Qatar’s expatriate population continues to expand rapidly, 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 owing 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.
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: Over QAR35,000 a year at primary and QAR45,000 a year at secondary level is not unusual, 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 SEC.
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; ‘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 their schools to walk.
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. This year the SEC directed all independent schools to end lessons by noon in the hot summer months. Normally, timings for KG, primary and secondary levels vary within the same school. Most schools provide short breaks during the morning, rather than a full lunch hour, with hot and cold snacks available. The weekend is Friday and Saturday.
In addition to Qatari public holidays (see Day to Day Qatar in the Discovering Qatar section), there is a winter break of two weeks, a one-to two-week break in spring, and two months or more in the summer.
Qatar is implementing a compulsory ‘unified school year’ calendar for private and independent schools.