Sunday, November 30, 2008

Education reform in Qatar

The UAE should be doing this:
The boys at Omar Bin al-Khattab say they would never wish to revert to the old system, which they describe as having been “dreary and dull”.

Consultants say Qatar is trying to achieve some of the most radical reforms of any school system ever. The government has tried to take the best educational practices in Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand, and shape them for Qatar. In this it has been advised by the Rand Corporation think-tank.

Half the 280 Arabic-language schools are to be given independent status, and in time all schools should become independent.

The inspiration for the reforms is the charter school movement in the US.

Three regulatory institutions have been created and authorities have invited independent operators, Arab and foreign, to come in and run the schools. The previously all-powerful ministry of education has been hollowed out, the curriculum reformed and rigorous testing introduced.

The result is that Qatar, which has a population of only 1m and per capita gross domestic product of more than $72,000, has one of the most transparent school systems in the world, according to observers.

But there is a catch. Initial results from testing in 2006, shortly after the beginning of the reform process, were dreadful.
A consultant who has watched the reforms from gestation, and who asked not to be named, says that between 60 and 70 per cent of the students tested showed “little or no skill”.

Rand says the students tested were products of the ministry system so the Pisa results are a baseline from which to measure progress. Students who were in independent secondary schools had limited exposure to the reforms at the time of the test, Rand says, and schools have made progress since.
You've got to start somewhere.



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