Qatar Foundation 2021: THE YEAR IN REVIEW


Shaping the Future of Education

The need to reimagine education on a worldwide scale has been thrown into even sharper focus by the COVID-19 pandemic – and, in December, QF’s global education think tank WISE drove home the need for the world’s youth to be at the heart of making this change happen.

The 2021 WISE Global Summit – one of the first major international education conferences since the pandemic began – saw more than 300 education thought-leaders and experts, and young people with new ideas and strong views on what the future of learning should look like, lead discussions on resetting the global education agenda.

Held in hybrid form under the theme ‘Generation Unmute: Reclaiming Our Future Through Education’, the Summit placed young voices front and center, welcoming changemakers such as 16-year-old entrepreneur Gitanjali Rao, 19-year-old filmmaker and girls’ education advocate Zuriel Oduwole, teenage AI and Machine Learning expert Tanmay Bakshi, and Kehkashan Basu, a 21-year-old activist for climate justice in education.

It also included a dedicated Youth Studio and livestreamed channel, with a program curated by young members of the worldwide WISE community, and welcomed young artists whose creativity is being channeled into education.

The voices and perspectives of youth resounded throughout a global QF summit dedicated to rethinking what education can be, and should be – while Education City played host to celebrations of culture, creativity, and sport.

  • More than 10,000 people attended the 2021 WISE Global Summit – in-person and virtually
  • The 2021 WISE Global Summit featured around 200 sessions

A Collective Purpose

During the Summit, the WISE Prize for Education – the first global accolade to recognize outstanding individual contributions to education – was presented by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, to Wendy Kopp, CEO of Teach For All.

Working in 61 countries, Teach For All inspires graduates and professionals to expand opportunities for children and teach for two years where they are most needed. As Kopp said: “Collective leadership is necessary to solve the most entrenched inequities in education and reshape the system so that it prepares our young people to navigate uncertainty and shape a better future.”

Sessions tackled topics including how shocks such as COVID-19 can be a catalyst for innovation and reform in education; designing and funding new learning approaches; how edtech and Artificial Intelligence will impact education ecosystems; STEM education for girls; and the role of education as a unifying force in an uncertain world.

And as the Summit closed, WISE CEO Stavros N. Yiannouka told delegates: “What remains is for all of us to ask ourselves: are we ready to do what it takes to change the world for the better?”


Amplifying Ideas in Arabic

The Summit was also the stage for the first regional event held through TEDinArabic – a groundbreaking initiative that is amplifying Arabic voices around the world – as the partnership between QF and TED that created it was extended for a third year.

Dedicated to sharing solutions, ideas, and stories in the Arabic language, TEDinArabic has captured the imagination of Arabic speakers around the world. And in December, top TED speakers shared their perspectives on inspiring children and young people to learn with a global audience – all in Arabic.

Among them was Qatari designer and QF alumna Farah Al Taweel, whose interest lies in design thinking and innovative teaching methods for children, and who explained: “We do not want to change the way children think, innovate, and explore the world, but we want to prepare and support them to face the world.”

Meanwhile, new QF-commissioned research into personalized learning was published during the Summit by Economist Impact. The report and international survey of hundreds of educators and edtech executives revealed that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of personalized learning, but funding, privacy, data usage, and ethical concerns continue to surround edtech.

Since TEDinArabic’s launch, its website has been visited 36 million times and its videos have received 14 million views.


A Showcase of Creativity

Over six days in December, members of Qatar’s community enjoyed a celebration of artistic creativity, culture, and the Arabic language at Education City – as QF unveiled its first performing arts festival, D’reesha.

Held in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Qatar National Day, and Daam Fund, D’reesha placed an array of creative talent from Qatar in the spotlight, with theater, visual arts, and music performances taking place alongside workshops and storytelling experiences, all based around key themes of research, education, technology, and science.

From the music of Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and Dana Al Fardan to a bicycle painting show, a Latin Fuego performance, and an interactive drumming experience, D’reesha catered for a diverse palate of artistic tastes, with Qatari actor Ghanim Al Sulaiti telling its opening ceremony: “Art is a very natural skill that is innate to humans, and a human will enhance this skill with practice, experience, and study.

“This inaugural edition of the D’reesha performing arts festival also reflects the connection between art and science, which is important in building the artistic community, and also in shaping communities that are based on beauty and justice.”


Sport with a Message

Football fever swept Qatar in December as the country hosted the FIFA Arab Cup 2021™ - and fans attending matches at the Education City Stadium were given the chance to learn about, and immerse themselves in, the vibrant community of QF.

Fun and educational activities themed around healthy living, sustainability, and the Arabic language – including cultural performances, football demonstrations, recycling workshops, and a real-time mural – were organized by QF to entertain and inspire supporters arriving from around the Arab world to follow their teams, with QF school and university students playing their part as volunteers.

The month also shone a spotlight on the Street Child World Cup, which will take place in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, with young leaders telling the 2021 WISE Global Summit how the initiative changed their lives.

“Everyone speaks the language of football,” said John Wroe, Co-Founder and CEO of Street Child United, which organizes the Street Child World Cup. “And Street Child United is about getting the world to see street children differently.”


