QATAR EDUCATION GUIDE 2020
Qatar & Its Quest For Best Education
Qatar, the world’s richest country, is on the path to make its economy self-reliant. As a result, education is an important criterion under the human development pillar of Qatar National Vision 2030. The state recognises the importance of developing a knowledge-based and diversified economy to ensure that the nation thrives in the long-term. Qatar has made great progress in aligning its national education policy to the future economic goals of the country.
Over the past few years, this Arab country has been heavily investing in the education sector, resulting in an exponential growth in number of private and public education institutions. By 2023, its education market is expected to reach around US$2.8 billion.
In 2020, the Kingdom allocated QR 22.1 billion to education sector in its annual budget, representing 10.5 per cent of total expenditure. Major projects in the education sector, currently underway, include expansions in schools and other educational facilities network.
The country has also been investing in skill enrichment and creating job-ready workforce. The Qatari education ministry has called for the need of an international curriculum that focuses on learning, digital sessions, English language and an overall holistic development.
Qatari leaders seek to educate highly productive, skilled nationals to meet the demands of the labour market. This strategy, in line with Vision 2030, is known as “Qatarization” and is designed to increase the number of locals in joint ventures and government departments, filling up key positions formerly occupied by expatriates. The target is 50 per cent of the workforce in the industry and energy sectors.
In its quest to create the best education system, Qatar is constantly overhauling its primary and secondary school curriculum. The state provides free education to every citizen at the primary and secondary level.
At higher education level too, the nation is not just sticking to its Islamic values, it is also importing the American, British and other proven models from across the world.
At the centre of all this, stands the Qatar Foundation (QF), a major vehicle for the government’s education agenda. Harvard Business Review has referred to QF as “Leading the way in developing this (start-up & entrepreneurship) Middle East ecosystem for technology and innovation is Qatar Foundation (QF), a non-profit organisation supporting Qatar’s development through its education, research, and community development initiatives.”
The Qatar Education Guide 2020 will look at the current structure and challenges faced by the industry currently.
The Evolution of Qatari Education System
Qatar has come a long way from its days of nationalistic, Islamic, and non-formal education. Today, it has a system of Independent Schools with updated curriculum and international teachers. Qatar has an open approach to education and has been able to direct its resources towards high-quality education. Fees of the country’s private institutions have decreased, leading to higher enrolments.
The education market in the world’s richest country is expected to reach around US$2.8 billion by 2023. The country is also heavily investing in online education sessions, which has led to an increase of women candidates in the education system.
As mentioned previously, education is free in Qatar for primary and secondary levels. A typical 12-year public school cycle consists of six-year primary level, three-year secondary level and a three-year tertiary level. Students in government schools are also provided books and free transportation.
Initially, Qatari Independent Schools mostly focused on four subject areas: Arabic, English, Mathematics, and Science. Schools were later given the opportunity to develop their own curriculum that aligned to national standards. The high school curriculum in the Arab nation now focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.
Qatar also launched the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in 2009 – a platform that brings together education stakeholders, opinion leaders and decision makers from all over the world to discuss and deliberate on educational issues. WISE also created a Nobel Prize for education, with a US$500,000 award for its recipient.
Currently, the education system is overseen jointly by the Ministry of Education and the Supreme Education Council. Then there is the Qatari Foundation, which has been instrumental in nurturing an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country. The 2019 Harvard Business Review article points out how QF is changing the start-up game through its education, research, and community development initiatives.
“Take Stellic, a pathfinder platform that allows students to identify the right courses and make the right choices to graduate on time. The company, which started as a student project at Carnegie Mellon University’s Qatar campus, is now being used at two US universities, with three more soon to follow. But Stellic might never have been more than an idea without access to the expert mentorship, incubation, funding, and environment of diverse backgrounds and ideas that Qatar’s innovation ecosystem offers,” the article says.
Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), the country’s leading tech innovation and entrepreneurship hub, and part of QF, is combined with nine world-class universities and three established research institutes.
Qatar, which topped the global entrepreneurship environment in a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report, has been regularly hosting events and exhibitions to support university students aspiring to become entrepreneurs. It also has built intensive programmes that helps students understand the process of becoming an entrepreneur, including how to seek funds for their ideas.
Top Universities in Qatar
Qatar University, established in 1973, has repeatedly ranked among top varsities in the Middle East. In features at number 6 in the latest QS Arab Region University Rankings and at number 32 in the QS World University Rankings 2019. It has over 17 research centres with multi-million-dollar funding.
