Posted on November 14, 2019

The “unique journey” that Academyati, the first progressive school in Qatar, is taking children on has been illustrated to an international audience at the 2019 Paris Peace Forum.

With the aim of empowering the next generation of leaders and problem-solvers, Academyati – which comes under the umbrella of Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Pre-University Education – is reimagining learning with an innovative curriculum and teaching methods that take the concept of personalized education to a new level.

The school and its vision have now been showcased on the global stage, with a special event during the Paris Peace Forum seeing Maryam Alhajri, Director of Academyati, and Mehdi Benchaabane, Director of QF’s Education Development Institute, tell delegates from around the world about its ethos, methodology, and purpose. “Children of this time and age are very different,” said Ms. Alhajri. “We need to rediscover the learners of today. “Academyati is based on allowing children to have their own unique journey. We all believe children are unique, yet we put them in a unified, pre-planned, predesigned experience in schools that might not be right for every one of them. This is why we end up with a gap that we’re trying to bridge.”

Academyati — which opened its doors in August 2019 — aims to provide an innovative learning environment from the very start of a child’s education. Based at QF’s Education City, it is currently enrolling pre-school-age children and will ultimately expand to cover the full spectrum of K-12 education. As Mr. Benchaabane explained: “Academyati is centered around the idea of choice. We trust children in their choice. And that choice can only generate learning if it’s surrounded by an environment that enables learning and allows for discoveries and quests.”

Academyati is driven by the core philosophy that every child has a unique set of talents, interests, strengths, and ways of thinking that must be nurtured on an individual basis in order to reach their full potential. The school provides innovative, ultra-personalized learning experiences, trusting children to steer their own learning journeys in a positive and supportive environment – an approach that fosters self-confidence, a passion for education, and a lifelong love of learning. The school offers fluid, non-classroom settings, with students being in multi-age groupings where interests are cultivated and an equal emphasis is placed on personal and academic development.

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“At Academyati, we try to remove the barriers and virtual boundaries that can be found in regular schools,” Mr. Benchaabane told the Paris Peace Forum audience. “For us, it’s very important that freedom of choice is embedded within the school, at every single level. You see children coming in the morning, choosing where to go, choosing what to do, and choosing how to take it to the next level.” Rather than a formal, subject-based approach, the innovative curriculum is built on the development of personalized plans for each student. “We give each child the chance to lead their own education journey,” explained Ms. Alhajri during the panel session in Paris.

Classroom activities at Academyati empower children to explore and create connections to nature and fellow students, with a limited reliance on technology. Even the school’s homegrown terminology is built around inspiring and motivating students. Daily lessons are described as “quests”, classrooms are “discovery rooms”, and teachers are “collaborators”, with the school reinforcing the idea that to play is to learn. “The greatest minds of our world have achieved great achievements through playfulness,” explained Mr. Benchaabane. “Playing is what the children want to do.”

Ms. Alhajri told the Paris Peace Forum session: “Creativity is something that children are born with, but during their school journey, their innovative and creative skills are somehow lowered. This is proven by research. “Our approach is not we are not going to make them creative, but nurture and protect their creativity.” And she explained to the audience that this level of creativity is designed not just to benefit individual children, but also the societies they live in. “We look at how we can ask children to come up with actions with positive impact that can change the world,” she said.

“We trust them to think of new ideas, and they are. And we follow that line until we get to a place where we have something that’s really transformational to their communities.”