Qatar Foundation Highlights Importance of Inclusive Education in Virtual Event
Discover PUE event sees experts highlight the need for accessible curriculums, training and a sustainable approach to ensuring every child can learn
A ‘community commitment’ to inclusive education, combating stigmas that surround disabilities, and designing courses that are accessible to all students are keys to ensuring no child in Qatar faces obstacles to learning, according to Qatar Foundation educators.
Speaking during a virtual event that allowed parents to explore the diverse range of schools and specialised centres under Qatar Foundation (QF) Pre-University Education (PUE), experts emphasised the importance of inclusive and accessible education – and how Qatar can build and grow systems that will ensure that every young learner is catered for.
Inclusivity and accessibility are cornerstones of the QF education ecosystem, and 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 that students with special needs have an equal right to access, and this requires a countywide focus on raising awareness and understanding of these needs.
He said that specialist support and training is required for families and the wider community to ensure that young people – at home, at school, or anywhere – meet no barriers in accessing education, healthcare and their social needs. He added that 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.
It’s also vital to design courses that can be accessed at an appropriate level by all students, as well as ensuring courses that train adults to work in the field of special educational needs are available.
Dr Tracy Hardister, Director of The Learning Center – part of PUE – explained that systems to support inclusion must be sustainable.
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.
She said that the first component of this is community commitment. As QF, and as a nation, Dr Hardister said 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.
We also have to look at how we continue to develop, grow, and recruit highly-trained, highly-qualified experts who are special educators and specialists in areas such as occupational therapy, speech and language, and psychology. And not only do we have to recruit and develop them, but we should also really look at how we develop training programmes at university level, so Qatar has its own internal training opportunities.
She said that individuals with disabilities face stigma, so education and awareness across sectors – policymakers, educators, parents, the community at large – is a must.
Discover PUE sessions also focused on topics such as dual-language learning, STEM education, and progressive schools.
During a webinar on Parents as Partners, Yara Al Darwish, School Community Engagement Specialist at the PUE Academic Affairs department, said that 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.
She said that 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.
Al Darwish explained that parents should choose schools that meet their needs as well as those of their child. Schools aren’t one-size-fits-all – at QF, schools are not identical.
In a session on the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, Ghada Haddad, Head of IB Training at 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 being ‘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 that education is now about students constructing the meaning of everything around them, not just taking and consuming information. Haddad said they want students to construct understanding themselves, to choose what is relevant and meaningful to them, learners who are both local and global citizens – and an IB graduate has that profile.
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