‘ ... 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’ refers to students with learning problems, specific learning difficulties, disabilities and behavioural problems.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education is committed to inclusive integration in education ‘where possible’. The country offers different placement 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 mild or intermediate intellectual disabilities are integrated with their peers in curricular and extracurricular activities in resource rooms in regular schools. Education programmes are developed according to the learners’ abilities. Finally, students with disabilities, including learners with physical disabilities and moderate hearing and visual impairments, may be fully included with their peers in regular schools. In this regard, 80% of public schools have introduced addition education needs facilities and staff.
In addition to special lesson time dedicated to students with special needs, education programmes also ensure that students with special needs receive appropriate education according to a specific schedule and an individual educational plan. This approach 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 enrol directly in public schools.
The state and various organizations and foundations have opened centres for students with special education needs, including Renad Academy for students with autism spectrum disorder; Awsage Academy for students with learning disabilities; Omega Center for Special Needs Education; Bassmet 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 Centre; Shaffalah Center for Children with Special Needs; Al Noor Institute for the visually impaired; Awsah Academy; Mind Institute; and Mada – Assistive Technology Center Qatar.
With regard to needs identification and placement, the Rou’a Assessment Advice and Support Center was established in 2015 under the Department of Special Education and Gifted Students. 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 centre defines students’ needs and identifies appropriate support services.
Article 25 of the 2003 Constitution guarantees the right to education for all. It also states that all citizens have the right to education. Article 47 stipulates 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 2001 Compulsory Education Law 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 send their age-appropriate child to school.
Qatar ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008. The 2009 policy statement aimed to provide a guidance framework for public schools in relation to their responsibilities toward students with various disabilities, impairments and difficulties. Among its priorities, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s 2017–22 strategy intends to ensure the enrolment of students with special education needs in equitable, quality and diverse education programmes both in early childhood and in basic education. In parallel, one of the key objectives outlined in the 2014–17 strategy by Mada – which is affiliated with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology – was to increase education 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 age 3 onward. An early intervention programme provided by Hamad Medical Corporation provides services and support to families who may need assistance with extraordinary care for a child with special needs. The Ministry of Education 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. 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 (called integration schools) to 66. For example, this has been the case in the Al-Hidaya School for People with Special Needs from first grade through sixth grade and in two kindergartens since the 2017/18 academic year. Qatar’s state sector has specialized programmes for the hearing and visually impaired; there is also a programme for Arabic-speaking children with learning difficulties and there are 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 education 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, 124 schools offer 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 intermediate to severe.
In its 2015 concluding observations, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 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. The Qatar School of Banking Sciences for Girls was opened in the academic year 2015/16 with the aim of providing high-quality specialized education in various sectors (e.g. banking and business administration) and supporting women’s integration into the economic sector.
To encourage 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 CEDAW and in implementation of Article 10 thereof, Qatar has committed to further entrenching the principle of equality between men and women in terms of gender equality in school curricula, assessment methods and various school activities. It further intends to reduce female student dropout 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. The Islamic education curricula between the 10th and the 12th grade include lessons that bear explicit titles embodying the concept of equality and eliminating forms of discrimination against women. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s 2017–22 strategy also aims to increase the enrolment of children regardless of their gender. There was 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 favour 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 2017–22 strategy sets out the importance of ensuring the protection of Qatari values while fostering a better understanding and respect for other cultures from preschool until the end of secondary education.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education updated its education policies for the 2017/18 academic year to includes those with special education needs as well as gifted students. On the basis of Resolution No. 9 of 2016 on the organizational structure of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, it was determined that the ministry would develop and implement programmes, policies and procedures for gifted students; assist teachers and parents in identifying and supporting gifted students; work with schools to support gifted students and to ensure the effective implementation of development plans; provide support for the implementation of education programmes for gifted students; and monitor the development of gifted students and update development plans based on the results of student assessment and performance improvements. The resolution targeting gifted students was adopted for the beginning of the 2019/20 school year.
In September 2001, Emiri Resolution No. 25 established compulsory education for all children in the territory of the state, from the primary stage until the preparatory stage or until the age of 18. 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 education needs in kindergartens is reserved for Qatari children, while registration in the first grade is allowed for both Qataris and children with special needs whose parents are public sector workers.
Responding to the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Qatar created as one of the key programmatic areas of focus for the Mada assistive technology centre the review and assessment of the current situation of persons with disabilities in Qatar and the study of 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 education 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, 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 integrated through an individual education plan designed for each student with special needs.
The Mada assistive technology centre 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 education support needs coordinators, teachers for inclusion, teaching assistants, school psychologists, social workers and speech therapists.
In collaboration with the Mada centre, 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 has been formulated for the employment of staff members in regular and special schools. These rules specify the necessary academic qualifications and professional experience.
Qatar provides a national statistical report on education. In addition, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education established the first database for students with special education 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.