According to Article 1 of the 2004 Decree Law No. 36 that established the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology (ictQATAR) “Information Technology is the use on application systems including hardwired, software, and communication Networks for wireline and wireless communication in the management processing and communication of information”. The Decree defines “Communications” as “the delivery, transmission broadcasting or reception of writing, signals, signs, pictures, sounds, or any data information of any kind by wireline, wireless, optic, electromagnetic”. It also refers to “Communication Network” as a system or set of systems used to provide communication services.
The terms “telecommunication technologies” and “e-Learning” are referenced to develop the education sector in the 2021 Accessible Telecommunications International Best Practices report by the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) of Qatar. In other instances, the term “e-Education” is used for education technologies in the 2015 Qatar’s National ICT Plan published by ictQATAR.
In 2015, the Developing Qatar’s Youth for a Digital Future white paper published by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) denoted digital learners as people who participate in all forms of digital learning experiences from early childhood years to their higher education and beyond. The skills in this pillar mean to “support lifelong learning in digital learning environments and include basic language skills, numeracy skills, and ICT literacy at progressively deeper and more specific levels as young people move from general to focused learning”.
Finally, Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE) website defines blended learning as an approach that combines distance learning and classroom-based lessons.
Constitution and laws: The 2004 Qatar Constitution mentions education in Article 25, stating that “Education is one of the basic pillars of social progress. The state shall ensure, foster, and endeavor to spread it”. Article 49 declares that “Education is a right to every citizen. The State endeavors to achieve compulsory and free public education, according to the rules and laws in force in the State”.
Article 2 of Law No. 25 of the 2001 Mandatory Education Act states that “Education shall be mandatory and free for all children from the beginning of the Primary stage of education to the end of the Secondary stage of education or when the child receiving such education becomes 18 years of age whichever is the sooner, and the Council shall provide for all educational requirements.”
The 2009 Telecommunications By-Law No. 1 defines “Telecommunications Equipment: equipment capable of being connected directly or indirectly to a telecommunications network to send, transmit or receive
telecommunications services, and includes radio-communications equipment. Telecommunications Service: any form of transmission, emission or reception of signs, signals, writing, text, images, sounds or other intelligence provided by means of a telecommunications network to a third party”.
Policies, plans and strategies: Introduced and ratified by the 2008 Emiri Decision No. 44, sustainability became the core principle in the Qatar's National Vision 2030 (QNV 2030). The Qatar National Vision 2030 strategic policy document acknowledged that nations that leverage ICT for economic development and mature into knowledge-based economies would be prosperous in the future. The QNV 2030 policy document calls for a diversified, multi-pillar and multi-sectoral approach to National Development Strategies (NDS), trends, and possibilities. The vision mainly rests on four main development pillars, to each its own goals: (1) Human development (2) Social development (3) Economic development (4) Environmental development. Human development and economics are the main pillars targeting education and ICT.
To attain the QNV 2030 goals, the first comprehensive National Development Strategy 2011-2016 (NDS-1) was developed. To promote human development, the NDS-1 report mentions it plans to put in place “advanced education systems that meet the highest global standards” through integrating information and communication technology in education and administrative processes. It also highlights that “attention to quality will be part of establishing curricula, resourcing schools and training centers, improving information and communication technology and managing governance arrangements.”
The E-education brochure of the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology (ictQATAR) had a national target for 2015 to reach an ICT-advanced level in which ICT is integrated throughout the entire educational institutions for systematic use, comprehensive solutions, learning, instruction, communication, management, and development.
Like the NDS-1, the 2018- 2022 Second National Development Strategy (NDS-2) included ICT development in the Economic development pillar which aims to develop a sustainable and high-quality infrastructure that supports the national economy and keeps abreast of the latest smart technologies prioritizing the development of innovative approaches and systems to support and accelerate the building of national capacities at ministries and government agencies in strategic planning, project management and systematically use the available training and development capabilities of the country’s universities and educational and training institutions.
The 2018-2022 Ministry of Education and Higher Education Strategic Plan aims to prepare comprehensive central data for education and training, raise the percentage of electronic services provided by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education to the beneficiaries, support the role and participation of the private sector in providing high-quality learning and teaching services, and set higher education systems in line with the best methods and standards in advanced universities and assisting higher education institutions to compete globally.
