“Sports are for everyone and are the only solution to improving quality of life,” said Dr. Ahmed Al Emadi, professor at Qatar University, when asked about school sports. Sport is vital, specifically for school children, as it strengthens the body and helps focus the mind. Dr. Al Emadi added that a sedentary lifestyle can prevent you from taking care of your health, and there is a direct link between lack of exercise and disease. “Those who don’t exercise constantly get sick, and so we have to take care of sports curriculums in schools; without them, the issue would worsen.”
Qatar University established, from the beginning, a department of Sports Education under the umbrella of the College of Education, where it offered its students a chance to specialize in sports. Many successful sports people have graduated from this department. However, the department was suspended for a long time. Dr. Al Emadi spoke of the bachelors’ degree now offered by the College of Arts and Science in Qatar University, and confirmed that “only a few choose to major in sports now that it has switched from Sports Education to Sports Science, and is only taught in English.”
He concluded that if the major was taught in Arabic, many more students would enroll. He also added that the country would need sports specialists within the next six years, as Qatar 2022 is fast approaching. Qatar University is the only one offering a major in sports education, and therefore should be the only destination for those seeking sports qualifications. Dr. Al Emadi is of the opinion that the issue should be looked at again, and students’ capabilities taken into consideration.
On the other hand, through supervising and overseeing schools, the Ministry of Education ensures that they provide sports for all students, in addition to good nutrition, which results in a healthy lifestyle. Schools dedicate lots of time, energy and funding to develop and implement sports curriculums.
Head of Physical Education in the Ministry of Education’s Curriculum Standard Office, Moza Rabiah J.B. Al Bader, clarified in an official report the rules regulating sports curriculums as core subject in independent schools:
- Implementing sports curriculums from kindergarten stage to high school.
- Ensuring 6 percent of students’ school time is spent learning sports; and a minimum of 3 percent in high school and middle school.
- Making sports classes a pass /fail in evaluations.
- Ensuring school sports are taught by a professional in physical education who provides reports and ensures the Ministry’s standards are adhered to. As well as providing those who are trained with whatever tools are needed to achieve yearly set goals.
- Ensuring the independent schools’ commitment to making and keeping sports a core subject in the curriculum.
- Supporting internal and external sports activities to achieve curriculum goals and study plans.
However, private and international schools have a different approach. They not only require sports to be a core subject, but also encourage students to participate in sports after school. Qatar Academy, for example, implements a very comprehensive physical education curriculum, which every student from kindergarten to high school has to attend twice a week. Qatar Academy Athletics and Activities Director, Stephen Walker, spoke of the importance of sports for students. The majority of international and private schools in Qatar follow most of the standards provided by the Ministry, then add more to fit their curriculum and to challenge their students both mentally and physically. “Sports are essential for students, especially those who remain in school for a while, like high school students,” said Walker.
“All the students are introduced to various sports in Qatar Foundation and Qatar Academy, like swimming, Tae Kwon Do (self defense), gymnastics, football, basketball, badminton, and more. They also benefit from health and wellness specialists,” said Walker.
He further added that exercise refreshes students’ mind; “Every time a student learns a sport and understands its benefits, he/she becomes more likely to enjoy it and continue practicing it.” Walker stressed the importance of participating in competitions to improve students’ skills. From a physiological point of view, students become well-rounded, as sports teaches self-confidence, leadership, commitment and personal success, and improves relations with others. Walker concluded, “We must challenge ourselves to do better.”