HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) said innovation in education is at the heart of QF's work, stressing that QF's future programs will focus on the development of the educational environment in Qatar to help students build self-confidence, develop critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as developing creative solutions to life and societal challenges.
In an exclusive interview with Qatar News Agency (QNA), HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani said a strong example of the efforts QF exerts in the field of innovation in education is the success of The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), one of the world’s largest educational conferences, which was launched in 2009.
'WISE now occupies a prominent position as an international forum which seeks to build the future of education through innovation and creativity,' HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani said.
In this context, QF Vice Chairperson and CEO said World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) is one of the best examples of multi-disciplinary cooperation among the international healthcare community. In fact, WISH hosts some of the most important innovators in healthcare, in addition to local stakeholders, provides an invaluable opportunity for cooperation, through exploring subjects in line with Qatar’s national healthcare priorities, and enhancing innovations.
One of WISH’s achievements is the launch of an experimental project concerned with diabetes at Al Wakra Health Center, in cooperation with the Primary Healthcare Corporation and Hamad Medical Corporation, she said, adding that so far this project has tested more 3,000 people for diabetes and the "Smart Clinic" aims to provide personalised healthcare to every patient.
HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani pointed out that WISH’s contributions are not confined to local achievements, but also impact on the international level. A good example would be how WISH has helped Apollo Hospitals in building a strategy to enhance patient safety in India, thereby advancing medical knowledge in the second most populous country in the world, she explained.
WISE hosts some of the leading education experts, educators and policymakers in the world, in order to promote education, she said, referring to the "Voice of the Learners" programme, a WISE initiative, which seeks to benefit from the views of youth to restructure the educational system, and prepare them to assume leadership roles in their fields of specialisation as well as the field of education.
This programme now has over 100 learners from different countries, she added. In addition, WISE held a series of high-level meetings in Paris and Brussels last October, to highlight current challenges facing education in Europe due to the refugee crisis. The meetings concentrated on a wide spectrum of issues, while recognising that education and skills enhancement are essential for refugees, regardless of their age, to rebuild their lives, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani explained.
Education and Research
On the most important achievements of Qatar Foundation during the past twenty years, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani said Qatar Foundation contributes to the progress of Qatar through education, research and development, and community development, adding that 'our priority is to empower individuals and communities by investing in the future of Qatar and to providing a better future for all.' All efforts start with education, she said, stressing QF's commitment to the concept of lifelong learning and to provide an ecosystem where education can impact the life of every person.
'We provide comprehensive educational programmes from nursery to higher education, giving students the necessary skills to thrive in a global environment," she said.
In this context, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani said QF is also committed to enabling young people to address local and global R&D challenges, with the objective of empowering youth to become experts and contributors to areas of priority for our nation. 'We are currently witnessing impressive outcomes as a result of the efforts exerted by our students and graduates, which are helping to transform Qatar into an international center for innovation excellence," she explained.
QF continues its journey to make a positive impact in Qatar, and across the wider world, through focusing on our four areas of interest- Pre-University Education, Higher Education, Research and Development, and Community Development, she added.
On the contribution of the universities at Education City in the development of the community and local economy, HE Sheikha Hind said that Education City is QF’s flagship development, and serves as a hub of academic excellence. It houses a range of educational facilities, from QF schools to partner universities, and our homegrown institution, Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU).
'Through our partnership model with international universities, we have brought top-ranking programmes and specialisations to Education City in the areas of priority relevant to our nation," she added.
In this regard, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani said that Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU) is a homegrown research university that dedicates its efforts to providing innovative and high level educational programmes. HBKU is home to three national research institutes- Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI), Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI), and Qatar Environment & Energy Research Institute (QEERI). These institutes focus on conducting research that addresses some of the most pressing challenges facing Qatar and the region, including water security, energy security, cybersecurity and healthcare.
As with all of QF's endeavours, the emphasis is placed firmly on achieving tangible and relevant results, and each of these institutes has begun to excel in this respect, she explained.
For example, QCRI has produced the Jalees e-book platform, an application developed both in Arabic and English for smartphones. ‘Jalees’ has been successfully implemented in 40 schools in Qatar, and is used on over 40,000 devices, as part of the ‘e-bag’ initiative launched by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, she said.
Meanwhile, researchers at QEERI have deciphered the code of a mineral which promises to make solar energy more economically viable, she went on saying.
