In Qatar, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education follows a unified model of education, adopted curricula, and teaching methods in the hopes of equalizing between all schools in terms of output and content. At the same time, the Ministry recognizes the importance of development and change in education to keep up with technological, cultural, and educational changes. In this regard, the Ministry has given some schools the freedom to create their own curriculum and policy to test their success and to examine their applicability on a state level. One of these schools is Al-Bayan Educational Complex, which is considered one of the best schools in Qatar and has an unparalleled reputation in the field of educational initiatives. As such, many consider it to be a significant building block in the Independent Schools initiative. One cannot help but wonder: what policy and curriculum do the Schools of the Bayan Educational Complex follow that has allowed it to achieve this level of success? The secret lays behind the scenes, specifically in the form of a well-equipped and talented and teaching staff in these schools. An important individual that allowed Al-Bayan to flourish is Hessa Al-Abdullah, the former director of Al-Bayan Educational Complex for girls. So, who is Hessa Al-Abdullah?
There were a lot of things in my childhood that left a mark on my personality. For example, in fourth grade, I was given the responsibility of singing the national anthem during the morning assembly, because my voice was loud, and I was fluent in Arabic. Hence my journey in the face of the public began, which became one of the main pillars of my personality. My love of Arabic, and my ability to use it, allowed me to be a spontaneous person in presentation and discussion. Middle school was a transitioning stage in my life to a new and strange environment. My experience in middle school was good Praise be to Allah, while it was a bit tough in high school. In the first week of school, I remember the teacher was very strict, and made me hate school. Over time though I found out that she wanted to develop high-skilled students with strong personalities. When we understood her goals, she became a person that is dear to our hearts. Especially after she has shown us her kindness, which proved that appearances are always deceptive, and over time people recognize the true nature of others. During my high school studies, I had hoped to enroll in medical school in Qatar University. Due to the nature of the conservative community at the time, I couldn’t enroll in this major. This has led me to enter the College of Science. This experience was fascinating in every detail, from its academic courses, to the students and the teaching staff. There was on a specific person who has created a difference in my university studies, and was Dr. Fathi Saud. Dr. Saud has stood by my side and supported me when I needed help with the displayed materials. In the next phase of my life I joined the field of education, and worked there for thirty-four years in different positions.
Can you talk about your experience in education?
I studied in the college of science to avoid teaching completely, but Praise be to Allah, I was destined from the beginning to become a teacher. Previously, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education appointed everyone who did not graduate from the College of Education as a primary school teacher. So, I began my career as a primary school teacher on the basis that I would transition to other stages over the years. I consider the early stages of my professional career as a teacher a pivotal stage in my life, where I still remember my first day in all its details. It was the first time I entered the school building as an employee, not as a student. No one taught me what to do, but you gain this kind of knowledge over time and not through someone. My first class left an important imprint on my life, it made me realize that Allah had chosen the most beautiful profession for me. I have many beautiful memories and initiatives in the field of educations. I participated with my student in the 1980s in a scientific competition on animals in the Gulf States, we did not win the competition, but we had the largest number of female students participating in the competition. I enrolled the girls in this competition because I wished to highlight their excellence outside the school sphere. I also changed the way that the curriculum was delivered, where the content of the subjects I was teaching changed every. Moreover, I always say that school time was dedicated to schoolwork, yet I still invested my personal time to prepare for classes and develop innovative educational tools. I also had a role in the morning assembly activities, where I incorporate the whole school community in the activities. This included the principal to the rest of the teachers, because participation was something essential and I did not want to only work on a teaching level only. Building the personality of the future generation was, and still is, my obsession and ambition. Four years later, I moved to junior high and then to high school. At one of the schools that I worked at I had a lot of issues with the principle, where we bickered constantly because I did not follow her vision. I refused to allow anyone to interfere with my lessons and my relationship with my students, which was the main point of friction between the principle and me. After my students reached high levels of scientific excellence, a new relationship was generated between me and the principle that was based on trust and freedom to work. From there, I was selected to join the scientific high school project, and this was truly a stage filled with achievements. Through a career that lasted for fifteen years, I worked vigorously with an aim to create a Qatari generation that meets the new civilization project and leads the future, especially in the field of industry, energy, and development. From here, I started my journey at Al-Bayan Scientific School. I first worked as a teacher, then became a coordinator, then I became the coordinator of the scientific materials department of my school (Al Bayan and Omar Bin Khattab High School). I later became the academic vice-president in charge of all subjects in the Al Bayan Educational Complex, for all educational levels. Due to the school’s expansion, I demanded that my career focus be limited only to my specialty. Fate had other things in plan for me though, where I was put in charge over all the subjects again. After a while, I became the principal of the first Al-Bayan School, which included levels from kindergarten to third grade. It then included students from the third grade to the sixth grade. Shortly after I became the principle of all educational stages of Al-Bayan Educational Complex. One of my most important achievements was to receive the Arab Women’s Award in Education, and I was a guest of honor for more than one program at Qatar University. I also presented seminars and lectures on the importance of education and flexible change every once in a while. I have to admit that the sweetest experience I had was when I was a guest of honor in the graduation of a group of outstanding batches at Qatar University, and many of the graduates were originally my students.
