Obama Visit Highlights Qatar's Education Growth

Article written by USQBC Staff [caption id="attachment_1741" align="aligncenter" width="474"]> First Lady Michelle Obama hugs a student during a tour of the WISE Summit Learning Labs during the 2015 World Innovation Summit for Education at the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha, Qatar, Nov. 4, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)[/caption] First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama addressed the seventh annual World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in Doha last Wednesday to discuss her “Let Girls Learn” initiative, which advocates for expanding educational opportunities for girls around the world. “We cannot address our girls’ education crisis until we address broader cultural beliefs and practices that are harmful to women and girls—beliefs and practices that too often silence their voices, disregard their intelligence, and limit their dreams,” The First Lady said on an official blog post onMedium.com. “The people attending this summit know a thing or two about education, and I was excited to speak with them about global girls’ education.” During the First Lady’s trip to Qatar she met with education innovators from around the world. She also met with members of Qatar’s royal family including Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the chairperson of Qatar Foundation. She also took time to visit Education City, which was founded twenty years ago, and has brought first class educational facilities to the nation with universities such as Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, and Georgetown establishing fully accredited branch campuses. This visit marks the first time that a sitting American First Lady has visited Qatar. Obama’s visit further showcases how Qatar is quickly becoming an important global player in the youth education movement. Sheikha Moza established WISE in 2009. Since then it has rapidly become the gold standard for Qatar’s efforts to transform education worldwide. This year’s conference had representatives from over 120 nations and more than 2,000 people attended. WISE, however, is just one component of Qatar’s educational based initiatives, which include the Qatar Foundation, Education City, and more. The 2015 WISE summit ended on Nov. 5. Even though the conference’s scale and influence grows every year, it is only one of many education-focused initiatives populating the Gulf nation’s calendar. Just a couple days before WISE, Qatar’s Al Shaqab Stadium in Education City hosted the National Robotics Olympiad, a two-day robotics challenge that included roughly 1,000 students from across the world. Qatar has consistently stressed the importance of encouraging women and girls to participate in science and technology. Much of this progress was on display at the National Robotics Olympiad. [caption id="attachment_1742" align="aligncenter" width="474"]> Attendees of the Qatar Robotics Competition. Photo via Doha News[/caption] “It’s usually just boys who take this up, but we wanted to prove that girls could join and compete,” said junior high student Mary Carmelle Medina of the Philippine School Doha. “We had a robotics unit as part of our curriculum in Grade 8,” said 16-year-old Qatari Aisha Al Darwish to Doha News. “I love this field…I love the sciences. I’m sure it is what I want to major in in college.” The following weekend, Nov. 6-8, Qatar hosted the World Robotic Olympiad for the first time. Qatari robotics teams will be competing against teams from all across the world. This busy educational week for Qatar shows how the nation brings together top caliber talent to the nation to address pressing educational problems. The week also demonstrates the domestic educational improvements Qatar has made to provide the best educational opportunities for Qatari youth, so that they can compete and excel in the fast paced and ever changing global economy. “The blessing of the oil and gas won’t last forever, so focusing on something sustainable is more important,” said the Chairman of WISE, Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Ali-Thani, Ph.D., to the BBC. “There is no way forward without putting education as a priority, especially in the Arab world.” Few countries can say that they hosted an international robotics competition, and an education innovation conference attended by a sitting American First Lady during the same week. Qatar might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of educational innovation, but their impressive and consistent commitment to expanding and improving educational opportunities around the globe should change that perception in years to come.