Doha College becomes first in the world to be accredited as a High Performance Learning (HPL) school
Doha College, already a shining beacon of outstanding education in Qatar, has now received the highly prestigious distinction of being the first ever to be awarded the status of HPL World Class Award School.
The journey started two years ago, when HPL was first introduced at Doha College. High Performance Learning is an educational philosophy which identifies cognitive performance characteristics as well as values, attitudes and attributes that can be developed in school to enable more students to achieve highly. HPL provides a framework which school leaders can adapt to transform learning – actively involving students and their parents in the learning journey and presenting schooling as a quest for cognitive success.
The impact that HPL has had at Doha College is quite evident: the ethos pervades all layers, the attributes that make an excellent learner are clear, and the 2017 examination results have been the best in the school’s history.
Professor Deborah Eyre, who developed the HPL philosophy, based on a lifetime’s research and practice in education for advanced cognitive performance, praised the school for their commitment:
Neil Thomas, Vice Principal of Doha College and one of the passionate drivers of the HPL philosophy, voiced the school’s delight:
The school was inspected by HPL Assessor Jeremy Reynolds, who spoke to students, parents, the Leadership Group, the Head Boy and Girl, observed lessons and had a tour of both Al Waab and West Bay campuses. He was impressed by the way the students articulately spoke about the value of HPL. “It was remarkable to see how the leadership of Doha College, whilst acknowledging and being proud of all that has been achieved towards gaining the HPL Award, is still striving to improve – for example from its already best ever public examination results, it still recognises that it is on a continuous journey,” he commented.
Uzma Zaffar, Acting Head of Primary and an instrumental player in the implementation of HPL, added:
Two students taking A-Level design and technology at Doha College created a project that successfully linked both its Primary and Secondary schools, promoted the eco-friendly ethos of the college, and assisted the Enhanced Curriculum Activities in a cross-campus venture.
As part of their design and technology A-Level examination, students Dyllan Briggs and Pauline Mabulay produced an interactive watering station that doubles as a storage space and notice board, alongside its main utility of watering the plants. The generous and pioneering students then gifted their invention to the Primary School so their younger peers could have endless hours of fun, as well as the functional and eco-friendly use of the product of watering the popular garden on campus.
The students were thrilled to see their project in action and being used by the younger students for the first time. A delighted Dyllan described the technical side: “It is a wall mounted water play station designed for use by primary aged children. The water is stored in a trough which has a platform over the top so smaller children can stand on it. Water can be pumped to the top of the station, where it comes out from self-designed waterspouts which I 3D-printed. The metal mesh allows children to move the pipes around as they wish so that they can investigate the flow of water. It makes it more enjoyable, as the children feel more in control of it, and the station can be different each time. The clips that allow the repositioning of the pipes are also self-designed and 3D-printed.”
Explaining the multi-purpose allure of the project, Pauline added: “The idea was to give the primary students the ability to plant various types of vegetables or flowers in the deep soil. There’s a step enabling younger students to access the soil easily, and there is a built-in storage space for them to keep gardening equipment like compost, gloves and trowels. The students can use chalk to write on the sides, which adds another dimension. They might write the time when they watered the plants, the names of who’s in charge of each plant, or decorate it as they wish. The octagon shape was not just interesting to design, but offers the teacher a space to show or demonstrate a topic, acting as a focal point of the student’s attention during teaching.”
Apart from serving all these functions, Dyllan and Pauline’s project fulfils another, nobler purpose: getting very young children interested in plants, gardens, the insects they attract, the functioning of small ecosystems, the cycles of water and life, in a real-life, hands-on manner that makes learning more memorable.
The project links fittingly with the school’s focus on environmental issues, Doha College being the first in Qatar to have been awarded the Green Flag by the Foundation for Environmental Education, back in 2016.
Doha College’s Secondary librarian, Mohana Rajakumar, an award-winning author and literature scholar was recently honoured with the title of 2018 Dimmitt Fellow. This recognition involves a prestigious two-week invitation to work with students, faculty, and staff at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, which she has just returned from. During her visit, Rajakumar was a scholar in residence on campus, while lecturing with students in creative and critical writing, literature, mass communication, sociology, Spanish, education, political science, and business classes. Significant aspects of her visit included: a campus Common Read event focused on her 2011 collection of short stories, Coloured and Other Stories; a public speaking engagement in the impressive UPS Auditorium titled Living in an Interconnected World: Why Global Perspectives Matter; and a variety of community events at the Mary Treglia Community House, and Northwest Area Education Agency.
