Qatar's Educational Reform: The Experiences and Perceptions of Principals, Teachers and Parents

By Romanowski, Michael H.; Cherif, Maha Ellili et al. | International Journal of Education, July 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Qatar's Educational Reform: The Experiences and Perceptions of Principals, Teachers and Parents


Romanowski, Michael H., Cherif, Maha Ellili, Al Ammari, Badria, Al Attiyah, Asma, International Journal of Education


Abstract

This study describes the implications of the massive Qatari educational reform, Education For a New Era (EFNE), from the perspectives of teachers, principals, and parents provides insight into these stakeholders perceptions regarding how EFNE has impacted teaching and learning and the new challenges they face. This qualitative study uses open-ended questionnaires, focus groups and interviews. Survey data is collected from 18 Independent Schools including 17 principals, 413 teachers and 565 parents and interviews with 17 principals, 26 teachers and 50 parents. Findings describe the effects, impact, the challenges and the advantages and disadvantages of EFNE on these stakeholders.

Keywords: educational reform; stakeholders; qualitative research

1. Introduction

In 2001, Qatar's educational system came under great scrutiny. The government was concerned that the current educational system and structure in Qatar were "not producing high-quality outcomes" as benchmarked by international league tables (for example, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) (Brewer, et. al., 2007, p. iii). Responding to this educational crisis, RAND, a nonprofit research organization was hired to provide a critical analysis of Qatar's K-12 education system. Findings from the analysis quickly demonstrated that the current Qatari educational system was "rigid, outdated, and resistant to reform" (Brewer, et. al., 2007, p. iii). RAND was requested to not only provide assessments but also recommendations that would bring about an educational system that addresses the country's changing needs.

The assessment pointed to several extensive weaknesses in the current educational system and structure. First, it was revealed that the current Qatari educational system lacked a vision of quality education and the needed support structures. The existing system was highly centralized, lacked performance indicators, and the little performance data given to schools provide limited potential since administrators and teachers had no authority to make changes (Brewer et. al, 2007). Second, the curriculum "was outmoded, under the rigid control of the Ministry of Education, and unchallenging, and it emphasized rote memorization" (Brewer, 2007, p. xviii). Third, there was a lack of communication and shared vision among educational stakeholders attributable, in part at least, to a top-down decision-making policy. Finally, little finances were directed to education evidenced by teachers' low pay, little professional development and the poor conditions of many school buildings and classrooms.

Qatar officials already knew most of the existing weaknesses and there was an awareness of previous unsuccessful attempts to reform the educational system. Thus any current reform required a major system-changing rather than incremental approaches and a clear implementation plan. With that in mind, recommendations offered four system-changing options. The Qatari government elected to support a charter school model that decentralizes education and encourages the development of Independent schools. As a result, a systematic reform designed to transform Qatar's schools and Ministry of Education into a world-class competitive education system, known as Education for a New Era (EFNE), was initiated (Brewer, et al., 2007).

EFNE is grounded in four principles: 1) autonomy for schools, 2) accountability through a comprehensive assessment system, 3) variety in schooling alternatives, and 4) choice for parents, teachers, and school operators. These principles represent a two-pronged approach to reform that requires the establishment of government-funded Independent schools over a multi-year period, and the implementation of annual assessments to measure student learning and school performance (Supreme Education Council, 2011a). The first cohort of Independent schools, consisting of 12 schools, opened in 2004 with the goal of turning Qatar's vision of developing a world-class education system into a reality. …

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