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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Qatar education council to tackle rising student absenteeism problem

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Ahead of the start of the new academic year on Sunday, Qatar’s Supreme Education Council (SEC) has warned that it will take action to curb growing pupil absence rates, as part of a raft of measures to improve education standards across the nation’s schools.

Earlier this week, Minister of Education Dr. Mohamed Abdulwahid al-Hammadi described the attendance rate at local, independent (state) schools as “unacceptable” and said that the SEC would impose strict penalties on students who took more than the permissible number of days off.

“Students who are habitually absent are to be banned from sitting for term and final exams. We are working on making regulations in this respect,” he said, as quoted by Gulf Times.

While the SEC has tried in the past to tackle attendance rates, this is the first time the Minister has outlined the penalties to be imposed on absentee students.

According to The Peninsula, the punishments will affect students from Grade 4-12 and will focus on denying them permission to sit continuous assessments and the first term exam, which form a key part of the curriculum and  the results from which feed into their overall grade.

Starting from this academic year, these will affect :

  • – students who are absent for 7 days in a row for no justifiable reason – banned from taking the first test;
  • – students absent for 10 consecutive days for no justifiable reason – banned from sitting the second test;
  • – students off school for more than 13 days for no justifiable reason – banned from taking the third test; and
  • – students with more than 15 days’ absence for no justifiable reason – banned from sitting the first term exam.

Frequently absent students will still be permitted to sit the final, end-of-year exam, but their record will be mark them as a “deprived student” (“talib mahroom”).

Absence rates

According to SEC’s Schools and Schooling report, which was published last year, students missed an average of 17 percent of school days across all school types (independent, private and Arab), and were late to classes 15 percent of the time.

This low attendance rate appears to have had an adverse effect on the performance of Qatar’s schoolchildren.

PISA table

In the most recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) PISA index, for example, which charts the performance of nearly half-a-million students from 65 countries, Qatar ranked near the bottom.

The test focused on math, reading, science and problem-solving. Students in Qatar ranked below average in all three of the main categories, though did make small improvements since 2006.

The report also emphasized the problem of attendance in Qatar state schools, with 29 percent of students admitting to skipping classes or days of school – higher than the 25 percent average.

Discipline before education

This is not the first time that the SEC has tried to tackle the attendance rate. In 2012, it introduced a raft of measures in a bid to improve schools’ performance, including encouraging parents to make sure their children regularly attend school.

However, the latest announcement of penalties for persistent offenders suggests the SEC is taking a stronger line on this issue.

Al-Hammadi said the drive to tackle absenteeism was part of an overall strategy of “discipline before education,” and said targeting parents was the key to improving attendance rates in schools.

“The main reason for this (high absence rate) is the lack of parent awareness about the important role of school in their children’s education,” he said.

Additionally, many Qatar schools struggle with “holiday hangovers” –  low attendance rates particularly on the first days back after the long summer break.

In September 2011 for example, schools reported absence rates of up to 40 percent on the first day back of the new term.

Teachers’ conduct

Al-Hammadi also announced a number of other initiatives for the start of the new academic year, including a new Code of Conduct for teachers.

This will “enhance the key values that must be shown by the teachers and those who are working in the education field, most of important of which are honesty, impartiality, objectivity, diligence and efficiency,” he said.

The code follows previous similar advice previously issued to teachers. In 2012, the SEC published a list of discipline guidelines, including a ban on using corporal punishment against children.

The regulations were introduced just weeks after weeks a local school principal faced trial for repeatedly stabbing a second-grader with a sharpened pencil.

There are also plans to set up a new national center, to help develop the skills of teachers and education professionals.

And the SEC is working to employ more administrative staff in its schools, to reduce the amount of paperwork teachers have to deal with and enable them to spend more time in the classroom.

As part of an overall review of the national curriculum, more Arabic language, maths and science classes will be introduced, as well as lessons in national traditions and heritage.

Thoughts?

Note: This story was edited on September 6th to include new detail announced by the Minister on the penalties to be imposed on absentee students.

26 COMMENTS

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Mr. B
6 years ago

Brilliant and necessary if followed up on. That conditional is the important bit.

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago

“The main reason for this (high absence rate) is the lack of parent awareness about the important role of school in their children’s education,” he said.

Really? So parents here DON’T know that ed is important? Could it be the lack of parents actually being involved in and raising their children is the core problem?

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

parents are unaware that their kids are skipping school, kids often run away from school (jump over the wall) after they are dropped off. schools should call and inform the parents when the kid is absent. also the problem is bigger, the indipendent school system here sucks. even perfect attendance in a broken school wont help you get a proper education. im just happy i finished school before they introduced this

jarvis
jarvis
6 years ago

schools do inform parents when kids are absent… but I agree the problem is bigger than just attendance, and I disagree with the “discipline before education” thing.

osamaalassiry
osamaalassiry
6 years ago
Reply to  jarvis

Every school is different… I know that some independent schools submit fake student attendance records to the SEC.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
6 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

Does it matter if they don’t show up to school? Even if they fail at school miserably, don’t bother going to college, they will get employed and put up in a cushy job. When they mature, and realise the value of education, later in their 20’s, they are put through free college ( paid a salary for studying even) . Then there are those who will not bother, and just decide to cruise through life.

