According to the policy statement by the Supreme Education Council (2009), inclusive education
“is a process of enabling all students to learn and participate effectively within mainstream schooling systems and in mainstream classrooms. Placing previously excluded students within a mainstream setting, however, does not of itself achieve inclusion. Whole school policies and practice need to result in the development of agreed strategies for ensuring that inclusion is achieved in an effective way, enabling all students to access the full range of curriculum opportunities and experiences”.
Inclusive education “focuses on the child’s right to participate in the full range of educational experiences and the school’s duty to ensure that this occurs. In addition, it seeks to maximize the participation of all learners in the full life of their local school and to make learning experiences relevant and more meaningful for all students”. The same statement highlights that “although the focus of this policy statement is in relation to students with disabilities, inclusive education has wider implications and seeks to address issues in relation to the rejection of segregation or exclusion of learners for whatever reason – ability, gender, language, care status, family income, disability, sexuality, colour, religion or ethnic origin”.
Special education needs
The expression “additional educational support needs” (AESN) refers to students with Learning Problems (SWLP), students with Specific Learning Difficulties (SWSLD) and students with Disabilities (SWD). It also includes students with behaviour problems (SWBP).
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education is committed to inclusive integration in education “where possible”. The country offers different placements options for students with disabilities, depending on the degree of disability. Students with severe disabilities, including learners with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder, attend special schools that offer more tailored education services. Students with minor or medium intellectual disabilities are integrated with their peers in the curricular and extra-curricular activities in resource rooms in regular schools. Educational programmes are developed according to the learners’ abilities. Finally, students with disabilities may also be fully included with their peers, including learners with physical disabilities, moderate hearing and visual impairments in regular schools. In this regard, 80% of public schools have introduced addition educational needs facilities and staff. In addition to special lesson time dedicated to students with special needs, educational programmes also ensure that students with special needs receive appropriate education according to a specific schedule and an individual educational plan. This ensures that these learners are fully included with their peers. A circular to public schools stipulates that students with speech and language disorders not associated with mental disabilities may enroll directly in public schools.
The State and different organizations and foundations have opened different centers for students with special educational needs, including: Renad Academy for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder; Awsage Academy for students with learning disabilities; Omega Center for Special Needs Education; Bassnet Amal Center for Special Needs; Pro-Tem Special Needs School; Al Tamakon Comprehensive School; Child Development Center; HOPE Qatar; Hand in Hand; Step By Step Center; Shaffalah Center for Children with Special Needs; Al Noor Institute for the Visually Impaired; for the blind, Awsah Academy; Mind Institute and Mada – Assistive Technology Center Qatar.
With regard to needs identification and placement, the Rou'a Assessment Advice and Support Centre was established in 2015 under the Department of Special Education and Gifted Students. As a specialized assessment and diagnostic centre, it assesses new students attending public schools and provides them and their families with counselling. In cooperation with a team from the Ministry of Health, the Center defines students' needs and identifies appropriate support services.
Article 25 of the Constitution (2003) guarantees the right to education for all. It also states that all citizens have the right to education. The Qatari constitution enshrined the right to education, as Article (49), it stipulated that "education is a right for every citizen and the state seeks to achieve compulsory and free public education, in accordance with the laws and laws in force in the state. Article 2 of the Compulsory Education Law No. 25 (2001) states that education is free and compulsory for all students at the basic education level (from beginning of primary level until end of preparatory level or until a student turns 18 years old). In this regard, Article 11 imposes a penalty on parents who are found not to be sending their age-appropriate children to school.
Qatar ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2008. The 2009 policy statement aimed to provide a guidance framework for public schools in relation to their responsibilities for students with various disabilities, impairments and difficulties. Among its priorities, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s 2017-2022 strategy intends to ensure the enrollment of students with special educational needs in equitable, quality and diverse educational programmes both in early childhood and in basic educational stages. In parallel, one of the key objectives outlined in Mada Center’s strategy (2014-2017) - which is affiliated with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology - is to increase educational opportunities available for students with disabilities in the public education track.
Several institutions, mainly private, offer specific support to children with different types of disabilities. For example, Qatar Foundation’s Renad Academy opened in September 2016 to serve Qatari national children with autism spectrum disorder from 3 years onward. An early intervention programme provided by Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) provides services and support to families who may need assistance with extraordinary care for a child with special needs. The Ministry of Education has issued a circular to public schools, asking them to admit children of employees working in the private sector in areas which do not have private schools
UNESCO is working in close association with the Ministry of Education to develop a proposal for integration of inclusive education concepts within mainstream schools around Qatar. Efforts also are being made to ensure that teachers are equipped with the skills to provide support to children with special needs and that the social environment of schools is healthy for the emotional well-being of all students. The Ministry has expanded the number of schools which include students with disabilities (integration schools) to 66. For example this is the case in the Al-Hidaya School for People with Special Needs from first grade through sixth grade of primary school, and two kindergartens since the academic year 2017-2018. Qatar’s state sector has specialized programmes for the hearing and visually impaired; there is a programme for Arabic speaking children with learning difficulties and programmes (in Arabic) for gifted children.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education has divided schools, as part of the modernization of its policies for the education of persons with disabilities, by type of educational services for persons with disabilities. The country has 68 inclusive schools for boys and girls at all levels of education, catering for students with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. These schools include resource classes, special programmes and services and have specialized staff responsible for setting specific learning objectives for their individual education plans. In addition, there are 124 schools in the country offering support services to boys and girls at all levels of education. There are also two middle and high schools for the visually impaired and blind, which operate in cooperation and coordination with the Light Centre for the Blind. Finally, specialized schools provide guidance for students with special needs, including learners with intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder from medium to severe.