Other top universities in the country include:
- Carnegie Mellon University, Qatar
- Hamad Bin Khalifa University
- Weill Cornell Medicine, Qatar
- Doha Institute for Graduate Studies
- University of Calgary, Qatar
- Georgetown University, Qatar
- Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, Qatar
- Texas A&M University, Qatar
- Northwestern University, Qatar
- HEC Paris, Qatar
- University College London, Qatar
- College of the North Atlantic, Qatar
Qatari Educational Reform: Investing in Teachers, Risk-Taking
Keeping in line with Vision 2030, education continues to remain a primary investment for Qatar, with the Kingdom hoping great human returns in all fields.
One of the major responsibilities of educational reforms and Qatar’s national vision, lies with educators. In the academic year 2019-2020, around 219 educators are expected to join Qatari public schools. Policymakers and academicians agree that a strong cooperation is needed between teachers, students, and parents to create an inspiring educational process and promote important values in the new generations.
As the national education system evolves, educators need to take more risks while those at the top of the hierarchy need to accept failure for the overall growth of education system.
School leaders and teachers must be allowed to take more risks and “fail well” if education systems are to see genuine improvement.
Dr. Asmaa Al-Fadala, Director of Research and Content Development at the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), says plans designed to raise the quality of learning in schools are not working, because schools themselves are removed from the process.
She says, “Educators – whether they be school leaders, teachers, or administrators – play essential roles in every level of reform… To have sustained improvement, we need to revisit the design of professional learning. We need to invest in teacher learning. We need to shift the discussion of what educational change we want to introduce to how to design professional learning in complex organisations like schools.
“We need to invest in our teachers; not just tell them to teach this way or pick up this programme, but rather enhance their expertise.”
To implement this, schools need to take a four-step approach:
- Provide time
- Provide resources
- Provide support for teacher learning
- Creating a culture open to more risk-taking where teachers and learners can try new ideas and test new models.
WISE and its educators also advocate the use of Artificial Intelligence to bridge the student-teacher-learning gap.
Despite all the efforts, Qatar still has a long way to go achieve its dream. In 2019, according to the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Qatar was among the five Arab countries that ranked in the bottom one-third among the 79 participating countries. The other Arab nations were Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
However, the results show that despite ranking poorly in global terms, Qatar has made strong improvement in its students’ scores. In all three subjects – reading, mathematics and science – the share of low-achieving Qatari students shrank, and the share of top-performing students increased.
Most of the improvement appears to be due to Qatar’s substantial efforts to strengthen its education system, added the PISA report.
Qatar Education and Training Sector: Fact, Figures & Targets
Qatar has broken down its educational and training stages into four main pillars:
- Enrolment: This pillar shows the ability of the education system to provide all learners at different education levels with learning opportunities regardless of age, sex and abilities.
- Attainment and achievement: It shows the rates of attainment and academic achievement of all learners at different education levels.
- Citizenship and values: It shows how well learners appreciate the values, culture and heritage of Qatari society while understanding and respecting other cultures.
- Labour force: It focuses on the skills, effectiveness and efficiency of the ETS labour force at the various educational levels.
Let’s look at the facts and targets at each level:
- Although Qatar experienced an increase in the gross enrolment rate in early education (62 per cent in 2015), 40 per cent of children aged 3-5 years did not enroll.
- In the academic year 2014-2015, the number of preschool students was 42,615, and they were taught by 3,008 teachers, including 718 Qataris or 23.8 per cent. Teaching at this level is almost exclusively done by women regardless of nationality (less than 1 per cent)
- Increase the enrolment rate of children aged 3 years in formal nurseries and children aged 4 and 5 years informal early childhood education programmes by 10 per cent to become 72.5 per cent in 2022 (2 per cent, per annum)
- Increase the proportion of early childhood female teachers (Qatari and non-Qatari) with formal early education qualifications in public kindergartens by 12 per cent to become 20 per cent in 2022 (3per cent per annum)
- Develop assessment tools for children’s learning and development at the end of their pre-school education (end of kindergarten stage) and start implementing them as of the academic year 2018-2019.
Grades 1-12 education
- The net enrolment rate in primary and secondary schools during the academic year 2014-2015 was 89.4 per cent (86.6 per cent for males and 90.3 per cent for females)
- In the academic year 2016-2017, the number of specialized secondary students in Qatar was only 1148 (654 Qatari & 494 Non-Qatari), with a majority of 95.4 per cent male students.
- In the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) of math test for fourth graders in 2015, only 3 per cent of Qatari students got the highest scores compared to 6 per cent internationally, while 35 per cent failed to achieve the minimum level, compared to 7 per cent internationally.
- In the academic year 2014-2015, there were 20,116 primary to secondary teachers, of which 16.6 per cent were Qataris.