Additionally, QBRI specialists have led a global research collaboration that seeks to unlock valuable new knowledge about traumatic brain injury (TBI). QBRI will collaborate with the Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy Group at the University Medical Center (UMC) in Utrecht, Netherlands on this vital project, she added.
The HBKU Board of Trustees has officially approved the strategic plan, policies and procedures set by the university for the next ten years, which reflects according to her the huge expansion undertaken by HBKU recently.
On Education City’s graduates' future careers, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani said QF celebrated its first convocation in 2008, and in 2016 the cohort of graduates included over 600 students who gained Master’s and Bachelor degrees in fields crucial to meeting the future needs of Qatar.
'QF Brings Considerable Economic Benefits to Qatar'
By providing the local labour market with these talented young people, QF brings considerable economic benefits to Qatar, she explained. Within all sectors, be it oil and gas, banking, engineering or media and communications, QF graduates are contributing to driving the development of our nation forward, she said, stressing that some of them are now heading leading institutions in Qatar.
'Furthermore, many of our alumni have been accepted into elite graduate schools to continue their higher education and acquire more experience, before returning home to contribute to national development and give back to our society," she added.
On other educational programmes Qatar Foundation provides, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) said Pre-university education is the beginning of a unique education cycle at Qatar Foundation.
'This is where we establish the foundation for lifelong learning, providing for the individual needs of every learner, and delivering world-class learning experiences anchored in Qatari culture and values," she stressed.
QF schools are situated in different geographical areas and include eight academies, she said, noting that the newest addition is Renad Academy, which is dedicated to children who have been diagnosed with mild to moderate Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
There is also Qatar Leadership Academy (QLA), an educational institution which combines academic training and military discipline, she said, noting that these schools adopt a specially tailored system that strives to provide the best educational curricula, and to teach Arabic and Islamic studies to bring up a generation that takes pride in our distinctive language and identity.
'We believe that education is a lifelong learning experience. Hence, we encourage all individuals to learn constantly and develop personally and professionally, inside and outside of the classroom,' she stressed.
On the efforts being exerted by QF in the field of researches and innovation, HE Sheikha Hind said the Foundation aims t to support Qatar in building a competitive and diversified economy, focusing on national priorities as well as global issues, through innovation, entrepreneurship and by fostering knowledge-intensive sectors.
In this regard, she explained that Research and Development sector at Education City provides an integrated cycle that starts with the research institutes established by QF, stressing that QF students are encouraged to conduct research through the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF). The fund provides recipients with the necessary infrastructure, financial support and expert guidance. In the last stage of the cycle, Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) manages the commercialisation process, where ideas are converted into practical patented prototypes.
As part of encouraging QF students to pursue careers within R&D, in 2016, 3,050 university students received support through the Undergraduate Research Experience Program (UREP); 202 students were admitted to Qatar Research Leadership Program (QRLP), while 41 graduated; 26 researchers were accepted into Postdoctoral Research Award (PDRA); 17 students were admitted to PhD courses through the Graduate Student Research Awards (GSRA) programme, HE Sheikha Hind explained.
She stressed QF's keenness to spread the culture of intellectual property rights within the organisation, among its local partners and the wider Qatari society. QF currently manages 389 patent declaration forms, 13 of which were licensed and utilised by the private sector. It has also filed around 300 patent applications in the regional and international patents bureau. 31 of these applications were approved and intellectual property rights were granted, she explained.
On QF's efforts to support international cooperation, HE Sheikha Hind said the Foundation implements joint programmes with its global partners designed to drive outreach efforts forward, including various Memoranda of Understanding with QF Research and Development and 500 Startups and the Korea Institute for Science and Technology Evaluation and Planning along with an agreement for future collaboration has been signed with the European Organization for Nuclear Research "CERN."
In addition to this, QF supports the entities concerned with research in Qatar through national finance partnerships around organising conferences, workshops and meetings to develop the relevant analysis tools, as well as preparing reports for decision-makers, she said.
The most significant of these efforts include the Research and Development Database- which provides comprehensive information about available devices to ensure a rational use of resources in Qatar. Currently, 17 prominent research institutions participate in this programme.
In this context, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani referred to the Annual Research Conference (ARC) , which is a scientific platform that attracts more than 200 local and international scientists and researchers in various research specialties to share knowledge and exchange ideas, with a view to generating high-quality research and confronting various challenges.