Ofcourse, the more educated parents who realise the value of education and take an interest in their children’s life will influence them positively and hopefully those numbers will rise.

Chipper fluffypants
Chipper fluffypants
6 years ago

This article is referencing Independent and government schools where the rate is very high. What does the cost of the private schools have to do with anything?

Angry
Angry
6 years ago

The students only go to independent school as their last option because they can’t afford private; everyone knows private education is the best option here

osamaalassiry
osamaalassiry
6 years ago
Reply to  Angry

not really, the coupons system allows all Qataris to go to private schools. It’s by choice, not because they can’t afford it.

Angry
Angry
6 years ago
Reply to  osamaalassiry

The coupons system allows only some. Let’s take a qatari women who is divorced as an example, she doesn’t get any benefits from work and that system only provides a small sum which is not nearly enough for good schools here where fees rises up to 70-80k

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Angry

No they can go because there is no cost. They get coupons to pay the school fees.

osamaalassiry
osamaalassiry
6 years ago
Reply to  Angry

1- This is a small subset… MOST (as in 95%+) of Qataris get it.
2- Most schools don’t have fees that high.

Angry
Angry
6 years ago

Oh and it’s not just independent and government schools; it’s private schools too. Read the article again

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  Angry

Most private schools will suspend/expel you for extreme absenteesm. At least the ones predominately expat.

Amber
Amber
6 years ago

Parents don’t see the importance of going to school everyday. Every year I have 2 or 3 students that miss school literally every other day and when I ask the child or parent the answer is “oh we had a wedding to go to” “he had a headache” “we had to go clothes shopping” “we went to dubai” “she didn’t feel like coming to school”
And the list of ridiculous reasons goes on.

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  Amber

In some countries it is the parent/guardian that gets locked up if the kid doesn’t go to school.

AEC
AEC
6 years ago

Wouldn’t it make more sense to improve the standard of the schools first?

Chipper fluffypants
Chipper fluffypants
6 years ago

I once was working with student who took two weeks off of school because he told his mother they had spring break. The mom believed him. It wasn’t until the second week when the school finally called and asked about him did she realize he was lying!

Huzz
Huzz
6 years ago

This will “enhance the key values that must be shown by the teachers and those who are working in the education field, most of important of which are honesty, impartiality, objectivity, diligence and efficiency,” he said. A first step may be to break the power of the student so that teachers do not fear them. I firmly believe that the root cause of many if not most of the problems in this country is wasta and lack of education. Ironically, it may also appear that wasta can prevent education. Self fulfilling.

truth.e.ness
truth.e.ness
6 years ago

Why go to school when your government and parents are modeling the lack of importance in education? The checks, Land Cruisers, house, etc. are coming to you no matter what. I wouldn’t go to school either.

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago

A Qatari acquaintance told me he’s struggling with this issue with his son. The father is well-educated, hard-working and has achieved a very senior corporate position, and despite his best efforts to get his son interested in education he gets some variation of “we have a lot of money so why bother” as a response.

So even in this case where the father has set a great example, it’s still a tough challenge as I’m sure it is for rich families anywhere.

SokhnaFan2010
SokhnaFan2010
6 years ago
Reply to  Jaded

Instilling values cost nothing. Rich or poor. If the father had educated his son in the ‘Value’ of money from an early age, maybe he wouldn’t be struggling so hard now. If the money is there, fine. Give him a large carrot to reach it however. I appreciate the cultural differences, however, there are ways to apply tough love, no matter how weathly (or not) you may be.

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago
Reply to  SokhnaFan2010

Whatever, I’m just making the point that it’s not simply an issue of parents caring about education, even those who do may struggle with raising their kids especially when these kids are exposed others that also influence them. Easy to say he should have done this or that

SokhnaFan2010
SokhnaFan2010
6 years ago
Reply to  Jaded

We all get your point (Whatever) , however we all get exposed to influence don’t we? Yes it’s easy to say, but harder to take action. Hence the “Extra” continued effort required as a parent of an uninterested rich child, to use your point in question.

Rose
Rose
5 years ago

Since the beginning of the revolutions in Qatar education is the prime reason fro them to make things better as well as smoother in every case in regular life. In order to improve this situation above mentioned course of actions are very much important to impose to the entire student who are irregular along with absent in class. It will help them to continue the process to their consistent education and other things like custom writing reviews. Great article about education.

Emigreen
Emigreen
2 months ago
Reply to  Rose

I would say that absenteeism is a huge problem, which is fact is common. Students, especially those completing their programming studies, tend to think that entering the university is already a success and that to that moment they’ve already became professionals. For that reason, they go here and pay for coding homework.
However, full-time studies require a lot of effort and time investments. These are sacrifices to get a so desired degree and pave the way to the brighter future accordingly.

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