What challenges have you faced in this experience?
One of the biggest challenges that increased our experience was curriculum planning; a Canadian Lebanese team was supposed to come and work on the curriculum with us. Unfortunately, they didn’t offer anything new, and the school year was about to begin without a curriculum. So, I assembled a team and started drawing up a new complete detailed curriculum. Praise be to Allah, we had the support of the Amiri diwan which truly gave us a boost. The work was quite burdensome, but it was fun and fruitful. Moreover, we were living with our students like we were a big family. The second biggest challenge was the graduation of the first batch of students from Al-Bayan High School, because at that time we were in the process of incorporating a new batch of students. Along those lines, we were also working on preparing and perfecting the curriculum, until Al Bayan Educational Complex was fully established in all its stages from kindergarten to high school.
How do you evaluate the success of Bayan complex?
The most important aspect we worked on tirelessly was building the soul of these students. We planted the idea that the impossible is an illusion, the team is the foundation, and your presence depends on your achievements and not your chair, pen, or position. All these values were things that we have tried to the best of our abilities to establish as the culture of Al-Bayan complex.Every human being is able to achieve the impossible, and every human being has the right to exercise power and authority from the guard, to the cleaner, to the highest leaders in the complex. As for the pivotal issues, we have been able to obtain several international credits that have proven our competence. Annually, we graduate 100% of our students, where a large proportion of them end up enrolling Qatar Foundation universities. The excellence of our output is known at Qatar Foundation, abroad, and at Qatar University as our educational programs are distinctive and unique. We are able to get two accreditations: – International Baccalaureate Diploma for the high education stage and Council of International Schools CIS. We were the first public school for girls to join these two accreditations. We are also a member of the renewable school program, and we train five schools in the Arab world (one of them being Aspire Academy) to obtain CIS accreditation. Most of the pathways and policies that currently exist in education have emerged from Al-Bayan complex.
What’s the most important memory for you at work?
Every stage in your life leaves you with a different impression. The first time I entered the class and saw the students my lifestyle changed completely, and this was the first important stage in my life. The second stage was in high school, where I was an outstanding teacher for year twelve students. During that time the school enjoyed great achievements and successes, from student excellence to output. I remember a day where I went to school and the principal asked me to leave the school for good, and I didn’t understand her point because I did an excellent job. What are the reasons for this reprehensible request? But then I realized that the principal’s goal was to push me out of the school walls to experiment freely with education, especially in a manner that suited my potential and energy. This led me to Al-Bayan, a school that allowed me to express my educational ambitions. So, her decision was truly a blessing in a disguise. The third stage was my journey in Al-Bayan, which was the most mature and sweetest stage because I was picking the fruits of my effort. Most importantly, I witnessed the graduation of nineteen batches of its students. The fourth stage was the biggest challenge to us, which was getting the CIS accreditation for the seven buildings spread in Qatar under the control of Al-Bayan Complex Schools. The fifth stage was the visit of the evaluation team from CIS, where the evaluation of the Bayan Complex schools was the first assessment of public schools worldwide. I was hesitant because Al-Bayan complex was divided into several buildings. This station in my life has truly proved that there is no obstacle as long as you have the ambition and drive. The most beautiful part of this stage was when we were handed the booklet for accreditation, which we later handed over to the parents of the students. Through this accreditation, we were able to integrate the world with the local vision.
What is your advice for women in Qatar?
From my research and the reality that I see, this is Qatari women’s moment. There are a lot of girls who hold high positions in the country, and the new generation is an educated and mature group that holds promising potential. An important point that every young woman should focus on though is patience, because there is a widespread phenomenon among this generation to speed up their achievement and goals. This is wrong because fast growth means they don’t face challenges, which means that your talents and skills will not develop and flourish. I ask every girl to focus on the human side of things, show an interest in your surroundings. Most importantly, work with a team that is different from you, because if you can hold on to this team, the quality of your production will be tremendously better. Finally, there is nothing impossible for you; remove this idea and create.
- Interview written by Al Anoud Al Kuwari.
- Interview was edited to improve readability and flow.