The Pillars of a Nation

Ahead of the celebrations to mark Qatar National Day, His Excellency Dr. Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defense Affairs, spoke of his “absolute belief” that Qatar’s youth will “face challenges through research, development, and innovation”, as he spoke at the second edition of QF’s Education City Speaker Series Bel Arabi.

His Excellency Dr. Al Attiyah told the Arabic-language event that the young people of Qatar are “the main pillars of our national defense”, and described them as “the ammunition that the education and research infrastructure of Qatar is providing to us”.

On Qatar National Day itself, a special exhibition organized by QF opened more than 11,000lm away from Doha – in Washington D.C. – with the aim of helping children and families in the US learn about and experience the Arabic language.

The Alif Ba Exhibition is an interactive experience that allows people to explore the Arabic alphabet, with its unveiling at the National Children’s Museum on December 18 also aligning with World Arabic Language Day and forming part of the celebrations of the Qatar-USA Year of Culture 2021.

More than 105,000 people watched the online editions of QF’s Education City Speaker Series in 2021


Protecting the Right to Learn

QF sees education as a human right; a belief again demonstrated in December through a strategic agreement with Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) and the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), which ensured the continuation of learning for a group of the university’s students temporarily evacuated to Qatar from their home country.

Over the next two years, the students, together with faculty and staff, will be hosted at Education City so their AUAF studies can continue, with all funding provided by QFFD - reflecting Qatar’s commitment to providing access to quality education.

Within QF’s education ecosystem, December provided cause for celebration for Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), as the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities placed it in the top 150 globally for computer science and engineering; while the Maker Majlis, operating under HBKU’s College of Islamic Studies, joined the UN Sustainable Development Solution Network, which creates opportunities for young people to pioneer sustainable development solutions.

And HBKU’s Qatar Computing Research Institute designed and patented a technology, the Before.AI Pre-Crime scanner, that detects existing malicious phishing URLs – but can also predict those that will be malicious in the future.


The Way Ahead for Healthcare

Possibilities and opportunities for the future of personalized healthcare in Qatar were explored by experts in December as QF’s Sidra Medicine hosted the sixth edition of its flagship Precision Medicine and Functional Genomics Conference.

Researchers, academics, healthcare professionals, and policymakers assessed topics including the way ahead for pediatric genomic treatments and how discoveries made from large-scale genomics data can directly benefit human heath, as well as looking at the potential next wave of advanced therapies to be developed in Qatar.

“Precision medicine is data- and knowledge-driven, and a critical new tool in the fight against pediatric disorders,” said Dr. Ammira Akil, Head of Precision Medicine in Sidra Medicine’s Diabetes Prevention Lab. “Newly-discovered genomic technologies have the potential to transform our capability to understand the precise foundations of each child genetic disorder.”

Meanwhile, Qatar Genome Program – part of Qatar Foundation Research, Development, and Innovation (QF RDI) – and HBKU’s College of Health and Life Sciences established new scholarships in the college’s Genomics and Precision Medicine program, creating opportunities for researchers and professionals to implement genomic and precision medicine in clinical and research environments.

Precision medicine is data- and knowledge-driven, and a critical new tool in the fight against pediatric disorders

Dr. Ammira Akil
Head of Precision Medicine, Diabetes Prevention Lab, Sidra Medicine

Nurturing Qatar’s New Innovators

A unique ‘edutainment’ project whose goal is to introduce children to the history and traditions of Qatar and the Arab world received a vital boost in December - thanks to QF RDI.

Its Innovation Coupon – which provides grant funding and technical support to Qatari tech entrepreneurs, startups, and SMEs – was awarded to Dew Land Productions, the brainchild of Nada Al-Musleh, which aims to use 3D Computer-Generated Imagery animations to help young learners understand and embrace Qatar’s identity, heritage, and culture, and Arab values, morals, and principles.

Al Musleh joined Qatari high school students Abdulaziz Elepsy – whose Tackling Textiles Together initiative recycles old clothes and fabrics into new, fashionable items, with some being donated to developing and crisis-hit countries – and Haya Al Kubaisi, who developed a smart bracelet to support Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers, in benefiting from the Innovation Coupon in 2021.

And in December, QF welcomed a man synonymous with innovation, as well as humanitarianism – Bill Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who visited Education City as the two foundations look to work together on projects focused on health and sustainability.

24 Qatar-based projects have been supported by QF RDI’s Innovation Coupon.

From January-November 2021, 103 patent applications were filed with QF RDI’s Industry Development and Knowledge Transfer team, with 6 patents being granted


A Commitment to Knowledge. A Belief in Potential

For QF, 2021 was a year of taking and evolving progressive approaches to education, through which thousands of young people progressed their own journeys, goals, and dreams.

A year of advancing precision healthcare in – and for – Qatar, and innovations in Artificial Intelligence that directly benefit society.

A year of building stronger communities, by offering inclusive, accessible programs and opportunities that spark enjoyment, learning, interaction, and exploration.

And a year of promoting dialogue locally, regionally, and globally; championing and exemplifying sustainability; and being a standard-bearer for the Arabic language and the culture and heritage of Qatar and the Arab world.

From the first day of 2021 to the last, QF drove change and inspired people to be change-makers, through our belief in the power of knowledge, and our commitment to unlocking human potential.

Into 2022 and beyond, as new chapters on our story are written, this belief and commitment will continue to guide everything we do – for the sustainable future of Qatar, and for the good of the world.