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Qatar tribune
Minister of Education and Higher Education HE Dr Mohammed bin Abdul Wahid Al Hammadi has affirmed Qatar has made unremitting efforts in facing the challenge of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and reducing the negative effects of its spread in various fields, most important of which is education.
The minister said implementing the directives of His Highness The Amir of State of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to continue the educational process in its planned path in the wake of the pandemic, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education took the decision to implement "Distance learning" system, while taking a package of precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of students.
This came in a speech delivered by the Minister at the extraordinary (remote) meeting of the General Conference of Ministers of Education in the Member States of the Arab Bureau of Education for the Gulf States.
He said the education sector is one of the sectors most affected by the precautionary measures taken by governments in the face of COVID-19 pandemic, which required rapid action from the ministries of education to find alternative methods to maintain the continuity of education process.
The minister said the solution represented in adopting work with technological systems and their modern applications in the field of education, among which distance learning, which contributed to students’ communication with their schools and teachers to complete their education, while maintaining health and safety of all parties of the educational process.
“What made the transition to distance learning in the schools of Qatar smooth and easy in these exceptional circumstances is the state's possession of all the pillars of the application of infrastructures represented in electronic platforms, digital sources, trained human cadres, and students who have dealing skills with technology,” he said.
The minister pointed out that the focus on developing e-learning and promoting the digital transformation of the educational environment has been an integral part of the ministry’s strategic plan since the beginning of the education reform in Qatar, based on an insightful vision of the wise leadership.
The minister said an integrated plan was put in place to implement the distance learning system for all levels of education that included all components of the educational process, and implementation started by providing the ministry with unified platforms on the internet, as well as two TV channels and 19 YouTube channels that broadcast video lessons throughout the day.
He said the educational lessons were produced and photographed for general education students with disabilities, in addition to specialised school students, preparing textbooks in the form of electronic files and uploading them to the platform, and broadcasting a number of awareness and training programmes via TV channels and social media platforms.
An appropriate period of time for the application of ‘distance learning’ was also specified to cover the basic criteria in the school curricula according to modified study plans, ensuring that they move to higher levels without knowledge gaps in their learning. 
To ensure a successful learning experience for all learners in these circumstances, the ministry has provided tablets and internet lines for students who do not have them, whether in government or private schools, as well as providing facilities for students who have been diagnosed with virus or their relatives.
The minister noted that a modified evaluation policy has been developed for students commensurate with the nature of distance learning, which included the application of a continuous evaluation system through distance learning for grades 1 through 11, so that the end of the second semester tests have become the outcome of the weekly applications that are presented to the student at the end of every week.
Regarding students of the general secondary certificate, the minister affirmed the ministry’s keenness to perform their final exams “as a commitment from us towards universities and a guarantee of the quality of the educational system outputs in all circumstances.”
He said this was done according to a number of precautionary measures represented in leaving a safe distance between students in schools and buses, reducing test times, with a nurse present in each school, and obliging students and staff to wear masks and gloves.
As for adult education students, he said, the ministry began to provide final exams for them in fairness to this group of learners and to ensure the quality of their evaluation. 
On the ministry’s plans for the future, he said more than one vision has been put in place for what education will be in the coming year for all academic levels, and this was represented in the development of integrated plans for each concept, whether remote education will be implemented in full or in part or will be supportive of education in schools and a developer for it. 
He said the ministry relied on planning for the results of the analysis of the current reality, and access to international best practices and educational studies in this field.
He said the ministry had succeeded several years ago in promoting the use of technology in education.
“In these circumstances, we started reaping the fruits of this planning for digital transformation in a smooth manner and without major challenges,” he said, adding that the distance learning experience has proven to be an effective educational tool that had contributed to developing students’ skills and capabilities in dealing with modern technology and enhancing their learning skills, especially home students, and finding alternative learning opportunities that fulfil the ministry’s vision in creating innovative learning opportunities.
He said it also contributed to breaking the psychological barrier of some students through their participation, writing what they want, helping students with low achievement to interact with distance learning, commitment to resolving assignments and weekly assessments, and ensuring continuing education without interruption in times of crises.
The minister said the distance learning experience resulted in a number of challenges that differed in its form and content, where there are technical challenges related to the application of technology in distance learning and others related to taking into account individual differences between students, in addition to lack of a practical aspect of educational materials, as well as challenges related to society and the family, such as the lack of parents accounts on the available applications, and the weakness of some parents conviction of the feasibility of distance learning.
“But thanks to God and the efforts of different sectors in the state, we were able to find solutions and alternatives to overcome them,” he noted.
The minister highly appreciated the approval of the General Assembly of the United Nations for the proposal of HH Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Education Above All Foundation, member of the group of defenders of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, establishing September 9 as International Day to Protect Education from Attack. 
“This is the decision led by Qatar to mobilise international support in order to ensure accountability for the persistent and deliberate attacks on education and armed violence suffered by children throughout the world. Armed violence has caused enormous damage to the communications infrastructure of countries that are experiencing these conflicts, which has had a very negative impact on student achievement through distance learning systems,” he added.            
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