Back to School

Qatar

Economic News

22 Jul 2010
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As Qatar's students return to school for a new academic year, it is apparent that the country requires more educational facilities to deal with its burgeoning population. Although the completion of several new schools eases some demand, the government is pushing ahead with expansion plans.



School holidays have been cut slightly short this year and the school year will begin earlier than usual. Qatar's students will be returning to school ahead of time because the government schools plan to stop classes during the Asian Games in December and most private schools will follow suit.



The start of a new school year also brings the emirate's educational institutions under further strain as a new influx of students arrive for the start of the school year.



Education for Qatari nationals is free through the state schools system, while many foreigners face high school fees. Further complicating the situation, some foreigners say it is becoming increasingly difficult to find schools that have enough spaces to accept their children.



According to the 2004 census, population growth in Qatar averages around 5.3% a year. This is largely due to the influx of foreign workers as a result of the country's substantial economic growth over the last few years. While many of these workers are single or leave their families in their own countries, a substantial number bring their families with them to Qatar.



The large numbers of different nationalities that make up the foreign population means that, through community schools, it is possible to follow the curriculum of institutions from a variety of countries, such as US, Canada, UK, Australia France, Lebanon, Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines. Despite the proliferation of possibilities, however, the number of spaces available does not tally with the sheer size of the country's growing population.



However, the authorities are taking steps to deal with the capacity issue. This week, the Public Works Authority, announced the completion of nine new schools around the country, each with 25 classrooms. In total, the cost of the project was QR172m ($47.24m). These schools will be open and ready for this academic year, while 14 more are currently under construction.



Following the formation of the Supreme Education Council (SEC) in November 2002, tasked with fully implementing the reforms currently underway in Qatar's education sector, more enduring solutions in regard to the capacity issue have begun to be realised.



As part of the 'Education for a New Era' initiative, the SEC introduced independent schools, which are funded by the government but operated by independent businessmen. Until recently, independent schools had been run by an operator who employed a school principal to manage day-to-day operations. However, new legislation will force the operator to act as principal. The SEC sees this as tying the responsibilities of the operator more firmly to their schools and making them more accountable. Critics, however, argue that the businessman behind an independent school may not necessarily be the best person to act as principal.



In 2004, Qatar had 12 independent schools. This figure increased to 20 at the beginning of 2006 and there are plans for a total of 60 in the near future.



Earlier this year, Yousef Hussain Kamal, the minister of finance announced that spending on education would amount to QR5.7bn ($1.57bn) and a large portion of the budget will be spent on the construction of new facilities.
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