With such a wide background as an author in many genres that undoubtedly allows Doha College students exposure to a greater selection of literature, Mohana addressed multiple topics from different perspectives during her time in the States. As a naturalised US citizen born in India, and having lived for extended periods in other countries – of which the last 12 have been in Qatar – she represented to her Iowa audiences both “one of us” and “the other”, making her an effective communicator about both shared humanity and cultural difference. On several occasions, she stressed similarities between Doha and Sioux City, and between her small undergraduate college and Morningside.
Mohana read two of her children’s books – Everyday Wishes and MJ and the Dream – and interacted with a very enthusiastic group of multicultural children ranging from the ages of four to six. In an evening event open to the public, Mohana publicly read her short story Weeds, about an Indian couple who has just moved to the United States. The story reveals cultural differences and how their new immigrant situation impacts surrounding relationships. Attendees asked a series of excellent questions that elicited from Mohana reflections on the story, being an immigrant, Qatar, writing about characters from other cultures, and her writing process. Conversations were also had about unique features of Qatar in her writing, and her dissertation about Islamic women.
Her visit included the world premiere of four of Mohana’s new 10-minute theatre plays covering themes such as diversity and cultural displacement. For the college students, this was a tremendous opportunity to direct (in most cases for the first time) and to embody characters unlike themselves.
Doha College students, who enjoy a rich English curriculum enhanced by author visits, poetry evenings, writing competitions and more, are indeed lucky to have Mohana guide them through the limitless world of books.
Three out of the four teams put forward by Doha College for the recent Alice Middle East Programming Competition earned a place on the winners’ podium. To make this achievement even more remarkable, it was the first time Doha College entered the competition, which now on its third edition. The competition was hosted by Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), and welcomed just under 40 teams from government and international schools across the country, that use the Alice Middle East software to learn computing as part of their Information Communication Technology (ICT) curriculum.
‘Alice’ is software that guides students through a 3D interactive world, teaching them the fundamental skills of programming and computational thinking, and was created at the main Carnegie Mellon campus. The challenge set to participating students was to create an animation or game in the Alice programming environment, centred around a number of different themes, namely Qatar 2022, space exploration, global warming, social issues, or an interactive video game.
Doha College entered four teams comprising students from Years 8 to 10. Amash Mir, Head of ICT and Computer Science at the college, stated: “Our winning team scored full marks in every assessed category. Such was the standard of their work that the judges – decorated professors and academic research staff from neighbouring universities as well as Carnegie Mellon themselves – felt they deserved a perfect score. All of the judges praised the efforts of Doha College students and were in agreement that any one of our teams could have won, and the differences between them were marginal. This achievement echoes the computer sciences department's push towards a holistic computer science curriculum, and in the future we hope to provide further opportunities to continually challenge and encourage the academic growth of our students.”
The winning programme, created by Ayaz Zaman and Mohammad El Madhoun (both from Year 9G), was an interactive game tag called "ECO Inspectors". The students fittingly linked its theme with the school’s focus on environmental issues, Doha College being the first in Qatar to have been awarded the Green Flag by the Foundation for Environmental Education, back in 2016.
Doha College is renowned for its exceptional academic results and the number of alumni that go to their first choice of university. But equally commendable, is their dedication to nurturing gifts that complement the academic facet of a young person’s development, like music, visual arts, sports and practical talents.
Today we focus on sports and in particular golf, which has offered some DC students a path that is truly off the beaten track. In a country where golf may not spring to mind at the top of the list of sports, especially in summer, it is nevertheless possible to hone this skill to exceptional levels. Such levels, in fact, that some Qatar-grown talents beat others from places with a far older tradition in the game.
One example is Laila Hrindova, who graduated from Doha College in 2017 and is now working through her first year at Baylor University in Texas, US. Thanks to her dexterity with the titanium club, Laila secured a golf scholarship at Baylors, and is now playing regularly in addition to her academic commitments.
Here she tells us about her experience so far: “The workload is substantial, with studies interlacing fitness, practice, golf team qualifications and travel to play tournaments, but it’s also a great deal of fun and the perks are great – I’ve got the athletic support centre here helping me out, and a private cafeteria with some great food supporting my nutrition.”
About the role that Doha College played in getting her on the path to Baylor University, Laila said: “I am doubly thankful for the preparation that Doha College provided me with through my years of study; the quality of the work and of the teachers at DC that enabled me to hit the ground running, and gave me the confidence to deal with the academia here.”
Laila appreciates that a creative approach to choosing your way to third level education can indeed open doors. “Studying in the States can be daunting where expense is concerned, and was for me too, but specialising in a sport and applying through a sports scholarship has made it possible for me and is a fantastic opportunity for any prospective student too. There are many ways to get here – just don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone,” was her advice to her younger peers.
