Browsing 'supreme education council' News

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With translation from Heba Fahmy

To help manage teacher shortages in Qatar’s state schools, the Supreme Education Council (SEC) has announced plans to recruit 1,500 more educators, specifically from Arab countries.

The teachers who are hired are expected to be fast-tracked through immigration to fill vacancies at existing schools and take up positions in some of the 22 new schools that are set to open across Qatar in September.

Applications have so far been received from teachers in Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank, Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan and Saudi Arabia, the SEC’s director of Shared Services, Omar al-Shahwany al Hajri, said in an interview with Arabic daily newspaper Al Raya.

The new recruits will specialize in math, science and a range of other disciplines. But with only 300 teachers interviewed so far, according to al-Hajri, the SEC could be challenged to meet its target by the start of the new school year in the fall.


The education official added that special arrangements have been set up with the Medical Commission and the Ministry of Interior to speed new recruits through the mandatory health tests, fingerprinting and other procedures required of new expats so that incoming teachers can obtain their residence permits quickly.

Upon arriving, the new recruits will attend orientation sessions run by the SEC a month ahead of the beginning of the school year. Training will include sessions on understanding Qatari culture, as well as techniques on communicating with fellow staff members and pupils, al-Hajri said.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

This year’s expansion of teacher posts follows an attempt last year to bring in some 900 new educators to state schools, as the independent sector continues to struggle with issues such as a shortage of trained educators, poor discipline and some of the lowest test scores of their peers internationally.

Last year, the SEC said that Qatari teachers were also being sought. A shortage of nationals led the government ministry to consider those with less experience than their international peers.

A global index released by the OECD last week put Qatar near the bottom of 76 countries across the world based on the performance of 15-year-olds in math and science.

The SEC has attempted to address some of the issues levied at the local school system by introducing initiatives such as its teachers’ code of conduct, which was introduced last fall.

It outlines its expectations of teachers, covering topics such as communicating effectively with students, dressing modestly and working with parents.

This followed the establishment of a similar code for students, which aimed to tackle absenteeism through penalties such as barring persistent offenders from taking term and final exams.

More schools

The latest recruitment drive also comes as officials prepare nearly two dozen newly built schools to open in time for the 2015-16 academic year.

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Håkan Dahlström / Flickr

For illustrative purposes only

Construction is finished on 22 schools as well as 10 kindergartens that will open in September. A further 19 schools and kindergartens are being built and expected to open in September 2016, al-Harji added.

He did not say how many of these would be privately-run, versus independent (government funded). However the majority of the 15 new schools and and kindergartens that opened in September 2014 were private.

The ongoing increase on the country’s population has put significant pressure on the education system, particularly among expats who cite difficulties finding school places for their children.

Earlier this year, the SEC announced that 14 of the new schools and kindergartens opening in September would follow the Indian curriculum, to cope with demand at the existing, over-subscribed schools.

Overall, Qatar’s public works authority Ashghal previously said it is overseeing education-related construction projects totaling approximately QR3 billion, while Qatar’s 2014-15 state budget included funding to construct 85 new schools in the coming years.

Detailing the design for the new schools, al-Hajri said that the standard model, for around 700 pupils, costs QR50 million and has space for 25 classrooms, a library, theater, three science laboratories, ICT suites, an indoor air-conditioned sports hall, a cafeteria, parking and a designated bus parking lot.

They will include features to accommodate special needs pupils, such as ramps and elevators.


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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Acting on a pledge to penalize students who have racked up too many school absences, Qatar’s Supreme Education Council (SEC) has barred nearly 2,000 pupils from taking their first mid-term exams.

According to the Qatar Tribune, some 1,900 children who have accumulated seven or more unexcused absences since the school year began in September were told they would not be able to sit for Sunday’s exams.

The mid-term exams are a core part of the education curriculum and the results from them feed into the overall grade.

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While the excluded group comprises less than 2 percent of the 105,000 children attending independent schools in Qatar, the aim of the ban is to send a firm message to parents that high absence rates will no longer be tolerated in Qatar’s publicly-funded schools.

The SEC warned at the start of this academic year that it would take a harder stance on students who missed school without a good reason, with the Minister of Education describing the level of attendance at independent (state) schools as “unacceptable.”

