The president of Pre-University Education at Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), Buthaina Ali al-Nuaimi, said QF's keenness to invest in pre-university education comes within the framework of its vision to achieve the country's advancement in various fields as well as to support the nation's transformation to a sustainable and diversified economy. Education has always been the key to development, whether it is social or economic, or within the fields of science and knowledge, she said.
In an exclusive interview with Qatar News Agency (QNA), that coincided with the launch of the 'Students of Change' initiative, al-Nuaimi said the vision of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is based on the fact that change is the only constant and the best option in a rapidly developing world like the one we live in today.
She emphasised that the Foundation seeks to be part of the process of change and to contribute to shaping the future. Al-Nuaimi said that the Foundation's initiatives revolve around educational programmes designed to challenge traditional methods of learning, through which innovative educational opportunities are provided tailored to the needs of each student, enabling young people to excel and underscoring that young minds today are the ones who will lead the world of tomorrow.
Al-Nuaimi indicated that the initiatives seek to bring about change in the field of education by nurturing creative ideas and transforming them into innovations, through platforms for research and innovation in areas such as artificial intelligence and precision medicine, and community initiatives that focus on environmental sustainability and community participation, and by establishing partnerships with organisations and institutions from around the world to facilitate the transfer of ideas and co-operation to achieve these.
"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," al-Nuaimi pointed out.
She added: "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, and have signed a memorandum of understanding which aims to exchange experiences and best practices in various fields, such as teacher training and in the field of early years education.
"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 programmes to align with our local requirements and needs. Every new initiative we undertake, whether in terms of opening new schools or launching education programmes, is typically either in response to a specific need, or to fill specific gaps."
She added that identity, culture and heritage, values, and ethics are an integral part of the general framework of educational programmes at Qatar Foundation.
"This is evident in many of our endeavours, as we have worked to integrate these concepts into our academic curricula. We introduced the first specialised 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 organised 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 is organised and sponsored by the Education Development Institute, part of Qatar Foundations Pre-University Education."
Al-Nuaimi pointed out that 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.
"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. This 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."
Al-Nuaimi stressed that "the basic skills that we work to instill in our students include 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." she added.
Al-Nuaimi said that during the past year, more than 4,500 male and female teachers benefited from the training programmes, in addition to the several thousand others who attended the annual conferences in the fields of education and learning, science, heritage, and culture.
On the main aspects of the development of Qatar Foundation's pre-university education system, and how this system interact with the research, innovation and community development sector at Qatar Foundation, al-Nuaimi said: "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 specialised 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 specialised 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."
Al-Nuaimi said: "This unique model of diversity in education is reflected through schools and academic and specialised programmes 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."
She added "this 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 characterised by integration, co-operation, and shared values. The basis of our pre-university education system is always the same, but with different programmes being provided," al-Nuaimi said.
She added: "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 the Hamad Bin Khalifa University that enable our students to participate in competitions, programmes, and workshops, such as Texas A&M University in Qatar's science and technology platform, and the robotics training programmes at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, among others. Through this co-operation, 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 specialised mentors from universities at Education City."
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