The 2022 National E-Learning Strategy aims to improve academic performance while guaranteeing that all participants in the educational process have access to the basics of e-learning. The first axis is devoted to strategic competencies, which also encompasses performance management, governance, and e-learning strategy. The second axis is the requirement and needs, which also encompasses personnel, capabilities, the digital environment, and digital content. The third axis is the provision of educational services, which includes e-learning, programme design, e-curricula, educational technologies, and e-assessment, among other techniques and educational assets. The fourth axis, operational capabilities, covers mechanisms for quality control, collaboration, partnerships, educational analytics, and digital education culture. The quality of education and the learner's experience are included in the fifth axis, which links e-learning and education results.
The "Digital Agenda 2015" or “Qatar’s National ICT Plan” comprehensive plan was issued in June 2011. The QNV 2030 objectives and the NDS economic and social aims were supported by organizing the Digital Agenda into five key focus areas: (1) Improving connectivity (2) Boosting Capacity (3) Fostering Economic Development (4) Enhancing Public Service Delivery (5) Advancing Societal Benefits: through e-Education, e-Health, Internet and Society. The National ICT Plan aims to enhance society's and the government's access to education and other services by “Modernizing learning environments and encouraging ICT use to improve learning experiences".
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in 2013 by the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology (ictQATAR) and Intel Corporation, a pioneer in computing innovation, to work together on a national initiative for digital inclusion in the State of Qatar. The goal of this effort was to improve integrated digital technology while encouraging a variety of digitally underserved target groups to acquire the necessary technological know-how.
To complement the National ICT Plan, ictQatar created a Digital Inclusion Strategy in 2014: "Bridging The Digital Divide" that addresses all segments of the community through a carefully planned programme of awareness, access, training, and assistance “As the nation moves towards becoming a knowledge-based economy, it has become increasingly important to ensure that all members of society have the ability to access technologies and gain an understanding on how to use those technologies. ictQATAR works to bridge the digital divide so everybody can be part of Qatar’s information society”.
Digital competency frameworks: The 2015 Developing Qatar’s Youth for a Digital Future white paper published by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) refers to the “core” competencies needed to establish a digital society “They are the personal, life, and health-related knowledge, skills, and dispositions required to become a digital learner, citizen, and contributor to the environments in which they will live and work”. These competencies are divided into four categories: (1) the Digital Individual (2) Digital Learner (2) Digital Citizen (3) Digital Environment. The competencies for all categories are the following: basic language skills, numeracy skills, and ICT literacy at specific levels (STEM, ICT fluency, managing complexity, data fluency, language programming/coding, ) socializing skills, communications skills, well-developed understanding of the risks and benefits of these environments and their uses, as well as competency with data.
The 2007 Qatar National Professional Standards for School Teachers and Leaders (QNPSTSL) provided a framework for the duties and professional development that teachers and school leaders needed to improve throughout their careers. There is no mention of digital competency.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: No changes in regulations occurred as a result of COVID-19. However, the COVID-19 pandemic sped up the process of investment and implementation of the aforementioned strategies. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE) designed an alternative to the traditional classroom setting after the closure of all public and private schools and universities on March 10, 2020. By the first semester of 2020/2021 academic year, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education opted to use the blended learning strategy. All educational levels in public and private schools, preschools, and higher education institutions were offered a combination of online learning and classroom-based lessons to minimize to side effects of school closures.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: The Qatar National Master Plan (QNMP), Community Facilities Standards and Provision Guidelines, states that school sites must be located 500 m from the electrical power stations, 75 m from the nearest fuel station, and 250 m for high-voltage lines which means that in order for a school to be established, it needs to have an electrical system.
Private schools are required to also have an electrical system in which the power supply is provided from a government source, and it must have a backup generator in addition to the main source of supply away from the students.
Computers and devices: In collaboration with the telecommunications networks in Qatar, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education provided computers, tablets, laptops and hundreds of broadband devices for Internet access to students who had no access to e-learning equipment in public schools after COVID-19.
In response to COVID-19, 320 private K–12 schools with more than 200,000 students have been directed by the Ministry to create and develop remote learning strategies. The Ministry has also given some schools without remote learning capacities training and follow-up. cities training and follow-up.
Kids whose families were financially impacted by the pandemic in 2020 received laptops and tablets from the Ministry has been able to provide PCs, tablets, laptops, and hundreds of other internet devices to students who needed them for at-home learning on behalf of individuals who lacked the requisite equipment or access to e-learning through its relationships with Qatar's telecommunications networks.