'Community Development Programmes are Central'
On realizing QF’s vision and goals, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) said the community development programmes are central to everything done at QF.
Through partnership relations with local institutions, QF works to meet the needs of our society, to strengthen Qatari culture, and to support social engagement, she said in this respect.
"One of our most important community-based initiatives is Al Shaqab, which strives to promote Qatari heritage by providing a rich equestrian experience for young people, and to instill a love of horses, in order to preserve this heritage sport. Alongside its commitment to the local community, Al Shaqab has hosted numerous international championships, and its equestrians have won many international competitions,' she added.
In this regards, HE Sheikha Hind referred to Qatar National Library (QNL) as a national centre for digitisation and the preservation of local heritage.
In addition to its traditional function of providing resources and global knowledge in various domains, the library has also assumed the role of preserving and digitising Qatari history through the use of modern technology. As evidence of its success in this area, it is the first library in the Middle East to use inter-data technology, she said.
She also stressed the central role being played by the Education City Mosque plays in hosting religious presentations delivered by an elite group of Islamic scholars, in order to enhance religious awareness and to uphold Islamic culture.
In field of healthcare and education, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani told (QNA) that Qatar Diabetes Association (QDA) has organised international camps for children and youth affected by diabetes. QDA has also held camps for the prevention of diabetes, to ensure Qatar’s population is aware of the importance of healthy nutrition and sports, and of their own role in avoiding this disease.
She added that QF also seeks to develop a culture of sustainability throughout the community, noting that Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC) has organised numerous awareness campaigns in Qatar to conserve energy, water and to encourage the use of renewable energies. It is also worth noting that the smart solar energy grid at QF produces almost 85% of all such energy produced in Qatar, she said.
On the reasons behind the initiatives launched by QF to preserve and strengthen the Arabic language, particularly among young people, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani explained that QF is committed to playing a major role in preserving and enhancing the Arabic language on local, regional and international levels through an array of initiatives and projects.
'We have launched a number of successful Arabic initiatives, of which the 3D cartoon "Siraj" is the latest, and aims to instil a love of our language in children from an early age," she said.
'Earlier this year we also launched the National Reading Campaign, in cooperation with various organisations in Qatar, to foster a love of reading among children and their parents, and to encourage the adoption of lifelong learning. This initiative is joined by others, like the World Organization for Renaissance of Arabic Language (WORAL), which aims to strengthen the status of Arabic at a global level. Meanwhile, QF International (QFI) strives to train teachers and promote the Arabic language and culture to non-Arabic students around the world,'she added.
On QF's role in empowering young people and the future generations of Qatar, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani said:' We exert every possible effort to establish an education and research environment that will inspire and encourage youth to innovate as young scientists and entrepreneurs, and to come up with new ideas to advance. We also strive to plant the seeds of the love of community development at an early age to allow future generations to reach their potential.
She added that QF has launched several initiatives which aim to empower Qatar’s youth, a good example for this is the Stars of Science TV programme, which was launched by QF in 2009, and allows young talented innovators from across the Arab World to exhibit their innovations and find solutions to the scientific challenges facing the region. The programme’s competitors have succeeded in establishing 21 enterprises. Seven Qataris have participated in the eight seasons of the programme, four of whom reached the finals, while two have won.
Another example is Qatar Debate (QD) which has organised several national debating championships among local schools, in Arabic and English, involving over 3,500 students. QD has also organised university competitions in both languages, on top of three international school championships in Arabic, she added.
On QF future plans in the fields of education, research and community development, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) at the conclusion of the exclusive interview with QNA:" We will continue to interact with young men and women, to inspire them, and invest in their potential, in order to build a better future for all. And, we will continue to work to keep pace with the changes and seek to serve our community through innovation in education and research. "
(END) Additionally, in the field of healthcare and education, Qatar Diabetes Association (QDA) has organised international camps for children and youth affected by diabetes. QDA has also held camps for the prevention of diabetes, to ensure Qatar’s population is aware of the importance of healthy nutrition and sports, and of their own role in avoiding this disease.
To help develop a culture of sustainability throughout the community, Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC) has organised numerous awareness campaigns in Qatar to conserve energy, water and to encourage the use of renewable energies. It is also worth noting that the smart solar energy grid at QF produces almost 85% of all such energy produced in Qatar.