“Education must evolve to respond to rapid changes in the global ecosystem”
Qatar’s strategy to diversify its economy into knowledge production has led it to invest heavily in education, information and communication technologies (ICT), research and development (R&D), development coastal and tourism. In an ever-changing global ecosystem, a robust education system goes “pari passu” with innovation and economic development.
In Qatar, the higher education system is moving towards more practical and applied curricula to ensure that graduates are not swallowed up by the system.
Qatar University’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) offers a range of programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. As the largest college in the prestigious institution, the college’s top priority is to develop competent national problem solvers and frameworks.
CAS offers 16 undergraduate programs and seven graduate programs.
Professor Dr. Ahmed ElZatahry, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of QU. Materials Scientist, Adjunct Associate Professor, State Key Laboratory of Advanced Materials, Fudan University (one of the world’s top materials science programs according to the Shanghai Ranking of World Academic Subjects) and visiting scholar at top institutes in Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United States of America, Professor ElZatahry is also among the two percent of the best scientists in the world. Recently, QU President Dr Hassan Al Derham presented him with the Academic Merit Award.
In an interview with The Peninsula, Professor Ahmed ElZatahry, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Qatar University, explained his vision, how the college will equip students with practical skills and promote interdisciplinary activities, research, double majors, will improve the ranking of departments and the evolution of the educational landscape.
“I believe we have to work hard to equip our students with more than one major. For example, if we connect the Geographic Information System (GIS), marine science and geology programs and try to build this kind of interdisciplinary activity, it can help students learn more skills that will open them up to more market and deliver better quality to attached stakeholders, ”said Prof. ElZatahry.
“It will change the logical thinking of these students in the sense that those with multiple majors may face any problem in the future.” It is not enough to issue a certificate. We need to expand the logical thinking of students by exploring the knowledge part and practical experience.
Education has a substantial impact on employment prospects and continues to yield high benefits for individuals. Education systems are only recently in the process of shifting from a knowledge-based program to one that values skills.
“The new model of education is not of the regular type. Soft skills are more in demand. If the students are equipped with them, they will be able to acquire knowledge regardless of the skills. It is essential to have the ability to find the solution to a problem.
“I believe that finding a solution to a problem is normal, but in the real world now, finding a solution to problems quickly is just as important. For those, you don’t need the traditional learning method. We need to find different ways to combine knowledge and skills, ”he added.
According to the dean, the college will encourage students to tackle specific societal issues such as water conservation, desalination and treatment, as well as other environmental issues. “In addition to this, we will be launching new research chairs to serve as a hub between universities, research industry for important societal and industry interests such as petrochemicals, polymers / pigments, advanced material design, data science and food safety. ”
With many faculties reporting to the college, Prof ElZatahry, an accomplished scientist and administrator, said that creating a competent faculty would facilitate a smooth transition of knowledge to students.
“What I believe in is building a strong department. In university life, if you manage to build a strong department with good faculty members, good administration which, if supported, can work on its own. One of our main missions is to strengthen the department and give students what they need by equipping them with very good faculty members and very good facilities.
Speaking on the humanities, Prof. ElZatahry said some disciplines need to evolve and adapt to growing trends.
“Some disciplines need to be updated. For example, a student who studies history as a major subject, adding tourism and a foreign language to that, makes it more attractive and will certainly improve their employability.
“Now we are talking about a new concept of media. We’re talking about a new concept of using cellphones for news, which is a whole different topic. The traditional means of information have become old and we must come to terms with them. You have to deal with the rapid development of communication.
“Now we need to produce competent and active journalists on site. In this sense, we must make a radical change to these departments. ”
He said that the development of social and human sciences is one of the main priorities. The college would implement a pilot model, which will focus on strengthening mass communication and international affairs departments as soon as possible.
“We are going to make big changes with the programs and the courses. Adding practical components is a must. We have started to communicate with stakeholders like Al Jazeera and Media City, because it is important for us that the students are not only in the lessons, but that they also have real practical knowledge ”, underlined the dean.
With several changes and upgrades to be implemented, Professor ElZatahry said the role of the faculty is to move students from one stage to another advanced stage. Administrators need to find the right tools to deal with students based on their thinking, culture and mindset.
He said the CAS will promote research by establishing research groups, collaborate with top-level institutes around the world, and attract the most talented scientists to QU. “New measures will be incorporated into the curriculum so that undergraduates can be involved in scientific research early on. ”
“The innovative way is to try to impart knowledge in an engaging and practical way without really giving the students the impression that you are increasing the load,” explained Prof. ElZatahry.
“You can still attract students to your field by giving them something they can feel that connects them to real applications. You will find that all students, regardless of field, would be drawn to the interaction and involved rather than being in the class and having more work.
Professor ElZatahry also added: “Capacity building is another important objective. A specific program is being implemented to attract and prepare a new generation of Qatari students to become excellent scientists.
According to the dean, the program will welcome selected Qatari students at an early stage of their studies and provide them with life coaching and leadership skills, as well as skills related to foreign languages and research methodology. The program will also include a science training module to enable students to join research groups at high-level institutes in research areas related to Qatar’s needs.
“I believe that the program will be an excellent preparation to help the students to continue their postgraduate studies at the level of the masters and doctoral programs,” he noted.
Qatar University is at the heart of educational strategy, with thousands of students enrolled in its faculties and an alumni base of over 30,000 members. The growth of the university is in line with the National Education Reform Strategies launched in 2003. Throughout the institution, research is at the heart of the action, with a commitment to respond to community issues in accordance with Qatar National Vision 2030.
Qatar aims to address weaknesses, improve the quality of education and education services and promote administrative efficiency.