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Wed 25 Feb 2009 04:00 AM

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State of the art

A system that teaches all school subjects through music, drama and poetry produces students who are more creative and confident, says independent school principal Abdul Aziz Al Sayed.

A system that teaches all school subjects through music, drama and poetry produces students who are more creative and confident, says independent school principal Abdul Aziz Al Sayed.

What changes have you seen in your school since it became an independent school?

Many changes have happened in the last four years. We now discuss and have plans for issues like staffing, management, professional development, and teaching and learning in general. Our school now has a vision and a mission, and we try to educate all our staff in these.

This is the first time that this happened in our schools, that we have this vision and mission.

What curriculum and teaching methodologies does your school use?

Our school uses a modern methodology that integrates the arts into all subjects of the curriculum. This is unique in the Middle East actually. Learning is much more effective through painting, music, drama, things like this.

Students' knowledge increases and the learning process becomes an exciting experience for them.

Their knowledge is embedded much deeper because the arts use symbols, images and pictures.  In maths, for example, students have to design a mosque, so that looks at the principles of architecture and engineering.

Our teachers had a lot of ideas when we first started doing this, and they are creating lots of good materials for these subjects.

How does the school assess its students?

Assessment and reporting are fundamental parts of the operation of the school.  We have in place a system for making sure that assessment is fair, reliable and valid.

This system was developed by the management team in consultation with the academic and curriculum leaders. Staff members are trained in our assessment procedures as a part of their professional development.

Students also have a file that keeps them and their parents fully informed of their progress.

How do independent schools differ from government schools?

I think independent schools are better in many ways. They have better resources and implement polices and procedures developed by the Supreme Education Council in consultation with international educational institutes.Many students in government schools don't like school, feeling it is a chore rather than a life experience. They feel bored with traditional teaching methods, which tend to use a "one size fits all" approach.

This traditional approach limits or oppresses students' creativity and natural inquisitiveness, rather that nurtures it.

There are limited or no extracurricular activities offered to students in Qatar's government schools. Our curriculum allows us to do many activities, and these activities make the students much more creative.

Have your students improved since your school became independent?

Students have improved a lot in their academic achievement. Traditional teaching methods mainly utilise the right hemisphere of the brain.

By teaching through the arts, however, we are utilising the left as well, which means that we produce more balanced personalities in our students.

I remember before we became an independent school, when the time came to go home at the end of the day, students used to run out as if escaping from prison.  Now they stay longer at school, they try to finish their activities and they often come early as well.

What challenges will you face in making these improvements?

We expect to face many challenges. Students and their parents are used to the traditional learning approach, so they don't think about why they are learning, or about how they could use this learning in their future. Sometimes students don't have the motivation to learn.

We try to tell them that an education is not just about how much money they will earn in the future, but that it helps their mind and ability to be creative. How do you encourage parents to take an active role in their children's education?

At the beginning, parents only came to the school if there was a problem with their child.  But now, as a result of our involvement policy, parents participate in all school events, and they are communicating more frequently.

We also send them many updates on their children's progress, and do things like call them if their child is absent from school in the morning, which doesn't happen in government schools.

Parents feel that someone is looking after the interests of their children.

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