Internet connectivity: The 2015 National ICT Strategy aims to ensure that public and private investment will be used to roll out and establish a national, affordable, high-speed broadband network and improve access and usage across all societal sectors while enhancing digital literacy and skills.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education issued instructions to all public schools nationwide to adopt e-learning as a fundamental technique of teaching for the upcoming academic year in advance of the reopening of schools in September 2020. The minimum specification for an internet connection was 2 Mbps/High-speed broadband.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education has introduced "Mzeed," an online learning platform to respond to COVID-19 in 2020. The platform offers interactive and digital technologies. Students have access to a wide range of resources that improve their academic experience, including interactive books, textbooks in PDF format, videos, audio, and many more digital learning resources. Through this platform, the Ministry hopes to improve students' learning processes without forcing them to be continually connected to the internet by disseminating knowledge in an interactive and engaging way.
The "Qlearning" platform, which supports and enables all distance learning services, was also introduced by the Ministry.
Other e-learning platforms and ed-tech hubs gained more momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic. The “Education Sector in Qatar: Current State Assessment Series” report by Qatar Development Bank (2021) mentions that Qatar's public schools began using Microsoft Teams in 2020, while Qatar's Northwestern University used the Canvas Learning Management System. Qatar experiences an adoption of gamification, VR tech and AI-Powered Student Assessment in private and public schools and institutions of higher education.
The Ministry of Education channel has-a collection of 1700 online courses that have been continually updated to the Ministry's YouTube channel, which allows students to follow their classes from a distance.
Siraj is a programme to teach Arabic to children ages 2 to 8 while also enhancing their reading and numeracy abilities.
Qatar TV - Two TV channels called Education 1 and Education 2 were developed by Qatar Media Corporation (QMC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education to broadcast educational content to students.
Finally, the MOEHE provides the Qatar Education Platform as the new education management system in public schools. The platform aims to provide an easy and enjoyable learning journey for all educational parties (student, parent, and teacher).
The Basic ICT and Internet Skills curriculum was developed for learners in Qatar students in both English and Arabic. The content, which is broken down into interactive learning activities and learning documents, is meant to be entertaining and interactive with a focus on practising the skills. The Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum and the Intel Easy Steps Programme are also available on the Digital Inclusive website.
As Qatar’s NDS-2 strives for a knowledge-based economy, STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are a national priority. This is portrayed by the development of the STEM Hub laboratory, Qatar’s National Resource for STEM Education, that seeks to encourage young people in Qatar to use engineering and science in original ways to think creatively. In the facility, students in schools receive specialized mentoring from researchers and academic members to give them hands-on learning experiences and improve their capacity for original and creative thought. However, there is no specific policy or strategy targeting girls/women in STEM.
Qatar University Young Scientists Center (QUYSC), an initiative of Qatar University, offers STEM Digital Learning courses to reach out to students of all levels affected by COVID-19. Offered by National Center for Educational Development (NCED), the Future Scientists Academy – STEM is an educational orientation that prepares school students to engage in careers related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The e-Education of ictQATAR objectives for 2015 aimed at enhancing the learning experience through ICT, and building the underlying ICT capabilities to improve productivity and quality of life. For teachers, it is meant to encourage innovative pedagogical approaches, manage classrooms efficiently, personalize learning to meet students’ talents and needs, foster communication and collaboration, and integrate ICT across the curriculum.
Concerning in-service teacher training, “Together for a Distinguished Professional Development” training programme for teachers of public schools was launched by the National Center for Educational Development (NCED) and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education to support them in employing effective resources in students’ learning.
The Educational Training and Development Center has been established by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education to ensure that all individuals in the education sector can grow and improve to implement the second goal of the Ministry of Education Strategic Plan on "enhancing the professional development of a highly qualified and trained workforce for the education sector", through meeting the second strategic objective of the said goal, i.e. "enhancing the efficiency of teachers and school leaders".
As ictQATAR is aware of the advantages that assistive technologies may provide for society, it established the Qatar Assistive Technology Center (MADA). MADA trains school teachers on how to incorporate assistive technology into learning environments and ensures that training programmes are accessible to people with disabilities, their families, educators, and workforce development specialists.
This Digital Inclusion Toolkit for Women service is offered by Digital Inclusion Department to ICT trainers, instructors, teachers and low-skilled women in the field of information and communications technology (ICT).