- Qatari schools (primary, preparatory and secondary) provided various activities to develop teachers’ skills, such as seminars on teaching methods, training with teachers from other schools, recruitment of specialised teachers and organisation of visits to experienced teachers’ classes. Schools provided these services at 97 per cent, 74 per cent, 61 per cent and 97 per cent respectively.
- Increase the proportion of resident students (aged 6-18 years) enrolled in the three stages (primary, preparatory and secondary) by 5 per cent till 2022.
- By 2022, increase the performance rate of students who achieve 70 per cent or higher in the basic subjects of math, science, Arabic and English by 3 per cent in grades 3 and 6 and 6 per cent in grades 9 and 12.
- Increase the average score of students from Qatar in the international tests that include Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), TIMSS and PISA at a minimum rate of 30 points per round.
- Reduce grades 1-12 average absenteeism rates by 5 per cent (1 per cent, per annum)
- Increase the percentage of teachers with appropriate and recognised teaching qualifications (diploma or bachelor of education) in public schools by 10 per cent (2 per cent, per annum)
- Increase the number of teachers with professional licenses in public schools by 30 per cent (6 per cent, per annum)
- Math, science and physics are the main entry points for a knowledge economy. The enrolment rate in these disciplines at Qatar University was only 15 per cent and 18 per cent of Qatari graduates and master’s students of science, math, engineering and technology programmes.
- Increase the rate of Qataris’ enrolment in post-secondary education by 5 per cent among females and 10 per cent among males by 2022.
- Increase the graduation rate among male and female Qatari post-secondary students by 10 per cent by 2022.
- Raise the graduation rates among male and female Qatari students in knowledge economy disciplines (math, science, IT and engineering) by 10 per cent by 2022.
Common Education Goal
Develop tools to measure children’s understanding of Qatari and global citizenship, assess how well they apply positive values, and start implementation by 2019.
*Data compiled from Qatar Second National Development Strategy (2018-2022) Report
Enhancing Curriculum, Evolving Methodology: A Qatari Approach
In its continued efforts to enhance curriculum and quench the thirst for knowledge, Qatar has thrown open the education evolution platform, inviting comments and reviews to keep up with times.
Qatar University for instance, has a Curriculum Enhancement Policy. “The basic guiding principle of the curriculum enhancement policy at Qatar University is that faculty should have the primary responsibility for the content, quality, and effectiveness of the curriculum and thus, faculty shall play a key role in all stages of the process. In addition, the process shall consider learning outcome assessment results, changes in the market needs, accreditation or international standards in the field, and national priorities,” says the varsity.
Curriculum changes typically originate with the program faculty and/or the committee responsible for overseeing the assessment of learning outcomes, followed by consultations between management and departments for implementation.
Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q) has introduced micro courses, to help students learn about a wide variety of topics, complementing their coursework.
“The micro courses are taught by professors from Carnegie Mellon’s main campus in a hybrid fashion, with part of the instruction in person, and part by videoconferencing. Micro courses cover a wide variety of topics like how artificial intelligence (AI) affects society, blockchain applications, computational medicine and environmental ideas,” says CMU-Q on its website.
“We selected topics for the micro courses that would give our students a new perspective. For instance, in the required courses they learn about AI, so we offered micro courses that look at the ethics and the societal impact of that technology. We want them to understand the broader context of what they are learning,” says Michael Trick, dean of CMU-Q.
The methodology of education is also witnessing a change.
In a long post, WISE members Deena Newaz and Vesta Gheibi note, “The evident gaps in our current education systems such as growing disparity and the skills gap have led to the emergence of alternative models that are student-centered, ecosystemic, and collaborative. Concurrently, there is an increasing appetite to invest in the education industry. In 2017 alone, the edtech sector received a record $9.5 billion investment, driven by the promise of exponential technologies like artificial intelligence.”
The duo argued for combining the medium of storytelling with education. “We think this practice of storytelling to speculate the future of education is inviting for everyone – young or old, expert or novice, traditional or curious – anyone who is invested in the education of our future generations. It brings us together in a new way and also allows us to reflect deeply about our own understandings, biases, fears, and hopes. Speculative fiction is one of the many tools at our disposal as part of the education community to bring these important conversations to the forefront and act accordingly,” they write.
Qatari Schools & Their Holistic Approach to Childhood
A holistic approach to education addresses the intellectual, physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual aspects of a child’s life. Children learn different things at different stages, supported by educators, adequate course resoruces and involvement of guardians.
