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Monday, October 25, 2021

Some 40 percent of Qatar students miss first day back at school

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For illustrative purposes only
Photo for illustrative purposes only

As a new school term begins, Qatar’s education minister has pledged to take a tougher stance against poor performance, cheating and absenteeism in the country’s independent schools.

But it appears Mohamed al-Hammadi may have his work cut out for him, based on low attendance during the first day of classes this week.

Four out of every 10 middle and high school students were missing from school yesterday, according to Al Raya.

However, attendance was better for younger students, with 80 percent of primary school children present, the newspaper added.

This was despite exhortations from al-Hammadi on Saturday, ahead of the return of students and teachers, warning about poor performance at school. In a series of tweets, he said:

Translation: We value and appreciate your efforts (as teachers). We will support you in fulfilling your responsibility in advancing our students. We will provide you with necessary training and we ask you to faithfully carry out your duties and double your efforts.

However, we will not be lenient in holding those negligent accountable, whether in regards to absences, poor performance and tampering with exams  – and that’s for both teachers and administrators.

Empty desks

Chronic student absenteeism has plagued Qatar’s schools in recent years.

A 2013 report by the now-disbanded Supreme Education Council (SEC) found that students across Qatar missed an average of 17 percent of school days – nearly one day a week.

Those who did show up were frequently tardy, arriving late 15 percent of the time, the same report found.

The following year, al-Hammadi called the absenteeism rate at local, independent (state) schools “unacceptable” and said that the SEC would impose strict penalties on students who took more than the permissible number of days off.

Photo for illustrative purposes only
Photo for illustrative purposes only

Starting in September 2014, students who were habitually absent without a justifiable reason were banned from taking tests or, in more serious cases, their first-term exam.

However, that strict approach appears to have failed to ensure all students returned from their holidays on time this week.

New term

Speaking to Al Raya, Fahad al-Muslimani, principal of Ali bin Abi-Talib Preparatory School for Males, blamed parents for absenteeism.

“Some parents are uncooperative,” he said. “We hoped that they would be more responsive to the school’s regulations, especially (after) we sent out three text messages to all parents last Friday and Saturday.”

However, it seems some parents believe that students should be spending less time at school, not more.

In a separate article this week, Al Raya conducted an informal poll of parents and asked them how they believe education in Qatar can be improved.

Among the most popular responses were shortening the school day and academic year.

For illustrative purposes only
For illustrative purposes only

The newspaper quoted parent Salih al-Hijaji, who was among those voicing support for reducing the number of hours in the school day.

He said that family members seldom gather at home unless it’s Friday or a holiday because students are busy and have long days, adding that being mentally and physically exhausted after long days at school prevents students from taking up hobbies.

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