Qatar’s private-sector Arabic, international and community schools serve over 250,000 students.
In 2017, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry offered 11 plots of land across Qatar to private sector investors to develop and operate new private schools. The move is aimed at providing high-quality education by improving infrastructure to enhance the quality of education and training. The 11 plots of land are located in different areas: Umm Qarn, Rawdat Al Hamamah, Al Wukair (four), Luaib, Al Thamid (two), Al Khor (two) and Simaisma. Each piece of land covers an area of 15,000 square metres.
At least 13 new private schools opened for the 2018–19 academic year, accommodating 6,021 students.
Community schools aim to serve specific expatriate groups and are run, sponsored or overseen, by their diplomatic missions. Some international schools modify their curriculums to accommodate non-native speakers of the language of instruction.
Parents and guardians are advised to consider the future adaptability of the curriculum offered by the school of their choice should the child return home or move to another country.
Nurseries and kindergartens (KGs)
Nurseries and kindergartens must be licensed and headed by a female director over the age of 21. The facility is required to have a nutritionist, nurse and a resident or visiting physician in addition to an adequate number of hygiene workers, guards and drivers (who may be male).
Some accept babies from two months upwards; several take toddlers from 18 months, others from the age of three, finishing at four. The range of activities and facilities varies, but several offer more than one language. Licensing is stringent, with all facing strict regulation. It is important that parents/guardians check the facilities are licensed as nurseries or kindergartens rather than ‘supervised play areas’.
In 2014, Qatar enacted Law No 1 of 2014 that mandates childcare facilities, also known as crèches and nurseries, to be licensed by the Ministry of Administration Development, Labour and Social Affairs. The Social Affairs Department of the ministry has an administrative unit that licences and regulates nurseries. Illegal nurseries are liable to be fined up to QAR100,000 and their owners can face a jail term of up to two years, or both. The law puts the maximum age of children that can be left in the care of nurseries at four years and stipulates strict licensing criteria.
Nurseries should not be confused with kindergartens (lower and upper KGs) which, being education institutions, are licensed and monitored by the education sector regulator, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.
Children under five at school (as opposed to kindergarten/nursery) can currently, by law, only attend for four hours per day, so for some working parents the longer hours provided by private KGs are more convenient. Nurseries and independent KGs often close for holidays so check if you are a full-time working parent with youngsters who need year-round care. Fees are usually paid monthly and many establishments ask for a one-off registration fee.
Preschools attached to schools
Places are in great demand, since admission almost ensures a later main-school place. To avoid wait-listing for admission, register well in advance. Some private schools insist that a newly admitted child starting Year 1 should have received a full-time preschool education.
Primary and secondary schools
Private sector schools operate as commercial establishments or non-profit-making community schools. A number are run on a coeducational basis through to graduation, others segregate the sexes during, or after, primary level. Newer schools, or those serving small communities, often begin operations at primary level, expanding into secondary schooling as and when required.
Many schools teaching in the English medium base their curriculums on those of the UK and the US, working towards IGCSE and A Level examinations or the American High School Diploma. Others meet the home-nation requirements.
The International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB) is now offered by an increasing number of secondary schools. Due to its almost universal availability, these qualifications are often the choice of geographically mobile families. Most schools have excellent websites, which are a good source of information for families moving to Qatar.
Employers and embassies can offer guidance on schools serving their communities. The Private Schools Office has a special portal for private schools, with necessary information for parents and students.
The Outstanding Schools Initiative
This initiative aims to open additional private international schools in Qatar over the coming years. ‘Outstanding schools’ are invited to participate in the Ministry’s Educational Vouchers programme and are selected from a pool of applicants in the UK, the US and Europe. Established examples are:
The Michael E DeBakey High School for Health Professions at Qatar offers a college preparatory programme in science, mathematics, medical science, literacy, engineering and technology, to help prepare students for post-secondary health-sector careers. The school’s campus in Doha serves students in grades 7 – 12 and offers a
broad-based US curriculum including extensive Advanced Placement offerings.
The International School of London (ISL) Qatar offers a rigorous international education to students aged 3 – 18. In addition to the International Baccalaureate Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma Programmes, ISL Qatar is known for its mother tongue language programmes integrated into the curriculum as it currently offers over 10 mother tongue languages.
