Interview: Mohammed Abdul Wahed Ali Al Hammadi
What is the overall strategy for developing the education sector under Qatar’s current leadership?
MOHAMMED ABDUL WAHED ALI AL HAMMADI: In line with Qatar National Vision 2030, the Supreme Education Council (SEC) has adopted a strategy to guarantee a comprehensive revitalisation of the education sector. We operate according to six focus areas: leadership and strategy, student success, organisational development, technical skills development of teachers and educators at public schools, improving communication with stakeholders and society, and developing our IT capabilities. We have dedicated teams ensuring that we succeed in all focus areas.
The goals of this strategy can be summarised as follows: to equip students with adequate skills for higher education and the job market, to prepare a suitable educational infrastructure, to offer a diversified educational landscape that responds to individual needs, and to empower and develop teachers and educators.
What are the main projects that the SEC will be looking to prioritise in the coming years?
AL HAMMADI: One of our key projects is to choose the promising stars in education and to empower them to work within our overall development strategy. We are also working on preparing a comprehensive policy for higher education, and establishing a national qualifications framework, an ambitious project that will map out the skills required in the coming decades.
On the private school front, we have developed a new system for licencing and evaluating private schools, while implementing the government’s grants to private education through our educational vouchers. An alternative to free public schools allows Qataris to choose from the diversified curricula offered at private schools.
The National Centre for Educational Development is offering unique training opportunities to teachers and educators, helping them achieve their full potential. In order to give students the best opportunities, we are developing the national curriculum framework, coupled with the LitNum initiative, to increase literacy and numeracy skills at an early stage. In higher education, we have 23 colleges and universities, both public and private, and we hope to develop more to further expand the choice on offer to students. We also have a scholarship programme that sends Qatari students to renowned universities in 50 countries around the world.
In terms of kindergarten to grade 12 (K-12) public schools, what plans exist to expand?
AL HAMMADI: We are expanding our infrastructure to respond to demographic changes and new urban developments, while continuing to reduce the number of students per classroom. We are building new schools to meet the growing need for public schools and to replace old buildings. In the 2014/15 academic year, we inaugurated 13 public schools and nine kindergartens. We aim to increase the number of public schools by more than 33% by 2017.
We are witnessing a lot of interest from existing school operators and new investors, with numerous requests to open new private schools and kindergartens. We have granted our initial approval to 75 of them, which would entail an increase of 31% on the current number of private schools and kindergartens.
How is the SEC facilitating investment for local and international private education in the state?
AL HAMMADI: We believe that investment in education is very rewarding, whether in private schools or private colleges and universities. This belief was endorsed by the Prime Minister and SEC Chairman Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, who encouraged Qatari investors to partner with world-renowned schools and universities to bring the best to our country.
As for investors, we allow them to have full ownership over private schools, helping them get an additional plot of land and a loan with reduced interest rates from the Qatar Development Bank. Internationally, we seek out private schools with outstanding educational records and invite them to operate in Qatar.
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