THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT

Qatar 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice Chairperson & CEO of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), on human development, recent achievements, and Education City.

How is QF unlocking the human, social, and economic development of Qatar and contributing to its progress through its education, science, and research programs?

We began with a vision to provide Qatar with quality education more than two decades ago, and this vision is now being realized. Education City is a unique concept; there is no place quite like it anywhere in the world. It houses a range of world-class multidisciplinary education and research facilities, from our QF schools to our international partner universities and our homegrown, Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU), all in the same proximity. Together, these institutions offer high-quality education opportunities that empower and support young people from their first day of school right through to postgraduate level. But education is just the beginning of what we do. Our emphasis on research and innovation allows us to address Qatar's national priorities and grand challenges. From energy and environment to computing and biomedical research, our students, faculty, and researchers make breakthroughs every day. Away from the labs and lecture halls, our community development projects help to foster tangible social engagement opportunities and promote our country's culture and heritage. We are fortunate to partner with leading local and international organizations on many of our community initiatives.

What is going to define your strategy as the new CEO of QF?

As advocates of lifelong learning, we will continue to foster a culture of creativity and innovation in education that provides our future generations with the skills and knowledge that will be relevant in tomorrow's world. Our young people are emerging as highly competent problem solvers, and we will ensure we build on our innovative R&D ecosystem to inspire and empower them to become the entrepreneurs, researchers, and scientists of the future. We are also committed to further engaging with the wider community, including local and international stakeholders and partners, to foster social engagement and promote our country's culture and heritage.

How would you summarize QF's main milestones in 2016?

We celebrated many impactful projects in the last year. For example, in November 2016 we launched our educational 3D edutainment TV series “Siraj," targeting Arabic-speaking children aged two to eight, with engaging content to help them learn the Arabic alphabet in a fun way. We wanted to make Siraj available to children, parents, and teachers anytime everywhere, so we made it available on YouTube and created our Siraj app to further enhance the learning experience with engaging interactive games. Our World Innovation Summit on Health (WISH) 2016 proved the largest summit since the initiative began in 2013, with more than 1,400 delegates from over 100 countries, including ministry-level representatives attending. The summit proved hugely successful in allowing all these stakeholders to collaborate and find cross-border solutions to global healthcare issues. In mid-2016 we launched Renad Academy, which is a school dedicated to children diagnosed with mild to moderate Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The facility aims to inspire acceptance, trust and success, and will help our students reach their full potential. Also in 2016, Qatar Foundation Research & Development helped to stimulate and advance innovation across the MENA region through an MoU signed with 500 startups. The initiative actively helps start-ups achieve market traction and scale, using strategies mastered by tech companies in Silicon Valley.

How is QF working toward the preservation and restoration of cultural heritage at sites like Education City?

Preserving and sharing our local and regional culture is hugely important to us. Our “Restoration of Historic Structures Project" is now actively focused on the restoration of structures in the old Al Rayyan quarter, now within Education City. These structures, which date back to the early 20th century, serve as an important reminder of Qatar's architectural heritage. We are confident that the restoration of these structures will create a compelling attraction for visitors and give the public an understanding of the changing nature of their community.