And indeed, two more Doha College 6th form students are contemplating similar routes. One is Mikkel Per Mathiesen, a semi-pro golfing champion who has recently qualified for the “Faldo Series Grand Final”, to be held in November at Al Ain. The other is Jakub Hrinda, who became the youngest ever golfer, then aged 14, to play in the “Qatar Masters” back in 2015.
Whether or not these young men end up taking golf scholarships in their future educational journeys, one thing is certain – both Doha College and golf, the commitment that comes with it, the training and the self-discipline, will have helped shape them into the people they are becoming.
by Marc Garnett, LLS
Choosing a career path is tough for most us, let alone when you’re 16 and surrounded by so many possible options. During the past month, LLS made it our mission to inspire Doha College students by showcasing the diverse job roles within the global industry of sport; here’s what we’ve been up to…
The goal was simple, well at least on paper; I set Year 12 students the task of planning, promoting and delivering their own sports event. Football tournaments, athletics competitions and fund raisers were all discussed, but for me, I knew students could plan these events with their eyes closed – they needed a proper challenge. ‘How about a guest Q&A?’ I asked. The suggestion was met with the usual reactions of ‘Who could we get?’ ‘What if nobody turns up?’, and so on. One brain storming session and a few names later we had our short list of potential guest speakers – each with an interesting journey in the sports industry, all with their own unique story.
World Cup & Champions League winning Physiotherapist
Students decided their event needed to educate and inspire. They wanted to plan an evening that could be attended by students, teachers and parents, but what type of professional could appeal to everybody? As of 2017, Physiotherapy is one of the most popular degrees in the UK so with that in mind, we wanted to gain an insight in to what it takes to be successful in such a competitive area of the sports industry. Qatar’s very own Aspire Academy is arguably the most technologically advanced sports facility in the world and attracts professionals from around the globe who travel here in the hope of learning new ideas which they can take back to their respective countries. Within the Sports Medicine Centre sits Dave Galley, a Senior Football Physiotherapist. Thanks to LLS’ advanced professional network, we’d been introduced to Dave a few months back and we were instantly attracted to his natural energy and genuine passion for his work – we knew he’d be a great guest speaker, when the time was right.
As the sun set, we enjoyed a coffee overlooking the pristine grass pitches and talk soon turned to football. I was slightly envious that Dave had sat in that very seat watching clubs like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid up close and personal, but this was just an average day in the office for him – after all, he’s won a Champions League and a World Cup…
It was happening – a student-planned Guest Q&A with one of the world’s leading football physios, but how were students going to pull this off? The Commercial Bank Masters is an annual feature in Qatar’s sporting calendar so where better to learn about planning a sports event than here? Thanks to Doha Golf Club, students were invited to spend the final day of play at the club working alongside various event specialists. Doha Golf Club’s Yvette Mendies is Assistant to the General Manager and plays a key role in coordinating the annual tournament - she kindly shared some top tips on planning and delivering an event before introducing students to the Branding Manager and showing them around the media zone. ‘It’s a real team effort’ was one of the messages students received, so it was back to the drawing board to figure out the ‘event team formation’.
Coordination, promotion and logistics were the three sub-teams created and Year 12 student Diego from Chile was nominated by his classmates to become the event Chairman. Leading promotion was a tag-team partnership of Cerys (Wales) and Pablo (Spain) whilst Louis (England) was going to be responsible for health & safety and logistics.
Before diving into promoting this event, it was important for students to speak with a ‘marketing master’ so I called on Evolution Sports Business Development & Brand Manager, Toyan Greaves. One of the things he said to the students was "when promoting your event, you must think of all the resources around you." The students heeded his good advice, which took them to the next person able to help.
An Invaluable Lesson
I led a workshop on the key rules to designing an effective promotional poster and the team were all set to get creative. 24 hours later and the results revealed the team was lacking a quality graphic designer…
Rather than wasting time making marginal improvements on their poster designs, students reluctantly asked for some help and in came Jishu Matthew, Web Manager at Doha College’s Marketing Department. One concise brief and a short meeting later, the team had their new and improved poster. The lesson learnt here was: if you can’t do something well yourself, don’t be afraid to ask somebody who can.
With attendance targets set, posters in hand, emails written and social media posts created - the team was in full promo mode. Fast forward a week and the event was upon us.
The team had researched Dave’s career and set a list of questions which would hopefully educate and inspire the guests in attendance. We’d asked him for some images to go into the PowerPoint presentation and one simply read:
Here is how Dave explained these words.
