educator was with each platform and tool. Teachers had to be fast learners - there was a lot of learning about tools and a lot of trialing and modifying as educators learned what worked best. This learning and trialing happened at speed and was very visible, so teachers were under a lot of pressure. Being online meant they had to do a lot of modification in planning and assessments to ensure similar learning experiences and expectations and grading was in place.
Q. What were the opportunities you realised during the remote learning period?
A. The creativity of teachers and students was given a new outlet. We saw many examples of students and teachers using a variety of apps and online tools to capture and express their ideas. Teachers pushed their creativity by using animations and flipped classroom methods to keep students interested and engaged.
Collaboration and peer learning happened within and across schools locally and globally as educators supported each other with ideas and shared what was working for them. Ideas from our educators were added to the PUE online collaboration platform.
Q. What kind of collaboration took place between QF’s EDI and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education to ensure a smooth shift to remote learning in all schools across the country?
A. One of our main pillars at EDI is to support teachers at any time or place. As you know, all institutions in Qatar have joined forces to overcome this crisis and to support one another. Intensive MS Teams training as that was the platform that the ministry was using for teaching and learning. In 2 weeks, we trained more than 1,000 educators from the ministry.
Q. What kind of trainings were given to MoE teachers and educators? And how many?
A. These programmes were provided at a time of urgency to help teachers to enable them set up virtual classes and programmes in ways that met the needs of students. The number of trainees was more than 1,000 teachers from the Ministry of Education. The training was inclusive of all teachers and co-ordinators at all stages of elementary, preparatory and secondary. Additionally, the programme duration was extended, and extra training sessions were provided as needed.
Additionally, EDI continued providing training programmes as agreed with the ministry, where PALME was transformed to an online training programme and successfully received 20 applicants who were directors from the ministry and they all graduated this programme successfully.
*Association with IB schools
Q. Projects the EDI are currently working on with external stakeholders?
A. Organising for ongoing partnership projects with MoE, also with international consultants to present at the T&L Forum and provide workshops for the new era of education to support educators and school leaders. EDI invited the Heads of IB schools and IB Co-ordinators in Qatar to activate the “Qatar Association of IB World schools”. The Association will allow IB schools in Qatar to have a stronger voice with the IB and help leverage the IB education with local and regional partners, including universities and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.
We have just finished our sharing of our experience in distance learning with the Arab Gulf states by participating in the first Gulf conference on distance learning where the distance learning experience was presented in the Foundation’s schools in addition to teachers training and plans for the next year.
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