At the time, the council said strict penalties – including being barred from sitting for exams – would be imposed on students from grades 4-12 who took more than the permissible number of days off in a school year without prior permission.

The crackdown is part of a drive to raise discipline and boost performance across Qatar’s state schools.


Previously, the SEC announced that frequently absent students would face penalties according to their rate of attendance. The punishments were initially based on consecutive absences, but the Qatar Tribune reports that this no longer has to be the case. The list is:

  • Students who are absent for seven days for no justifiable reason: banned from taking the first test;
  • Absent for 10 days for no justifiable reason: banned from sitting the second test;
  • Absent for more than 13 days: banned from taking the third test; and
  • Absent for more than 15 days: banned from sitting the final first-term exam.

Pupils would still be permitted to sit for the final, end-of-year exam, but their record would mark them as a “deprived student” (talib mahroom).

New campaign

Earlier this year, Qatar’s Minister of Education Dr. Mohamed Abdulwahid al-Hammadi announced a new policy of “discipline before education,” in which he said that targeting parents was key to improving school attendance rates.

“The main reason for this (high absence rate) is the lack of parent awareness about the important role of school in their children’s education,” he said.

The level of absenteeism in local schools in Qatar has been high. According to SEC’s Schools and Schooling report, which was published last year, students missed an average of 17 percent of school days across all school types (independent, private and Arab), and were late to classes 15 percent of the time.

This has a knock-on effect on pupils’ performance, with Qatar ranking near the bottom in international studies of pupils’ skills and knowledge.

Many private schools in Qatar have detailed attendance policies, stipulating the target attendance rate for pupils.

For example, Newton International School’s policy aims for a general attendance rate of 90 percent across the school, and warns that pupils should not miss more than 18 out of the 180 school days in the year. Those who do so would not be allowed re-register at the school for the following academic year.

Some other countries take a similarly hard-line on attendance at state schools.

In England, parents must apply to the school in advance to get permission to remove a child from school during term time. Permission is only granted in a number of exceptional circumstances (going on holiday is not a good reason), and parents who do remove their children from school without permission are fined and can face criminal charges.

Teachers’ conduct

In addition to tackling student absenteeism, the SEC is also working to bring up the standards of its teachers.

Earlier this year, it introduced a 10-point teachers’ Code of Conduct that outlines “core values” and expected professional behavior from staffers both inside and outside of school hours.

According to the Qatar News Agency, the teachers’ code is “derived from the doctrine of the Qatari society and philosophy,” and involves respecting Islamic values and national customs and traditions.

It covers topics such as communicating effectively with students, dressing modestly and working with parents.


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Teachers and staff at Qatar’s independent (state-funded) schools are expressing mixed opinions about a new code of conduct they have been asked to sign by the Supreme Education Council.

The 10-point code was issued by the SEC on Sunday (the beginning of the new school year) and outlines “core values” and expected professional behavior from staffers both inside and outside of school hours.

It covers topics such as communicating effectively with students, dressing modestly and working with parents.

The standards were issued shortly after the SEC outlined a similar set of expectations for students at the start of the term, in a bid to improve poor attendance and discipline in local schools.

This is not the first time the SEC has laid out guidelines regarding teachers’ behavior, but this new code appears to be the most detailed in terms of requirements.

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Though the code has gotten support from some employees who described it as “very important and much needed,” others have criticized the standards for being vaguely worded, and expressed discomfort about the possibility of extra scrutiny on their private lives.

According to Qatar’s Education Minister, the aim of the staffers’ code is to “enhance the key values that must be shown by the teachers and those who are working in the education field, most of important of which are honesty, impartiality, objectivity, diligence and efficiency.”

As the code is new, it remains unclear how or if it would affect efforts to recruit hundreds of new teachers and staff from abroad to meet rising demand in independent schools.

So far, some 280 out of an expected 900 positions have been filled, and the SEC has recently warned schools to hire more quickly.

Respect local values

According to the Qatar News Agency, the teachers’ code is “derived from the doctrine of the Qatari society and philosophy,” and involves respecting Islamic values and national customs and traditions.

