Qatar profile - Learning to love science
Written by Gregg Henglein
How do you teach secondary school students whose interest in science is marginal at best to love the subject? The answer lies in teamwork, passion, and real-world incorporation. Welcome to Qatar University’s Al-Bairaq programme, where life is the lab.
Science, at its core, is about discovery. For those involved in Qatar University’s Al-Bairaq programme, the greatest discovery for the students is about themselves: what they know, what they can learn, and what they are capable of.
Through the university’s Materials Technology Unit, students in the final grade in secondary school work in teams with university-level scientists on practical scientific problems in authentic contexts. Utilising the university’s state-of-the-art equipment, students spend days in workshops under the tutelage of professional scientific experts, developing and enhancing their critical-thinking, problem-solving, and team-working skills. By its conclusion, teams of students not only formulate their own research plan and investigate the answers, but report their findings in a public forum, evaluated by industry and business representatives.
Backed by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), Al-Bairaq sets out to build bridges between secondary schools and higher learning as Qatar continues its development as a knowledge-based society, as outlined in the nation’s Qatar National Vision 2030 plan.
The programme’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Noora Al-Thani, noted that exposing students to scientists and researchers who are considered experts both in Qatar and abroad not only enhances the students’ awareness of science’s value, but contributes “a cadre of young scientists and researchers for a future place in the country’s development”.
Qatar University Al-Bairaq Program
Seeing the future
All things in Qatar seem rooted in the 2008 announcement of Qatar National Vision 2030, a bold initiative designed to make Qatar an ‘advanced society capable of sustaining its development and providing a high standard of living for all of its people.’
Science is a vital component, and it is already working. The international community is rapidly recognising Qatar’s growing influence, most recently having hosted the World Conference of Science Journalists in July.
Nicolas Luco of Chile’s El Mercurio said, ‘This conference was a great reminder that we do not have to look only to Europe and the United States for leadership in science and research. The State of Qatar is setting a great example with the government’s decision to focus on science and research.’