Global initiative Destination ImagiNation is all about bringing youth skills into the 21st century. We speak to Mr Abdullatif Ali Al-Yafei, general manager of AlFaisal Without Borders Foundation, to learn more about the pilot scheme that’s being rolled out in Qatar.
Kids all over Qatar will be climbing up the ranks to CEO sooner than we thought, as a brand new programme teaches them to push insecurities aside and creatively tackle all obstacles that stand in their way.
The programme known as Destination ImagiNation, a world-renowned programme which was originally founded in America, mainly aims to give young people more life opportunities through developing their skills. This includes teamwork, communication, critical thinking and leadership, all while encouraging them to use their imagination for innovation in daily life.
It’s been rolled out in 27 countries around the world with over 125,000 students taking part every year. And now, since the beginning of the academic year, it’s in Qatar.
Brought to us by AlFaisal Without Borders (Alf) Foundation, a not-for-profit set up by Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani, the initiative has been integrated into seven schools in Qatar with 34 teams of more than 230 children from independent and international schools involved. General manager of Alf Foundation, Mr Abdullatif Ali Al-Yafei, explains why the organisation decided to bring Destination ImagiNation here now.
‘One of the cornerstones of the Alf Foundation ethos is educational empowerment and development of young people as the catalyst for economic and social advancement,’ he says. ‘We want to unlock the potential of our young people, encouraging them to achieve excellence and motivating them to become the next generation of leaders.’
The programme sees participating school children of all nationalities work together in teams of up to seven to choose a challenge based on one of five themes – technical, scientific, fine arts, improvisation and service learning. Then they meet every week to work on their project to come up with creative solutions to the challenges at hand. ‘Teams get marked on their creativity, originality, the quality of their research and presentation, their workmanship and the effort they put in,’ explains Mr Abullatif. Right now, he says, the Qatar teams are working hard to prepare for the National Finals that will take place on May 2, when they will showcase their challenge solutions in front of peers and public.
The winning team of this leg will then get the chance to compete in the global finals on May 21-24 which are being held in Nashville, Tennessee, US. There, they will compete with 1,300 teams from across the world in front of an audience of more than 15,000 people.
Challenges differ from theme to theme but they often include presentations – either rehearsed or improvised – and can require building props or making costumes. On top of their main solution, teams also have to undertake instant challenges of around five to eight minutes which they’ll have to solve on their feet by working in teams. So far, Mr Abdullatif tells us, the feedback from the schools in Qatar has been very encouraging. ‘[Teachers] can already see positive changes in pupils. Those who were shy initially are now standing up and presenting confidently in front of their team members. The teams are working well together, sharing ideas and responsibilities, and driving their own workflow.’
Mubarak Al Naimi, age nine, from Gulf English School says, ‘What I like about [the programme] is that no one helps you. You have to get the answers on your own and think for yourself.’
Al Maha Noor, 11, also from Gulf English School says, ‘It’s a great chance to learn and to do things you have never done before.’
Following the success of this year’s pilot, Alf Foundation are now working in collaboration with the Supreme Education Council to roll DI out to more schools in Qatar ready for the next academic year. ‘We have already had significant interest from schools across the country,’ he tells us. ‘In the coming years, we hope to have DI teams in all schools in Qatar and also take [it] to the wider Gulf region.’
While competition is fierce, it’s the taking part that counts and the programme has proven to successfully boost students’ confidence and modernise their learning abilities, taking them to a level on par with the best in the world.
But it’s also about what this country can offer. Mr Abdullatif says, ‘The global finals also give an unrivalled opportunity to showcase to the rest of the world the richness of Qatari culture and the talents and skills of our young people.’
The national finals take place on May 2 and are open to the public. Schools interested in taking part next year should contact DI programme coordinator Renee Rainville at firstname.lastname@example.org.