Sherborne Qatar opened in 2009 and offers a British Curriculum based on an enhanced version of the National Curriculum. In the Senior School, pupils are prepared for IGCSE examinations (in up to 10 subjects per pupil) in Year 11, and AS and A Levels in the Sixth Form, using the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and Edexcel specifications.
SEK International School Qatar opened in 2013 as part of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s Outstanding Schools Programme and joining the SEK Education Group of 9 International schools across Spain, France and Ireland. SEK Qatar is an IB World School authorised to offer the PYP, MYP and DP Programmes. The school is accredited by New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). More than 55 nationalities are represented in the school; while the main language of instruction is English, their students have the opportunity to develop their fluency and mastery of both Spanish and Arabic. SEK Qatar students benefit from a continuum education from pre-school through Grade 12.
Qatar Finland International School (QFIS) As an inspirational learning community grounded in Finnish education excellence, QFI School strives toward building the best possible future for their international student body. QFI School follows the highly acclaimed Finnish National Core Curriculum, with local adaptations and additional content in accordance with Qatari standards. The main language of teaching is English, but because the school values languages as a richness, QFI School offers an extensive language programme to all of their students.
King’s College Doha provides state-of-the-art facilities, delivering the very best of a British independent school curriculum. It has opened as a coeducational primary school for children from ages 3 to 8 years old (pre-school to year 5) in its initial phase. The College has an excellent array of specialist teaching spaces to support teaching on which the curriculum is founded. Science Labs, an Art and Design centre, Music and Drama classrooms including dedicated individual practice rooms, as well as an Arabic and Islamic Studies centre, are all provided.
Royal Grammar School, Guildford in Qatar is an independent, British-curriculum school for boys and girls aged 3 to 13. The bespoke British curriculum has been developed at the RGS Guildford in Qatar in conjunction with the RGS Guildford, extending the British National Curriculum to include traditional, values-based teaching. The language of instruction is English, with an introduction to French. Arabic and Islamic Studies are taught by highly qualified specialist teaching staff to Arabic and Muslim children.
Law regulating private schools
In November 2015, HH The Amir approved Law No 23 of 2015, the New Private Schools Law, which regulates all privately run schools in the State; the New Private Schools Law aims to update the previous legislation which dates back 35 years. Some of the key points from the New Private Schools Law are:
• Schools cannot operate without a licence or make any changes to their existing licence without the pre-approval of the Education Regulator.
• Any materials, tools and/or curriculum that do not meet the standards of the Education Regulator may be withdrawn or ordered to be changed.
• Schools are prohibited from receiving funding or donations without approval from the Education Regulator and face fines for violation of this rule.
The Private Schools Office has set up a special portal for private schools, with necessary information for parents and students to choose a suitable school, including their location, curriculum, academic calendar, annual performance report, and general information. It can be accessed at edu.gov.qa
A periodic evaluation of private schools is made mandatory starting from the academic year 2017–18, according to the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. The move represents a new condition for private schools to get national accreditation which qualifies them to take advantage of the Educational Voucher System which allows Qatari students to seek education in private schools through government support.
Schools that implement accredited international curriculum standards should allocate weekly hours to teach the Arabic language and Islamic studies to Qatari students and Qatari history to all students according to the national standards, as per an academic follow-up policy published by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.
All private schools must make use of the student database system to add, transfer or delete registered names and certifications. Expatriate students in the country can now be enrolled directly in private schools without the need for an equivalency certificate. Parents can hereafter transfer their children between private schools without the Ministry’s permission if there are vacancies at the appropriate level in the receiving school. The move to allow parents to place a child at a class with older or younger children will help them substantially.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education launched an electronic pre-registration system in private schools for the academic year 2018–19 in order to ease the enrolment process.
The online portal will allow parents to know the number of students on the waiting list and the number of seats available in the required grade in all schools.
Available vacant seats will be distributed by the school according to classes. The system also does not require an acceptance exam or an interview. The online registration will show the student’s educational background and his/her progress in the last two years, which will help the school to know the student, the school, curriculum and class.
Parents will be able to follow admission of their child through the reference number received by text messages sent to their mobile phone.
Schools and KGs must enter the applications in the system, decide the date and time of the interview and inform the parents by sending a text message.
Schools and KGs must verify telephone numbers to facilitate communication with parents. Once the seat is booked and fees have been paid, the student’s name will be removed from all the waiting lists.
All students must be registered in the National Student Information System (NSIS) system at the beginning of the academic year.