DOHA: The number of school students in Qatar has increased eight times over the past three decades and an increasing number of Qatari students now opt to study in private schools, according to a recent study released by the Permanent Population Committee.
The study that analysed the education scenario in Qatar from 1980 to 2008 identified the shortage of Qatari students opting for technical and job-oriented courses as a major challenge facing higher education. Interestingly, the number of Qatari female students seeking higher education abroad is on the rise, indicating a positive change in the traditional attitude towards women’s education.
However, there is a general decline in the number of nationals studying abroad, after establishment of branch campuses of several foreign universities in the country. The study found that that the number of school students in Qatar in different levels- kindergarten, primary, intermediate and secondary- has doubled four times over the past three decades with an annual increase of 4.5 percent. There has been an increase in the number of girls joining schools.
In early 1980s, government schools had been accommodating all Qatari students and two-thirds of the total non-Qatari students. Now the trend is gradually reversing. The number of Qatari students in government/Independent schools fell to 73 percent in 2008. On the other hand, the number of non-Qatari students in private schools shot up from 38 percent in 1980s to 50 percent by middle of 1990s and to 70 percent in 2008.
Independent schools accommodated nearly half of the school students- from primary to secondary levels- in 2008 while the Arab community schools like Jordanian, Lebanese and Egyptian started to attract even some Qatari students.
Majority of the teachers in independent primary schools are Qataris since 1985 and they never shift to private schools. The number of Qatari teachers in the primary level has been steadily increasing since then, reaching 44 percent in 2008. The study also revealed that majority of school teachers in Qatar were women. The gap in the men-women ratio is wider in the primary level, compared to the intermediate and secondary levels, that are also dominated by women teachers.
The higher education sector has also witnessed rapid growth over the past three decades. The number of students rose from 2,000 in 1980 to more than 8,500 in 2008, with an annual increase of five percent. Female students outnumber male students in universities. The trend is similar among Qatari and non-Qatari students.
The study says that this is a GCC phenomenon since most men join their family business at an early age. Even non-Qatari men join the job market at an early age due to the availability of more job opportunities. The study found that the number of Qatari women studying abroad has been on the rise. During 1980s women formed 25 percent of the total overseas Qatari students which rose to 50 percent in 2005.
A major challenge facing the higher education sector is the gap between content of the curriculum and the demands of the Qatari job market. Many graduates, especially women fail to find jobs due to this factor, concludes the study.