Thursday, July 27, 2006

Huge Hats in Qatar

Another story from Ed Week (I've resisted renaming them Ed Weak for their miserly access to nonsubscribers). The story, a prelude to a RAND publication that will drop in the fall, focuses on the reformation of one third of Qatar's schools. Qatar has traditionally offered a "rigid, highly centralized mode of education in schools run by the Ministry of Education." This fall, thirteen "independent" schools operating on the principals of school autonomy, accountability, variety, and parental choice, will open adding to the existing 30 independent schools that have opened since 2004. These Qatari schools are characterized by things like renewable contracts approved by a new government body called the Supreme Education Council (sounds kitschy, but we have a Court named Supreme as the head of a branch of government--I'll resist a joke), themed schoolwide curricula, student-centered curricula, and principal/operators.

Wait. What's a principal operator? Apparently new guidelines limit existing and future independent schools to a single, educationally experienced, Qatari operator, who must also serve as principal. Sort of like a CEO, CFO, and president all wrapped into one. The operator must set up a nonprofit educational institution as opposed to a limited liability corporation, as had previously been practiced in Qatari independent schools.

If I were studying this reform effort I would focus on the operator/principal dynamic and how it might impact the effectiveness of the school. We hear a lot about how American principals wear too many hats. If my reading of Ed Week's story is accurate, the principal in a Qatari independent school is now the equivalent of the LEA (local education authority). I imagine that person will need a big head to hold that huge hat.

(almost certainly not like this one, but who knows)


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