A 'community commitment' to inclusive education, combating stigmas that surround disabilities, and designing courses that are accessible to all students are the keys to ensuring no child in Qatar faces obstacles to learning, Qatar Foundation ( QF) educators have said.
Speaking a virtual event that allowed parents to explore the diverse range of schools and specialised centres under QF's Pre-University Education (PUE), experts emphasised the importance of inclusive, accessible education – and how Qatar can build and grow systems that mean every young learner is catered for.
The Discover PUE event, which featured a series of webinars with educators, saw Matthew Campion, principal at Renad Academy – a specialised QF school supporting children with Autism – say, “Students with special educational needs have an equal right to access, and this requires a countywide focus on raising awareness of, and understanding, these needs.
“To achieve this, specialist support and training is required for families and the wider community to ensure young people – at home, at school, or anywhere – meet no barriers in accessing education, healthcare, and their social needs. And in education, it is vital that all students can access a full and meaningful curriculum that enables them to be challenged, to flourish, and to achieve.”
Dr Tracy Hardister, director of The Learning Centre – part of PUE – explained that systems to support inclusion must be sustainable, saying: “Once we begin to develop and implement inclusive practices and focus on accessibility, we have to consider – as a community and a country – how we are going to sustain and continue to grow these systems.
“The first component of this is community commitment. As QF, and as a nation, we have to prioritise inclusion in education settings, in the workforce, and socially. This involves collaboration and advocacy across sectors – from education and the medical sector to social services and the parent community.”
“Individuals with disabilities the world over face stigma, so education and awareness across sectors – policymakers, educators, parents, the community at large is a must.”
Sessions also focused on topics such as dual language learning, STEM education, and progressive schools, while a webinar on Parents as Partners saw Yara al-Darwish, School Community Engagement Specialist within PUE’s Academic Affairs department, say, “Parental involvement is more than the physical element of going to school and attending events – it recognises that parents are an essential part of the learning process.
“Parental engagement is key for student success, and the aspiration of raising achievement can only be fulfilled if parents are involved in schools and engaged in learning.”
And in a session on the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme – taught in QF schools – Ghada Haddad, head of IB Training within PUE’s Education Development Institute, explained how the programme reflects the way schools are changing from “knowing to doing” and from being “teacher-centred to student-centred”.
“When a student passes through an IB education, they will be an enquirer, a thinker, a risk-taker, a communicator in more than one language, and a person who cares for others and the environment,” she said. “They will be principled, reflective, open-minded, and know how to balance their development – physical, social, emotional, and cognitive – and their life.
“Education is now about students constructing the meaning of everything around them, not just taking and consuming information. We want them to construct understanding themselves, to choose what is relevant and meaningful to them and what is not and an IB graduate has that profile.”