Chief Executive Officer of the Queen Rania Award Lubna Touqan expressed that the award was launched due to a deep belief that education is the key to a nation’s growth and renaissance, as it shapes future generations and is considered the beginning of a fun and rewarding journey filled with knowledge, growth and social engagement. Touqan shared some of the main reasons behind launching the award which still aims to improve teachers’ performance to promote excellence and creativity in education.
Al-Rai’s interview with Touqan tackled many things including how to develop the skills of winners while managing to encourage educators to apply, and how the Association was able to develop the Distinguished Principal Award standards in addition to many other details related to the mechanism of applying for the award. Here are some extracts from the interview:
What role does the award play in developing educators’ skills?
Touqan: following its mission and vision, the Queen Rania Award does not stop at granting outstanding educators the award; that is just the beginning of a fun and rewarding journey filled with knowledge, career growth and community engagement. The journey of becoming a candidate for the award begins with a crucial step that involves self-evaluation, and that is when applicants fill out the applications and determine their strengths and weaknesses. This gives educators two options: either to carry on doing things the same way they used to, or to stop and review their performance based on clear standards that allow them to develop and improve, especially that the standards have an added value that the Association carefully implemented in its 10-year anniversary. In fact, 88% of applicants have expressed that the standards acted as a guide for them.
The Association offers winners myriad opportunities such as academic growth which includes graduate and postgraduate scholarships, skills development such as English courses, and attending conferences and awareness workshops. It also allows them to receive benefits from the Ministry of Education such as a raise in salary and extra points to qualify for scholarships. Moreover, the award gives winners media coverage and establishes knowledge societies to allow winners to become ambassadors of excellence in their communities.
What is the total number of winners since the establishment of the Association, and what positive effect did the award have on their career growth?
Touqan: 271 teachers, 30 principals and 10 counsellors have received the award so far. Continuous knowledge, networking opportunities, and active engagement open up new doors for these educators. We are proud to share with you that 4 of our award receivers have been nominated to the “Global Teacher Prize” organized by the Varkey Foundation and granted under the Patronage of His Royal Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashed Al-Maktoum Vice Minister and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. This only proves how much incredible potential we have here among our educators who can compete on an international level. That alone is something we should all be proud of. On the other hand, these nominations also prove the effectiveness of the evaluation standards designed by the Association and its ability to scout talented educators.
What kind of field work do you do during the application phase to encourage educators across the kingdom to apply?
Touqan: this vital phase in the award’s lifecycle is initiated by holding a meeting with supervisors, concerned educators and education coordinators from the Ministry of Education. During the meeting, applications are distributed to the Award coordinators across all directorates in the kingdom, along with the work plans that explain their respective roles in the application phase. Moreover, many activities are planned to introduce educators to the excellence awards including visiting schools across the kingdom and meeting with the educators to motivate them to apply. On the same note, the Association launches a big media campaign every year to raise awareness about the application phase, during which an appeal is made to all concerned educators and the community to support and recognize those working in this noble field by nominating them and encouraging them to nominate themselves.
What mechanisms are in place for nominating oneself and nominating others?
Touqan: when it comes to educators, they can apply directly to the Award they are intersted in by obtaining a nomination request from the Association’s coordinator in their directorate, writing the nine required standards and filling out the necessary paperwork before submitting them to the coordinator in due time.
As for students, guardians and anyone who would like to nominate an educator, there is a link on the Award Association’s website which they can click on to nominate others’ for the award. In the aforementioned case, the nominee is contacted by one of the coordinators from the Association, in order for him/her to move forward with the nomination process if he/she wishes to do so.
What kind of development and improvement did the Association make on the Award standards this year? And how did this change come about?
Touqan: As part of our continuous efforts to review and develop the educational excellence awards, we have reviewed the Distinguished Principal Award four years after it was last updated, to upgrade it and enrich its content and outputs. As expected, that was achieved by performing a comprehensive review of the standards by an educational committee of experts from the Ministry of Education, universities and evaluators from the Award Association. The main areas that were taken into consideration were the feedback from the evaluators of the Distinguished Principal Award as well as applicants of the award in previous years. Apart from benefitting from the updates that were made to the Distinguished Teacher Award, Arab and international standards of excellence in education awards were also taken into consideration.
Based on the above, the new standards of the Distinguished Principal Award are as follows:
Leadership (personal philosophy and professionalism), strategic planning, ethics, resource and knowledge management, operations management, teaching and learning leadership, sustainable professional self-development, following-up, evaluation and achievements.
However, before issuing these standards, they were presented to a specialized educational board, where all members expressed their consent with the positive improvement of the standards which mainly focused on the quality of the standards, their excellence compared to international standards, their suitability for the Distinguished Principal Award and the general atmosphere of the award.
What is the process of coordination between the Association and winners like when it comes to making them ambassadors?
Touqan: when receiving the award, winners have to sign a convention document which acts as a work plan for both parties clarifying their roles in specific activities that follow measurable and assessable standards. These standards are set to achieve the Association’s strategic goal of developing and improving the winners’ incentive plans and working with them to spread the spirit of excellence in education, and make an impact in the field of education.
How can individuals support the Association in the application phase for the Queen Rania Al Abdullah Distinguished Teacher and Principal Award?
We were all students at some point in our lives, and most of us have a family member who is a student today. Therefore, the progression of education and its outcomes is something that concerns and affects all of us directly or indirectly. There is no doubt that one of the most important actions to take when it comes to improving education is acknowledging educators and shedding light on their efforts to share them with the public, leading to a progression of the entire sector. Hence, we should all respect and show gratitude to these educators, teach future generations to do the same and encourage them to nominate educators who work day and night to make a positive difference in their students’ lives. We should also encourage educators that we personally know to apply for the award in order to benefit from the whole experience. That is the essence of the award; to upgrade educators’ status in the society and make them a role model for everyone, allowing us to rise and grow as a nation.
Touqan briefly talked about the Association’s history and background, and how it was established because of a strong belief that education is the foundation of a nation’s rise and renaissance, and its strong role in shaping future generations.
The Association of Queen Rania Al Abdullah Award for Excellence in Education was founded in 2005 by a sublime royal initiative, to highlight the importance of education in building a society of productive individuals who can think independently, and with great faith in the educators’ role in teaching principles of excellence and inspiring positive thinking within generations to come. The Award aims to acknowledge educators and motivate outstanding ones, as well as spread the spirit of excellence and innovation, and contribute to knowledge-creation through launching different initiatives and educational practices. The Association grants three awards: The Distinguished Teacher Award, The Distinguished Principal Award and the Distinguished Counsellor Award.