LLS believe in a winning formula and educate young people on the importance of qualifications, work experience and building a professional network. We asked Dave what advice he would give to the next generation of aspiring sports professionals and here’s what he said:
‘The more voluntary work you can do, the better. Get as many contacts as you can - because everyone’s out for these jobs. Even at my age now, it’s as much about who you know as what you know.’
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Doha College, Evolution Sports, Doha Golf Club and most importantly, Aspire Sports Senior Football Physiotherapist, Dave Galley for making this event a great success.
On behalf of LLS’ Year 12 students I would like to say thank you to the guests who showed their support by attending. Personally, I would like to congratulate students on delivering such an insightful event and look forward to more in the future.
Thank you for reading my blog.
In separate acts of kindness, Doha College discovered three of its primary school girls recently and willingly parted with their hair in order to help children less fortunate than themselves.
Amy, Naisha and Lara decided that, even though they were only young, they could make a big, positive difference in the life of others. All three independently sent their braids; grown for most of their lives, to three charities that provide wigs for children who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment or other illnesses.
Naisha Faith Katkar (Year 2), donated her hair to the Madat Trust, part of TATA Memorial Cancer Hospital in Mumbai, India, following a conversation with her mother about how each one of us, no matter what age, could help someone. Naisha’s mum Nidhi took the opportunity to introduce the topic of cancer and how people struggle to fight it. The Year 2, kind-hearted student asked if there was anything she could do to make those with the illness smile, and the idea of hair donation came about. She went ahead with the brave act on her seventh birthday and sent her locks off to India.
Also after a discussion with her mother, it turned out that Amy Austwick (Year 3) and her brother thought that cancer was an illness that only affected the older generation. Following the revelation that it can impact any age, Amy asked if there was anything she could do, and a few days later she decided to make a donation. Her hair went to the Little Princess Trust in the UK, which provides real hair wigs free of charge to children and young adults up to the age of 24.
Lara Ionascu (Year 5) took the bold move to have her hair cut and donated it to the Rapunzel Foundation, a charitable organisation from Ireland that works to improve the lives of those living with hair loss through fundraising as well as hair-raising. She said that the donation not only benefits the receiver, but also provides the giver with an understanding of the needs of others. She has already pledged to donate her hair again as soon as it grows back to the required length.
The girls’ gesture comes from a background of empathic upbringing, a mind-set nurtured at school. Doha College has been involved in charitable drives for many years, and recognises charitable acts of its students at its annual Awards Ceremony each May. This academic year, the Charity Committee extended its remit to involve the primary school, and works tirelessly on fundraising events such as quizzes, trips, sales and many more. This year, two charities benefiting from the efforts of DC – enthusiastically led by primary teacher Jonathan Kuttschreuter – are the 2nd Chance Rescue Centre and Building Schools Abroad Scheme.
Doha College has always provided a wide array of Enhanced Curriculum Activities to choose from, and always strives to extend it further. With a linguist at the helm, in the form of polyglot Dr Sommer, DC offers German, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, Chinese Calligraphy and from this year – Sign Language.
Two 6th form students, Eman Al-Sulaiti and Caitlin Graham Smith, both in Year 13, lead a Sign-Language club for secondary students in the Autumn term. Its success and impact on the students was immediately visible, so they decided to pass on the torch to the Primary School, where Mrs McKenna now leads a Sign Language ECA in the West Bay campus.
There are about 70 million deaf people in the world who use sign language as their first language. For many more, it is a second language and it makes a great difference in the ease of communicating to people with hearing impairments.
Each country has one or more sign languages, which are not international as one might think, but specific to the communities that have created them organically over centuries. Many signs are indeed universal – like ‘baby’ or ‘sleep’ – because they inspire the same gestures, similarly to onomatopoeia, however most are not. In the UK, the government acknowledged signing as an official language in 2003. The British Sign Language – the one taught at the Doha College ECA – is not a translation of English but it has its own linguistics and very different grammatical structures to English.
Watch the club in action during the Autumn term, when Eman and Caitlin taught it to secondary students:
Many schools around the world include sign language in their standard curriculum, as it has been shown that it provides not just the regular benefits of a foreign language – such as increased communication capabilities, development of the brain or staving off degenerative neurological disorders – but also it helps children appreciate the needs of others. It unlocks ways of understanding how others’ brains perceive certain things, how meanings can be captured in gestures, how to convey a message in an empathic manner. In addition, hearing children enjoy learning sign language as a means to communicating with each other in a silent environment, pass on ‘secret messages’ and of course because it is great fun.
