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Friday, June 18, 2021

Qatar to get first Finnish school as private education options expand

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Qatar-Finland International School under construction
Qatar-Finland International School under construction

In a bid to relieve some of the strain on parents hunting for school places for their children in Qatar, the Supreme Education Council has announced that five new schools will open their doors in the fall.

Among them is Qatar’s first educational facility from Finland, a country known internationally for strong student performance.

Another 23 schools are awaiting SEC approval for education licenses before they are able to open their doors, but are aiming to be ready for a September start.

Altogether, the 28 new private schools would be able to accommodate some 10,000 students, helping the rapidly growing country cope with a school place shortage that has been hurting its recruitment efforts.

According to a new regional education report, the number of pupils enrolling in private schools in Qatar will rise by between 30 to 40 percent in the next five years.

This rise in demand for places is partly due to the increasing expat population, but also comes as the average Qatari family decides to spend more on children’s education, and utilizes the expanding voucher program to place their kids in private school.

In a statement issued earlier this week, the SEC acknowledged surging demand and said that raising admissions capacity in private and independent (state) schools in Qatar was its “top priority.”

Finland model

This September, the Qatar-Finland International School (QFIS) in north Duhail will open an international primary school as part of the SEC’s Outstanding Schools program.

Finnish classroom

Under that initiative, Qatar hand-picks schools from around the world that teach accredited international or national curricula to open a campus here.

Schools already set up under the system include Sherborne Qatar, the International School of London in Qatar (ISL-Q) and the Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions in Qatar.

Speaking to Doha News, QFIS officials said they signed an agreement with the SEC last month, and are now accepting applications for students ages five to seven years old.

The school, which must reserve at least 25 percent of its seats for Qataris (a requirement introduced in 2012), will be modeled on Finnish child-centric education principles.

Different take

Speaking to Doha News, Headteacher Juha Repo and Global Operations expert Tiina Raatikainen have been preparing for the co-ed school to open its doors on Sept. 7.

QFIS will be run by Educluster Finland, an education organization which is part of the state-funded Finnish University of Jyväskylä, and which has experience in the Gulf, including in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

QFIS Head teacher Juha Repo
QFIS Head teacher Juha Repo

According to Repo, the school plans to provide the core elements of the internationally-renowned Finnish education system, with modifications to reflect Qatari culture, society and traditions.

In Finland, for example, children don’t start school until they are seven years old. But the Qatar school will take children two years earlier than that.

Though QFIS will initially focus on the early years, offering grades 0 to 2, it plans to later expand into other years as it becomes more established.

However, Repo explained that the years are flexible and children would be assigned to a class depending on their individual skill levels and abilities. He continued:

“Under the Finnish model, we have a very strong student support system and all the learning is tailored to the child’s needs from the start.

In the early years, the grade system will be dynamic and flexible, moving according to the requirements of the individual child.”

This is a key aspect of the Finnish system, which is entirely child-centered, Repo said.

Eight Finnish teachers have already been recruited to launch the Qatar school, and many of them already have experience teaching in the region.

In a difference to other systems, the teachers don’t specialize in a particular year group, but are trained to teach across all levels of the school, and often have the children for years at a time, so the children and the teachers know each other well.

They will be supported by locally-hired learning assistants, who will be trained in the Finnish education methodology, as well as a dedicated special needs teacher.

Under the Finnish model, all teachers are required to have at least a Master’s degree in education, and part of this includes special needs training.

Describing what makes the Finnish system different, Repo emphasized, “We don’t teach children to pass tests. We focus on giving the skills of learning to learn.”

International rankings

Although children traditionally start school later in Finland than in other countries, and the schools have shorter days, students are regularly at the top of global education rankings.

Finland came within the top five European countries in the most recent global index, Program for International Assessment (PISA), which is run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The 2012 test measured more than half-a-million 15 year olds from 65 countries on their knowledge and skills related to math, science, problem-solving and financial literacy.

In comparison to Finland, Qatar students ranked near the bottom of the index, although did show some improvements since the 2006 test.