In its last report to state party in 2015, the CRPD recommended that reorienting “resources from segregated educational settings towards quality inclusive education with the provision of reasonable accommodation and individual supports, accessible environments and curricula, for all students with disabilities in mainstream schools and mandatory in-service training of all teachers and all staff in education facilities on quality inclusive education”.
Qatar acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in June 2009. With regard to opportunities for professional specialized education available to female students in the State of Qatar, the Qatar School of Banking Sciences for Girls was opened in the academic year 2015-2016 with the aim of providing high-quality specialized education in various sectors (e.g. banking and business administration) and supporting their integration into the economic sector.
To encourage the enrolment in this type of specialized and vocational education, Qatar has adopted various measures including the establishment of monthly financial allocations for female students and has organized annual awareness campaigns for preparatory stage students to introduce the school programmes.
In order to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and in implementation of Article 10 thereof, Qatar has committed to further entrenching the principle of equality between men and women in educational curricula in terms of gender equality in school curricula, in assessment methods and in various school activities. It further intends to reduce female student drop-out rates through subjects that illustrate the role of women in building society and its welfare and by organizing programmes for girls and women who have left school prematurely. Thee curricula of Islamic education between the tenth and the twelfth grade include lessons that bear explicit titles embodying the concept of equality and eliminating forms of discrimination against women as lessons of gender equality and reject all forms of discrimination against women and women's rights and their role in the development of society. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s 2017-2022 strategy also aims to increase the enrollment number of children regardless of their gender. There is no mention of any gender/sexual minorities (LGBTQ+) in any of the laws or reports reviewed.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
Qatar was among the 143 states and territories that voted in favor of adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. While there is no explicit mention of any linguistic or ethnic minorities, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s 2017-2022 strategy sets out the importance of ensuring the protection of Qatari values while fostering a better understanding and respect for other cultures throughout pre-school until end of secondary education.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education upgraded its Education policies for the academic year 2017-2018 that includes those with special educational needs, as well as gifted students. On the basis of Prince's Resolution 9/2016 on the organizational structure of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, it was decided to develop and implement programmes, policies and procedures for gifted students; to assist teachers and parents in identifying and supporting gifted students ; to work with schools to support gifted students and to ensure the effective implementation of development plans; to provide support for the implementation of educational programmes for gifted students; and to monitor the development of gifted students and update development plans based on the results of student assessment and improvement of performance.
The Resolution targeting gifted students was adopted for the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.
In September 2001, Emiri Resolution No. 25 regarding compulsory education for all children on the territory of the State, including the primary stage until the preparatory stage or reaching the age of eighteen, whichever is earlier was issued. In 2017, the Council of Ministers approved the draft permanent residence card law, which allows permanent residence permits for Qatari children married to foreigners as well as for non-Qataris who have performed great services for the state and those with special qualifications that the state needs. The permanent residence card guarantees its holders a number of privileges including in the field of education. Enrolment of new pupils with special educational needs in kindergartens is reserved for Qatari children, while registration in the first grade is allowed for both Qataris and children with special needs of public sector workers.
Responding to the CRPD recommendations, Qatar created one of the key programmatic areas of focus for the Mada Center for Supportive Technology - which is affiliated with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology - is reviewing and assessing the current situation of persons with disabilities in Qatar and studying the frameworks governing the inclusion, integration and rights of persons with disabilities across the various sectors in Qatari society. The Roa'a Assessment, Counselling and Support Centre works closely with the Ministry of Health and aims to provide the necessary assessment and support to students with special educational needs through a group of specialists in the field of needs assessment and diagnosis.
With regard to the education and professional development of teaching staff, the Ministry has established a partnership with Qatar University to offer special education programmes for Qatari graduates and various training programmes for special education specialists working in public schools.
The Ministry of Education cooperates with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in designing strategies for the professional integration of persons with disabilities.
The provision of education in Qatari schools is based on the intervention response model. It is a three-tiered process aimed at providing adequate intervention based on an assessment of student responses.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education provides adequate textbooks, which is the first source of learning, integrated through an individual education plan designed for each student with special needs.
The Mada Assistive Technology Center Qatar assists in the provision of support devices and the development of technological programmes adapted to learners with disabilities, such as Clicker 7, an educational programme for learners with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorders.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education appoints a special education coordinator and additional teachers for special education. The latter support the classroom teacher. School teams may include additional educational support needs coordinators (AESNCs), teachers for inclusion, teaching assistants, school psychologists, social workers and speech therapists.
In collaboration with the Mada Assistive Technology Center Qatar, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education trained teachers and support staff in assessing the needs and abilities of students with disabilities. The University of Qatar also offers a Master's degree in Special Education.
A set of rules and conditions have been formulated for the employment of staff members in regular and special schools. These rules specify the necessary academic qualifications and professional experience.
Qatar provided a national statistical report in 2015 entitled Education in the Schools of Qatar. More recently, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education established the first database for students with special educational needs in local schools in January 2018.
The Department of Special Education and Gifted Students provides annual reports on each school's progress in providing integration services. It evaluates the services offered with the intention of adjusting them according to the actual needs observed.