Qatar places education at the heart of its national development strategy as it seeks to move from a hydrocarbon-based to a knowledge-based economy. Its vision is for all citizens to have equal access to education and training consistent with their abilities and interests – and which will prepare them for participation in the workforce where possible. So great is its belief in the global importance of education, Qatar also funds a number of educational initiatives overseas.
Qatar’s expatriate population continues to grow, putting considerable pressure on many international, private and community schools, which as a result have been operating at capacity. Class size is limited by law to approximately 30 students, forcing a number of schools to close admission lists due to lack of available space or staff. New schools are opening but demand continues to grow, rendering early registration essential. Students may be required to sit an entrance exam; reports and test results from previous schools may also be required.
With the diversity of the population, schools in the private sector offer up to 23 curriculums, including Qatari, British, American, Indian, French, Egyptian, Lebanese, Canadian, German, Finnish, Filipino, Swiss and Syrian. There are more than 840 schools in Qatar with approximately 300,000 students.
In a move aimed at providing quality education that would lead to the all-round development of Qatar’s children, The Amir, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani issued Law No 9 of 2017, regulating government or public schools, which are mainly attended by Qataris and Arabic-speaking students.
At least 25 new schools opened for the academic year 2019–20. Twenty of those schools are private and the remaining five are public. Five new schools for primary, preparatory and secondary levels opened in Al Wakra, Muaither, Al Kheesa, Old Airport (Al Matar Al Qadeem) and Al Manaseer.
In September 2019, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education issued a Ministerial Decision to open an additional seven new schools to meet the growing demand of seats in the country.
The academic year 2019–20 was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. All schools, universities and other educational institutions closed on
10 March 2020. Final exams were either taken online or postponed until students return to school. However, final examiniations for senior students in secondary schools in the public sector for the 2019–20 Secondary School Certificate took place from 1 – 13 June 2020. At least 11,500 students took the exams in 149 centres across the country – with precautionary health and safety measures.
In May 2020, the ministry published the calendar for the academic year 2020–21. School employees will return to duty from 19 August 2020, and classes will begin from 1 September 2020. The 2019–20 second round examination, which did not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for all classes from grade 1 – 12 is scheduled to take place from 23 – 31 August 2020.
The ministry also announced the calendar for the academic year 2021–22. School employees will return to duty from 22 August 2021. Classes will begin from 24 August 2021.
The ministry invites students, parents and all relevant educational entities to use its mobile app to learn about the many services that it offers so as to enhance communication among schools, families and all stakeholders. The app is available on Google Play, the App Store and Windows Phone Store.
School fees: Most expatriate students in Qatar attend private schools, where fees are met by parents or occasionally an employer. Fees increase with the level of education, particularly towards the end of secondary school, and are usually payable in advance per term or half year. Most schools require a one-off non-refundable registration fee on initial admission and charge for entrance assessments. An additional non-refundable registration fee may be required from current students to secure a place for the following year.
Fees vary: International schools – approximately QAR22,000 a year at primary and QAR35,000 a year at secondary level with fees at international schools often considerably higher (in some cases QAR50,000 to QAR60,000+ at secondary level). Schools may not increase fees without prior approval from the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.
Parents are strongly advised to negotiate the inclusion of school fees and incidentals (for all children) in their employment contracts. Hidden ‘extras’ may include: books and stationery; capital charges, refundable deposit, ‘other resources’; exam entrance or invigilation fees; uniforms; and transport. Many schools offer transportation for a fee; alternatives are to hire private drivers, or share ‘school runs’ with other parents. Few live near enough to their schools to walk.
Academic calendar: Qatar has implemented a compulsory ‘unified school year’ calendar for private and public schools. The academic year usually begins in August/September and ends in May/June. All public schools and most private schools in Qatar follow the unified school year calendar; however, a few private schools are exempted from following the unified school year calendar and follow the academic calendar followed by their respective countries.
Timings and holidays: State and private sector schools operate a single shift, generally starting between 7 am and 8 am and finishing between noon and 2:30 pm, according to age and the time of year. Normally, timings for KG, primary and secondary levels vary within the same school. In May 2018, the ministry issued a circular to reduce school hours for students of all grades in public schools, from 7 am – noon. To be more accommodating students, in January 2019 the ministry announced that some private schools, especially community schools, will be allowed to run two shifts in the 2019–20 academic year, effective from April 2019.
The weekend is Friday and Saturday. In 2018, the ministry issued a circular modifying the number of classes to be taught per week, starting from the 2018–19 academic year. According to the circular, for grades one to six, the school day will start from 7 am and end at 12:30 pm from Sunday to Thursday. The number of classes per day will be seven except on Wednesdays and Thursdays, which will be reduced to six. For grades seven to 12, the school day will start at 7 am and end at 1:30 pm with seven classes per day from Sunday to Tuesday. Classes will conclude at 12:30 pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays with six classes per day. The number of classes per week is a maximum of 18 for each teacher at all educational institutes from primary to secondary.
In addition to Qatari public holidays, there is a winter break of two weeks, a one two-week break in spring, and two months or more in the summer.