According to Qatar’s Department of Social Development, “A holistically childhood-based policy with concerns to maximise social and human development in Qatar by 2030 needs realignment to invest earlier in childhood.”
Holistic education is typically rooted in experiential learning. It centres education on the relationships that people create with each other. Most Qatari schools claim to provide holistic education on their websites.
Qatar Foundation’s Academyati is an example of such an innovative school that uses an unconventional curriculum based on each student’s interests. Academyati doesn’t make children fill up worksheets but connects them with nature and the world around. From an early on, kids are encouraged to pursue what they like and work towards creating empathetic, socially conscious problem-solvers.
Children here are not stuck in pre-fixed age groups and grouped according to learning pace combined with a personalised education and an innovative ecosystem.
Qatar Academy Doha (QAD), part of Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education, also focuses on offering experiential learning experiences that go beyond the classroom.
In its Annual Report, QAD writes the primary school program focuses on the development of the whole child with five elements: Knowledge, Concepts, Skills, Attitudes and Action. The programme prepares students to be active participants in a lifelong journey of learning.
Assessment and grades here are “based on a balanced judgment of learning, demonstrated through the summative assessment tasks within the transdisciplinary Units of Inquiry and stand-alone subjects.”
The Rise of Private Players in Qatar Education System
In its effort to make Qatar a self-reliant economy, the Kingdom is heavily investing in the education sector resulting in the rise of several private education institutions.
According to a Ken Research report, the Gulf nation’s education market grew at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 4.6 per cent during the period 2013 to 2018. It is expected to touch around US$2.8 billion by 2023. The region has witnessed a massive influx of private schools and universities, capitalising on the demand for quality education, adds the report.
“International schools such as The Phoenix Private School, Doha British School, DPS Modern Indian School, Park House English School and GEMS American Academy Qatar amongst others have opened their doors in the Qatar region.
With a impressive line-up schools expected to start operations in the next five years, it will likely challenge the sustainability of schools. This could evidently result in some of the smaller private operators shutting down their operations leading to consolidation,” it states.
With the heavy investments and rise of private players in the system, the overall student enrolment is likely to go up, which is in line with Qatar’s Vision 2030.
In the coming years, the country’s K-12 segment will hold the largest market share, followed by higher education segment and test preparation.
In K-12 segment, the private sector seems to hold with modern schools and world-class curriculum. However, the cost of private education is higher than government schools.
Similarly, in the higher education market, higher fees result in limited the number of enrolments in private universities. However, the enrolment of female students has seen a rise in recent years.
Apart the traditional market, private players are creating a niche in the Exam Test Preparation, e-Learning and Vocational Training markets. As students ready themselves for global academics, preparing for tests such as IELTS, GRE, SAT, TOEFL and GMAT becomes important. The country is witnessing a growing number of candidates moving for study abroad.
According to the Boston Consulting Group, Qatar’s private school market growth will be governed by four factors by 2023:
- Increase in school-aged (3 to 17 years) population growth
- Rise in enrolments in private school (For kindergarten is the number is expected to increase from 55 percent to 80 percent)
- The shift toward private schools: Enrolments likely to grow to 70 percent
- Tuition fees are expected to increase in line with inflation
Qatar Education Ecosystem: What does The Future Hold?
Qatar’s economic activity is expected to improve, supported by improving energy prices, government spending for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2030 National Vision.
While Qatar education has some excellent potential and investment opportunities, the sector is not without its challenges. “Qatar has been embroiled in a diplomatic crisis with its neighbors, which has led to an uncertain political and economic climate. This situation could alter expatriate demographics and negatively affect the overall economy,” says BCG.
Even though the environment seems to be improving in the last few months, emerging Middle East tensions still shroud a cloud of confusion for investors.
Thanks to the expatriate community and more locals opting for quality education, there’s strong demand for private schools in Qatar.
According to the Middle East rating agency, “Qatar has one of the Gulf region’s fastest-growing education sectors with the construction of 8 to 12 new schools with a capacity of 1,500 to 2,000 students per school expected to be required each year by 2022.
“Growth of this nature has in large part been encouraged and sustained through rising levels of government funding which has allowed for the construction of new education facilities and the support of a wide range of innovative development and reform programs delivered by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.”
The total number of students in Qatar is expected to reach 391,931 by 2022, registering a CAGR of 3.9 percent since 2017, it adds.
Kingdom-led initiatives to improve the educational attainment of Qatari nationals has seen an improvement in the educational performance of Qatari citizens, especially women.
The challenges remain in the major shortage of trained teachers (which will only become severe in the future) and retaining students back in the country for higher education.
Overall, the industry is poised for growth due to rising population, high per capita income and preference for private education.