Al-Bairaq is a non-traditional education program that aims to support Qatar’s commitment in developing a knowledge-based economy, enriching its human capital, and improving its competitiveness through innovation, entrepreneurship, and applied research. Through Al-Bairaq, students are placed, trained and mentored toward becoming research assistants at Qatar University.
Several scientific studies have recently shown that Qatari students lose interest in science and math during high school, leading to low academic achievement according to international curriculum standards.
Al-Bairaq aims at immersing secondary students in hands-on scientific activities and practice in order to build appreciation and understanding of the work of scientists and offering them new opportunities.
Established at Qatar University, Al-Bairaq is open to all secondary school students who wish to participate. Students spend one to three months working in small groups on a research project, guided by mentors at the university. So far, subjects have included the science of sport, nanotechnology, polymer science, and composite materials. The program stresses interdisciplinary research that can cover any STEM-related subject. At the end of their research, students present their results to an audience that includes industry and government representatives.
Students who participate in the program gain self-confidence as well as leadership and problem-solving skills. They work side by side with research experts analyzing and interpreting data, and most importantly, developing new products.
Assessment and evaluation were carried out to measure the impact and attitudes of high school students towards pursuing science majors at university level. Research data indicates that the program has been effective in achieving its goals in encouraging students to consider scientific careers. The numbers of students and schools participating have grown from fewer than 243 students and seven schools in 2010-2011, to more than 946 students from 38 schools in 2013-2014.
Due to the success of the program, corporate sponsors such as Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Shell, Msheireb Properties and RasGas have pledged further support for maintaining and expanding of Al-Bairaq.