In keeping with Finnish emphasis on fluency in languages, the school aims to have all children functionally bilingual.

While English will be the main language of instruction, Arabic would be taught three times a week, in addition to Islamic studies and Qatari history, Repo said.

He added: “We were invited here to support the national education strategy. I hope we can do that.”

Thoughts?

14 COMMENTS

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MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

The Finish along with other Scandinavian countries have a good reputation in teaching and even their history of tolerance and free speech would be a welcome education for the children in Qatar.

Guest
Guest
6 years ago

meanwhile, the British open another traditional English school:

BBCA
BBCA
6 years ago
Reply to  Guest

In my visits to Finland… lets just say that Qatari cultures cant take the descriptions of my adventures… I can’t wait to go back for another visit. LOL!

fullmoon07
fullmoon07
6 years ago

the Finnish system is considered the best in the world; there is a 25% of seats available to Qataris. The question is: will they want to change it according to what they like, like it happened for one of the French schools and Qatar Acadamy or they will be smart enough to accept it the way it comes…after all Finland is a role model for schools….I doubt Qatar is.

Susan
Susan
6 years ago
Reply to  fullmoon07

Seems unreasonable to force all new schools to reserve 25% of their places for locals when locals don’t even comprise 25% of the population. Bringing in more schools is a necessary move, late in the game though it is, since that is the primary reason many companies have difficulties hiring talented expats to help build this country. But as you wondered, I question whether Qatar can commit to the values and ideals that other curriculums and education systems adhere to, or whether they will slowly nationalize things to placate local sensibilities.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Susan

I don’t see it as unreasonable for 25% to be reserved for locals. If they didn’t have that and all the schools were full what are they supposed to do? Send their children to India for an education?!??!

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Susan

for those under 18 years old, Qataris make the majority, we are a minority for those from 18 and above

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago

When will they Finnish construction

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

i see what you did there

BBCA
BBCA
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

LOL!

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago

The Scandinavian educational system is outstanding in large part due to the nations’ homogenous culture. They have shared values and, therefore, shared expectations and commitment to education. This runs from the state to the teachers to the parents to the students. That means when a board establishes a curriculum or a teacher makes and assignment, the students and parents understand it, generally agree with it, and are ready to follow it.

That is simply won’t be the case in Qatar, and without it, I am predicting the school will suffer the same problems as every other international school–a meddling and ill-informed SEC, parents who do not prioritize education (i.e. let them play video games, miss school, and eat food that isn’t health for their mental development), and children who are largely apathetic, if not downright defiant to authority in the classroom. For example a number of Scandinavian schools have forest kindergartens in which the children at age 5 spend the entire time outdoors, with minimal toys and no computers. Hard to imagine that in Qatar.

The problem of poor education in Qatar certainly needs to be addressed at the level of the infrastructure, but it is also a cultural problem that needs to be addressed on a much wider scale.

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

What does the SEC do that hampers other schools abilities to implement their curriculum?

I have studied at many of the local private schools back in the 90s and in my time unruly children were disciplined and removed from classes if they persisted with the disruptive behavior, what is preventing the schools from doing this today? They and their negligent parents had no real impact on the other students, so I don’t really see your point on how a few bad apples will damage the whole.

Expat Girl
Expat Girl
6 years ago

I love the Finnish model; I spent a few years in Denmark as a child (from 9 – 11 years old) and I can honestly say it changed the course of my education even after I left Denmark. Repo says above that they “focus on giving the skills of learning to learn”. I would take it one step further and say that they teach students to “love” to learn and instill a passion for continuous learning. That mindset benefits the student not only during school years, but well beyond into the rest of their lives.

I wish the Finnish school the best of luck!! I hope they will be able to maintain the integrity of their model, and I hope it will not be compromised in order to comply with requirements of the SEC.

theobserver
theobserver
6 years ago

Their pricing is unbelievably expensive – QAR 45,000 for grade-0 ?!?!?!?!!! I wonder what was SEC’s role?
And their application form could be a good sample for NASA to adopt 🙂

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