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NZers To Help Middle East Education Reforms


For immediate release: 15 January 2004


A New Zealand organisation is to play a key role in bringing educational reforms to the Middle East.

Multi Serve Education Trust has reached agreement with the State of Qatar to help upgrade the oil-rich country's education system. The reforms include giving considerably more autonomy both to some existing schools and to others which are yet to be built.

Initially, Multi Serve is to mentor five Qatari schools through an eighteen month transition to self-management, providing the schools with input on infrastructure and administration, as well as recruiting teaching and other staff.

If this pilot project proves successful, Multi Serve anticipates a broader involvement in the Qatari education system, including the building of new schools.

"This is a ground-breaking agreement both for ourselves and for New Zealand's education sector," says Jo Mullins, Multi Serve's Director of Educational Operations.

"Multi Serve is New Zealand's leading independent service provider to schools. As such, we have extensive experience of working with schools both in New Zealand and elsewhere in the Asia Pacific region. But this will be our first multi-school overseas project as well as our first involvement in the Middle East.

"Autonomy, accountability, parental choice and diversity are all important elements in Qatar's education reforms. By moving away from its previous more centralised approach, the country hopes to lift educational standards and ensure that young Qataris can fully participate in today's globalised economy. At the same time, Qatar wants to preserve its own values, culture and beliefs.

"The project is exciting, not least because Qatar's new approach to education is an integral part of sweeping economic and political reforms which are placing the country in the forefront of change in its region. Qatar's example is viewed as significant in neighbouring, similarly wealthy, Gulf states," she says.

Jo Mullins describes herself as "delighted but not wholly surprised" by Qatar's decision to involve Multi Serve in its educational changes.

"Essentially, we will be performing the same role in Qatar that we perform in New Zealand. Our own education system embraced self-management following the publication of 'Tomorrow's Schools' in 1989. Experience has shown the self-managing approach to be sound, providing schools can turn to agencies such as Multi Serve for support in matters such as board training, recruitment, ITC, management and administration. The Qatar authorities are aware that there is much to learn from our experience.

"The Qataris are also conscious of the excellent performance of New Zealand schools as measured in recent comparative studies of OECD countries. These results have certainly encouraged them to involve a New Zealand organisation in their reform programme and may well lead to further opportunities for New Zealanders in this field.

"Multi Serve's involvement in Qatar has already attracted the interest of expatriate New Zealand teachers who hope eventually to return home and who, in the meantime, wish to be part of a project with its roots in New Zealand's education system," she adds.

A high level delegation from the Supreme Education Council, the body created to oversee Qatar's educational reform programme, is to arrive in New Zealand tomorrow (Friday), for a week-long visit. The delegation will confer with Multi Serve on implementation of the agreement, as well as meeting Education Minister, the Hon.Trevor Mallard, and learning more about New Zealand education.


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