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Various challenges are faced by expats moving to this Middle Eastern emirate, but navigating the system of education in Qatar is one aspect that doesn’t have to be too complicated. Most expats send their children to private international schools and their biggest obstacle is often not the lack of places in Qatari schools, but rather choosing between them.
Parents should research potential schools and apply as soon as possible. To help with this, the official website of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education provides a list of schools.
Public schools in Qatar
Public schools in Qatar have been converted to independent schools. This means they receive government funding, but they have the autonomy to employ their methods of teaching. Independent schools can recruit teachers and staff according to their policy and each has their style of teaching. Still, the curriculum must follow regulations of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Compulsory subjects are Arabic, English, maths, science and Islamic studies.
Education follows distinct levels. After preschool, primary school consists of grades one to six, preparatory school for grades seven to nine and secondary school for grades 10 to 12. Past age 18, basic education for adults is also available. For secondary school, there is a choice between general education or specialised and technical schools for specific interests, including banking, business administration, and science and technology.
State schools provide world-class education as Qatar wishes to grow as a country and improve the knowledge and skills of their citizens.
Though public schools are free for Qatari nationals, schools may differ in policy regarding non-Qatari students. As such, most students are Qatari, though expats with the right connections might be admitted. Many expats prefer an international curriculum.
International schools in Qatar
Even though the government puts a lot of effort into ensuring the standards of local schools, most expat children attend private international schools in Qatar. There are many options, with schools following various curricula, including the International Baccalaureate (IB), British, American and Indian systems. These schools must meet standards of the Qatar National School Accreditation system.
Education can be a significant expense, so expats working in Qatar should try and negotiate school fees into their contract or ensure that they budget carefully. Fees add up quickly for tuition, as well as additional expenses such as registration fees, uniforms and excursions, and most fees are expected to be paid upfront at the beginning of the school year.
Enrolment requires long-term planning because waiting lists for spaces in schools are long. Some expats apply when signing their employment contract, since companies may reserve spaces in schools.
Expats applying to a school can expect to pay a non-refundable application fee. They often need to fill out an application and provide previous school documents, their child's health history and physical exam results. Some schools also require a letter of recommendation, on-site entrance exams and a language test.
After enrolment, expats may also need to give copies of the student’s residence permit, passport copies, photos and immunisation records as well as copies of their residence permits.
The school year in Qatar runs from September to June, with a typical school day lasting from 7.30am to 2pm. After-school activities extend the school day for children who take part in them.
Nurseries in Qatar
Qatar recognises the importance of early childhood education and there are many kindergartens, both public and private. Private ones may be attached to larger international schools.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education emphasises that kindergarten should encourage children to be active, creative and able to question, criticise and have their own personality. Young children can explore basic numeracy and science, but the focus on their physical development and creative expression is paramount.
Expats do not need to worry about a language barrier in Qatari nurseries – young kids pick up language easily and the foundation curriculum offers communication in both Arabic and English. All nurseries, both public and private, offer top-quality educational and play materials and environments with experienced teachers.
Special needs education in Qatar
Empowering persons with disabilities is one of Qatar’s top priorities, and this includes quality integrated special needs education in mainstream classrooms where possible.
Comprehensive and integrated educational programmes are available for students with special needs and gifted students. Public and private schools provide support for students with learning, physical or developmental disabilities as well as those with behavioural, emotional and communications disorders, including students with autism and intellectual disabilities.
Schools must tailor services to each student. Curricula may be adapted to meet appropriate educational goals, and specialised materials and technology are employed to aid in the learning process. Specialists alongside all teaching staff are responsible for providing optimal support to children and their parents.
Though schools are becoming increasingly integrated, depending on the severity of the child’s disability, there are specialised schools that specifically cater to students with disabilities and still provide a comprehensive education programme. Specialised schools include Al-Hidaya schools for students with intellectual disabilities and separate schools for students with hearing impairments.
Homeschooling in Qatar
Homeschooling is an option for many residents in Qatar. Doha Home Educators (DHE) has been pivotal in creating an organised network for homeschoolers in Doha and regularly organises classroom lessons, activities and events. Parents who choose this alternative to mainstream schooling in Qatar can find an active community of expats who can be reached via social media.
Given the vague homeschooling regulations for expats in Qatar, DHE advises parents to follow the regulations of their home country.
Tutors in Qatar
Tutoring in Qatar, like elsewhere around the world, is a popular industry. There are many online platforms to use to find tutors for a wide spectrum of subjects and curricula – some tutors may focus on IB or IGCSE and A-Levels, while others on the Qatari curriculum. TeacherOn and MyPrivateTutor are among the commonly used online platforms.
►For more on homeschooling in Qatar, see the Doha Home Educators site
►Ministry of Education and Higher Education: www.edu.gov.qa
►For info on the capital city, read about education and schools in Doha
"Almost every nation is represented with a local international school, or more than one. Qataris send their children either to local schools or the international ones as well." Get some insights into schools in our interview with Oliver, a German expat in Qatar.
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