Academic journal article International Education Studies

Alignment of Teacher-Developed Curricula and National Standards in Qatar's National Education Reform

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Alignment of Teacher-Developed Curricula and National Standards in Qatar's National Education Reform

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study investigated the degree to which teacher developed curriculum was aligned with the national standards in Qatar. Three sources of data included teacher response to a questionnaire, teacher interviews and expert rating of the alignment of teacher-developed materials with curriculum standards. A survey and interview questions measured teacher roles and methods in developing the curriculum. Expert ratings measured the degree of alignment of objectives, activities, lesson elements and assessment with the standards. Results indicated that the objectives of units and lessons in each of the four subject areas Arabic, English, mathematics and science, closely aligned with tasks and artifacts. These elements of instruction also showed satisfactory alignment in terms of content, scope, developmental level, and cognitive level with the standards. Assessments, however, showed a serious lack of alignment with the standards in terms of scope and developmental level, especially in the cognitive level alignments in each of the four subject areas. Teachers also reported that developing curriculum, in addition to other school related activities, has generally overloaded teachers. This study has significance in terms of professional development needs and policy decisions in Qatar and similar contexts, especially those engaged in education reform.

Keywords: curriculum, curriculum standards, alignment, assessment, Qatar, and educational reform

1. Introduction

In 2001, the government of Qatar embarked on an educational reform and initiative intended to meet the country's changing economic and social needs (Brewer et al., 2007, p. iii). This decision arose from the understanding that oil and gas, which currently drive Qatar's economy, are finite, and that there is need to invite and invest in a knowledge-based economy for Qatar's long-term sustainable evolution as a worldly nation (Al-Sulayti, 1999). Such a goal requires raising the achievement level of students in schools. The government approached RAND Corporation research organization and requested a comprehensive examination of Qatar's K-12 education system. RAND was given the task of investigating the existing educational system and providing recommendations and options for building "a world-class system that would meet the country's changing needs" (Brewer et al., 2007, p. xvii). As a result, Qatar initiated a systematic school reform strategy, known as Education for a New Era (Brewer et al., 2007).

Education for New Era was designed to catapult Qatar Education into a world-class system that would drastically change the K-12 landscape. The vision was to create high-quality schools that would develop human capacity through providing extensive teacher professional development coupled with innovative educational and social policies (Brewer et al., 2007). Several changes quickly took place. In November 2002, the Supreme Education Council (SEC) was established to replace the Ministry of Education. The SEC provided direction for the nation's educational policy. The State of Qatar decided to gradually transform the centralized school system that was traditionally regulated by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to a decentralized government-funded-semi-autonomous independent school system known as Independent Schools (charter-like schools) (Zellman et al., 2009).

Currently, all schools in Qatar, whether private or independent, fall under the Supreme Education Council (previously Ministry of Education), and all previously government-run schools have been transformed into government-funded Independent Schools. Qatar's educational reform has dramatically changed the landscape of the educational system, specifically in the transformation of the educational system into a standardized based system (Brewer et al., 2007).

The Supreme Education Council in 2005 published curriculum standards in Arabic, English, mathematics, and science, then followed by Arabic in subsequent years; Islamic Studies and social studies subject standards followed. …

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