Mrs Nichola McKenna and Mrs Angela Sanders, who run the club in the West Bay campus of the Primary School, explained: "There is a huge buzz around learning new languages and often we immediately think of learning a spoken language like perhaps French, German or Spanish. We might not always consider other ways of communication, and in particular non-verbal methods. This was something that appealed to us. We were interested (and the children, we hope!) in learning a new life skill that would allow us to communicate on a different level and to appreciate the challenges of those who may not be able to communicate in the same way that we know how. We hope that by beginning to learn British Sign Language, the children will have acquired a skill that they can go on to develop and use throughout their lives. Who knows when you may meet somebody who is deaf or hearing impaired? Even just knowing some basic sign language could make the world of difference to them."
As a pioneer in a number of educational fields, Doha College is the perfect setting for innovative research and experimentation of new teaching techniques. One of these is “flipped learning”, an approach that so far has yielded very encouraging results.
Doha College has welcomed two final-year students from the University of South Wales to test their method and assess its impact on children’s learning. Lucy Manley and Hannah Phillips completed some action research with Year 1 and Year 4 classes at Doha College, with the aim of topping their already excellent standards of achievement in the classroom.
During their time here, they conducted a pilot initiative of the innovative 'flipped learning’ approach. This concept is championed by many educational experts and integrated into the classrooms of some of the best schools in the world. This approach is most often seen in upper primary and secondary settings, so research into the efficacy of such use in Key Stage 1 is very exciting, and a rare opportunity that Doha College was keen to experience.
How does 'flipped' learning work?
At home, students use videos and other digital content created or assigned by the teacher to learn a new concept, or further consolidate a concept previously taught in class. The children complete questions or tasks within the videos, results of which are seen by the teacher, in order to offer specific support to their understanding and application of the skills during class time. Also, as children will have already been exposed to the content prior to the lesson, they should be able and confident to begin class activities much more quickly than those not utilising this approach. As a result, the teacher can begin activities almost straight away, leaving more time at the end of the lesson for their learning to be extended further.
What are the benefits?
- 21st-century learning that aligns with upcoming digital competency frameworks
- Increased student - teacher interaction
- Lessons can be repeated, paused and played back as needed
- Students pay closer attention to detail
- Increased hands-on learning time in class
- Lessons can be viewed by absent students
- Parents can view the lesson and learn along with their child
Students become active learners and practise self-regulation - which aligns with the High Performance Learning strategy here at Doha College, and will offer them increased independence. While viewing the videos, students may pause and rewind as needed to see or hear the information again and can also have this content available to them during lesson time, to refer back if necessary - ultimately taking control of their own learning!
So far, the results are beyond encouraging with a 30% increase in engagement levels, a 33% increase in the number of students able to be extended their learning in class, and a 55% increase in the difficulty levels of extension tasks being accessed. More importantly, the children are really enjoying arriving to class ahead of themselves in terms of preparation and confidence.
Lucy Manley shared her thoughts on her experience in our school, saying: 'Flipped learning may be a new concept to some, but here at Doha College, they are leading the way by allowing me to conduct such innovative research with and for the benefit of further developing their younger learners - with hopes of extending the opportunity to many other learners in the future.’
Doha College was the first school in Qatar to be awarded an Eco-Schools Green Flag from the Foundation for Environmental Education in 2016, following a rigorous inspection which looked into all its sustainable initiatives and projects. Continuing this commitment, and in line with Qatar’s prioritisation of environmental preservation, the EcoSchool Committee at Doha College ran an ‘Ocean Awareness Month’ in January 2018.
The purpose was to promote awareness of the vast amount of waste-plastic which is dumped into the ocean, and the growing crisis surrounding this. Throughout the month of January, the school highlighted these issues by organising topical activities:
- Eco-School assemblies
- Plastics in the Ocean – Fact of the Day
- Screening of “Blue Planet II”
- Beach clean-up trip
- Cooking with sustainable locally sourced fish in ‘Cooking Club’
- Screening of Sky News’ ‘A Plastic Tide’
- Kayaking in the Al Thakira Mangroves trip
- ‘Plastics in the Ocean’ presentation at DC’s CCI Legacy Talks
- Art Department Enrichment Day, where Year 7 students created sea-life models from plastic waste
- Plastic-free Day in the tuck shop
The environmental awareness mindset fostered at Doha College fits in with Qatar’s commitment to its international responsibilities. Government initiatives being implemented in Doha, such as plans to address urban water tables, creating a biodiversity database, and the air quality monitoring programme, will hopefully turn the city into a laboratory for environmental innovation.
You can follow the school’s environmental work within the community on its dedicated Twitter account at @DCEcoSchool.