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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Some 2,000 students in Qatar banned from taking exams due to absences

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

Acting on a pledge to penalize students who have racked up too many school absences, Qatar’s Supreme Education Council (SEC) has barred nearly 2,000 pupils from taking their first mid-term exams.

According to the Qatar Tribune, some 1,900 children who have accumulated seven or more unexcused absences since the school year began in September were told they would not be able to sit for Sunday’s exams.

The mid-term exams are a core part of the education curriculum and the results from them feed into the overall grade.

While the excluded group comprises less than 2 percent of the 105,000 children attending independent schools in Qatar, the aim of the ban is to send a firm message to parents that high absence rates will no longer be tolerated in Qatar’s publicly-funded schools.

The SEC warned at the start of this academic year that it would take a harder stance on students who missed school without a good reason, with the Minister of Education describing the level of attendance at independent (state) schools as “unacceptable.”

At the time, the council said strict penalties – including being barred from sitting for exams – would be imposed on students from grades 4-12 who took more than the permissible number of days off in a school year without prior permission.

The crackdown is part of a drive to raise discipline and boost performance across Qatar’s state schools.

Penalties

Previously, the SEC announced that frequently absent students would face penalties according to their rate of attendance. The punishments were initially based on consecutive absences, but the Qatar Tribune reports that this no longer has to be the case. The list is:

  • Students who are absent for seven days for no justifiable reason: banned from taking the first test;
  • Absent for 10 days for no justifiable reason: banned from sitting the second test;
  • Absent for more than 13 days: banned from taking the third test; and
  • Absent for more than 15 days: banned from sitting the final first-term exam.

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

New campaign

Earlier this year, Qatar’s Minister of Education Dr. Mohamed Abdulwahid al-Hammadi announced a new policy of “discipline before education,” in which he said that targeting parents was key to improving school attendance rates.

“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.

The level of absenteeism in local schools in Qatar has been high. 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 has a knock-on effect on pupils’ performance, with Qatar ranking near the bottom in international studies of pupils’ skills and knowledge.

Many private schools in Qatar have detailed attendance policies, stipulating the target attendance rate for pupils.

For example, Newton International School’s policy aims for a general attendance rate of 90 percent across the school, and warns that pupils should not miss more than 18 out of the 180 school days in the year. Those who do so would not be allowed re-register at the school for the following academic year.

Some other countries take a similarly hard-line on attendance at state schools.

In England, parents must apply to the school in advance to get permission to remove a child from school during term time. Permission is only granted in a number of exceptional circumstances (going on holiday is not a good reason), and parents who do remove their children from school without permission are fined and can face criminal charges.

Teachers’ conduct

In addition to tackling student absenteeism, the SEC is also working to bring up the standards of its teachers.

Earlier this year, it introduced a 10-point teachers’ Code of Conduct that outlines “core values” and expected professional behavior from staffers both inside and outside of school hours.

According to the Qatar News Agency, the teachers’ code is “derived from the doctrine of the Qatari society and philosophy,” and involves respecting Islamic values and national customs and traditions.

It covers topics such as communicating effectively with students, dressing modestly and working with parents.

Thoughts?

19 COMMENTS

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AnonymityBreedsContempt
AnonymityBreedsContempt
6 years ago
MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Wow, good to see them take this action. Hopefully it will lead to more responsiblity from the parents, rather than relying on being Qatari or wasta to get through life.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Agreed. Let’s pray that the front page of the Gulf Times won’t be a story about outraged parents demanding sympathy and understanding from the SEC, followed by a story the following day about how the students will be allowed to sit the exams after all.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

Hmmm, a possiblity. My little Mohamed was victimised by the Egyptian teacher and that is why he is failing and not going to school. The parents might even throw in a ‘he insulted Islam’ charge as well to get their son’s record changed. Wouldn’t surprise me.

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

It wouldn’t surprise you that someone would insinuate a theoretical situation to further their own agenda without responsibility…unlike your comment which does exactly the same thing? I’m sure the irony was missed, or is it hypocrisy?

Guest
Guest
6 years ago

I think this is an attempt by the SEC to improve their school’s pass rates and grades accomplished by eliminating from the data pool those who might drag grade averages down 🙂 or an I thinking too much

smd
smd
6 years ago

I think this is an attempt by the SEC to improve their school’s pass rates and grades accomplished by eliminating from the data pool those who might drag grade averages down 🙂 or am I thinking too much?

Airwolf
Airwolf
6 years ago
Reply to  smd

I think this is sadly likely to be the case.

fullmoon07
fullmoon07
6 years ago

“penalties – including being barred from sitting for exams – would be imposed on students from grades 4-12″…that’s why in my country up to 13 years old we call it “obligatory school”

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  fullmoon07

Mine it’s 16

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago

Bet they had the school gardener making those phone calls telling the parents the news.

KK
KK
6 years ago

Don’t worry, daddy will ‘fix’ it.

Michael L
Michael L
6 years ago

Peninsula headline before the end of the week “SEC grants amnesty to ….”

Diego
Diego
6 years ago

That will no doubt get some reaction,but more hopefully results.I think the teachers would benefit from professional development rather than rules about dress or if they smoke at the Souk.Hopefully thats what they mean.

Airwolf
Airwolf
6 years ago

This is completely ridiculous. We just spent this week at WISE talking about how shooling, teaching and the system need to become creative and we trun around and impose Draconian methods. We shlould find creative ways to engage students and parents so they want to attend and be involved. Now we will bar them and label them talib mahroom. Unbelievable. This is not the way to do it. Let them be examined. If they can pass the exams without attendance, the student is smart and the system is the failure. Outrageous to have WISE here and impose the worst solutions possible.

Amber
Amber
6 years ago
Reply to  Airwolf

It’s not about whether they can pass or fail the exam. It is about discipline and respect for school rules. You just can’t come and go to school when you please.

Most children will do poorly if they miss a lot of days.

Many missed days are due to ‘I didn’t feel like going to school’ not for valid reasons. Especially for secondary students .

This rule is in place to curb the children and their parents behavior.

Parents who children are in private school have a little better attitude. But in independent schools the attitude towards school is extremely relaxed.

Airwolf
Airwolf
6 years ago
Reply to  Amber

If the students can pass the test without going to school then 1. They are brilliant and belong somewhere better or 2. The school has poor exams or curriculum. By preventing the test taking schools cop out from all responsibility. Your days of attendance dont make you better the richness of interaction and the teaching process make the difference.

Airwolf
Airwolf
6 years ago

Our son for the first time in years said he did not want to go to school and he was having more and more sick days. Upon investigation we found out it was the teacher and how she is treating him and how she destroys his self esteem daily. Upon further investigation we learned that this particular tacher had a record for being a nasty disciplinarian at her previous school in Qatar. Another parent who had the teacher at the former school complained to administrators that she could not believe how a reputable school would hire her. Admin was not responsive. Unimaginative harsh teachers might devastate our kids and our solution is to punish our kids??? What kind of thinking is this.

Ano
Ano
6 years ago

What about manhandling the Indian teacher and telling him that “I have 3-4 people like you at home and I am doing the same with them . and I don’t care a s@@t about you…”

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