Details of the code have not been officially released in English, but Al Watan newspaper published them in Arabic earlier this week. The major points, taken mostly from the Qatar Tribune, include:

  • Establishing a good, professional relationship with all students without exception, and providing them with the necessary attention and care, both inside and outside the classroom;
  • Showing respect to parents and collaborating with parents and community organizations to raise students’ performance;
  • Respecting subordinates and implementing instructions of superiors, and behaving wisely and objectively in accordance with social customs and professional conduct;
  • Abiding by the laws and regulations of the state at all times, informing officials, superiors or competent authorities of any violations of the laws;
  • Communicating with members of the school community, students and the public effectively, wisely and respectfully
  • Respecting Islamic values, national customs and traditions and all other religious beliefs;
  • Dressing modestly, taking into account the customs and traditions of the workplace and beyond;
  • Avoiding any activities that lead to the emergence of a real or apparent conflict of interest;
  • Optimizing the use of public property and financial resources of the school, which should be used strictly for important and functional purposes only; and
  • Avoiding possessing or using unauthorized alcoholic beverages, drugs and tobacco and all drugs substances or becoming under their influence, whether at the work place or outside.

The last point appears to be the most confusing to many educators.

A local lawyer told Doha News that while it doesn’t outright ban teachers from drinking alcohol or smoking, it does remind staff that they must operate within the law – so having a drink in a bar is not illegal in Qatar, but driving afterwards would be.

According to the Tribune, educators found violating the code would face disciplinary action, ranging from warnings to the termination of their contract.

Personal freedom

Many teachers who spoke to Doha News supported the idea of improving educational standards, but some criticized key aspects of the new code that appear to dictate modest dress and limit drinking and smoking out of school hours.

Qatari science teacher Muhammed al-Jassem, who teaches at an independent middle school for boys, said he was glad the SEC is “aware of some problems and is addressing them.”

But he was critical of the council’s attempts to direct teachers’ behavior out of school:

“What teachers do extra-curricularly is their business and no one else’s. No one has the right to tell a teacher what he or she can or cannot do in their own time. They are adults and responsible for their own actions. Their behavior outside work shouldn’t be open to public scrutiny.”

Any violations of the law should be dealt with by police, and not education authorities, he added.

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Al-Jassem also questioned the SEC’s introduction of new rules without consulting teachers first, saying, “The decision-making process behind certain things is undemocratic and needs revision.”

His sister, a retired Arabic language supervisor who worked in education for 24 years, echoed his concerns.

Speaking to Doha News, Jameela Sultan al-Jaseem said article 10 of the code raises suspicion about teachers’ behavior.

Interpreting the language to mean that drinking and smoking are off-limits, she said this part of the code was inappropriate for non-Arab and non-Muslim teachers:

“This should not be imposed on teachers from different cultures while in their free time. Going out for a drink or having a drink with dinner is perfectly acceptable in some cultures. As long as these teachers do not promote these habits to our children, then it is their right to practise what suits them, especially when they are not breaking the country’s laws.”

But Jordanian teacher Hanan, who teaches English at an independent girls’ school in Qatar, argued that it is critical for teachers to show students the same values that they have at home and in wider society.

“Otherwise we’ll have a socially and culturally schizophrenic generation,” she said, continuing:

“Being a teacher is unlike any other profession. Teachers are role models. The students we teach look up to us and imitate us in anything we do. We impact students more than their parents at times…

I see this code of conduct as prevention. A teacher has always been a symbol of respect, wisdom and responsibility. These guidelines make sure that teachers remain this way.”

Dress code

Article 7 in the code, which reminds teachers to dress modestly, taking into account the customs and traditions of “the workplace and beyond,” has also raised questions. Many teachers point out that “modest” dress is not clearly defined and could cause confusion.

The concept of a dress code for teachers is not exclusive to Qatar, as schools in many countries now require their staff to dress professionally and in a businesslike manner.

Earlier this year for example, a headteacher in the UK who had previously banned girls at his school from wearing short skirts made the news after he told female teachers not to wear tight, revealing or skimpy tops.

Supportive of the guidelines, Egyptian teacher Ms. Mohammad, who teaches English at a girls’ high school in Qatar, said, “educational institutions in the West impose a dress code. It is the same here. Female teachers need to dress modestly at school.”