The Digital Centre of Excellence aims to develop the technical skills of students as well as those already in the workforce. Through globally recognized, industry-endorsed role-based skilling tracks, the center offers individuals and organizations a professional advantage by providing a range of training and certifications that skill, upskill and reskill professionals, developers, business leaders and current students on advanced technologies such Cloud computing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), in collaboration with Microsoft, has launched Qatar’s National Skilling Programme which aims to train 50,000 people across all demographics by 2025. It coincided with the opening ceremony of the Digital Center of Excellence, the first of its kind in Qatar on March 2022. Its targets include students, teachers, IT professionals, developers and business leaders.
2.4.1. Data privacy
The 2016 Personal Data Protection Law No. 13 revised the legal framework for data protection in Qatar. It was the first of its kind in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and it impacts employers, educational institutions, and any entity that collects and processes data as mentioned by Article 2 “Provisions hereof shall apply to Personal Data when it is electronically processed, or obtained, gathered or extracted in preparation in any other way”. Article 3 of the law states that “Each Individual has the right to the protection of the Personal Data thereof that shall be processed only within the framework of transparency, honesty, and respect of human dignity and acceptable practices according to provisions hereof.”
The Cyber Security Division has released several policies that establish an appropriate framework for internet usage by students and staff at schools in order to serve educational purposes in a safe environment and ensure student and staff data privacy such as the 2014 “Information Security Framework for School Networks”, “ ICT Security Guide for Technical Staff” and “Student Acceptable Use Policy (AUP)”.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
A legal framework for pursuing cybercrimes is provided by the 2014 Qatari Law No. 14. It criminalizes acts that are considered offences under any other law by the use of any information technology, including websites, information networks, and information systems, to do acts that are illegal under any other legislation (Article 45).
The 2016 Personal Data Protection Law No. 13 went into effect to protect individuals from online risks, ranging from cyber-security issues to cyberbullying. The Cyber Safety Portal referred to as SafeSpace “is the online presence for initiatives that come under the cyber safety programme within the Digital Society Department at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. The programme encompasses cyber safety awareness campaigns in social media and public places, cyber safety ambassador programmes, cyber safety digital library, and cyber safety workshops such as Akhalqi Qatar, which aims to increase ethical responsibility in the digital world”. It, therefore, intends to raise awareness of topics about cybersecurity in Qatar. The content aims to provide empowerment, protection, and prevention to educators, students, parents, youth, and children by giving them more control over their online safety. To assist parents and teachers in defending kids against this online abuse and cyberbullying, the content also offers instructional games, advice, and the most recent research on cyberbullying. The platform also provides two distinctive educational programmes, HASEEN and the Digital Literacy Curriculum that offer courses and workshops in English and Arabic for schools, organizations, and individuals including children.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE) and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) are the two government agencies supporting and regulating education and technology in Qatar.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) is the government entity charged with supporting and regulating education in Qatar. The MoEHE is tasked with implementing the Education and Training Sector Strategy (ETSS) 2018-22, which uses an outcome-based rather than project-based approach to implementation. It comprises five pillars: enrolment, achievement and implementation, manpower, citizenship and values, and institutional development and governance. The strategy also aims to expand the role of the private sector in the provision of education.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) became the extension of the Supreme Council of Information & Communication Technology (ictQATAR). The 2021 Amiri Decree No.57 set the competencies of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) to supervise, stimulate and develop the communication and information technology (ICT) sector and infrastructure, in line with the national development requirements, as well as implementing the e-government programmes and smart society as well as their supervision. The MCIT is in charge of initiatives to enhance data access and boost the effectiveness of services offered to the general population by setting up a widespread, widely accessible, high-speed broadband network. It aids in the development of ICT activities in government, market development, knowledge management, education, health, e-inclusion, and cyber security. In the education sector, ictQatar contributes to the development and implementation of the government's e-education strategy in four key areas: (1) it serves as a strategic advisor (2) it coordinates the e-education government strategy (3) it monitors trends in technology (4) it identifies and collaborates with various governmental organizations, ministries, and potential partners that are in charge of education. The Ministry also provides e-government services, such as the Hukoomi e-platform for resident and visitor services and transactions and the Al-Meezan portal for legal information of the Ministry of Justice.
The Cyber Security Division is part of the MCIT's mission to harness the power of ICT, drive innovation swell into the future, and empower community members in schools and society to use ICT effectively and safely.
The 2018 School e-Safety Policy Guideline document states that “Mobile phones SHALL NOT be used during lessons or formal school time. It is NOT RECOMMENDED that they be allowed in school”. The document is designed to act as the basis and framework for each school's development of appropriate technology-use procedures and regulations.