Expats moving to Qatar face myriad challenges, but navigating the emirate’s system of education needn’t be one of them. Most expats send their children to one of the many private international schools in the country, and the biggest headache is often having to choose one from among the sheer variety of these.
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
Education in Qatar follows a system of distinct levels. After preschool, primary school ranges from grades one to six, preparatory school from grades seven to nine and secondary school from grades 10 to 12. Basic education for adults aged 18 and older is also available. For secondary school, there is a choice between general education and specialised schools for specific interests, including banking, business administration, and science and technology.
State schools are generally excellent, as Qatar continues to invest in its education to improve the knowledge, skills and ultimately the lives of its citizens.
Though public schools are free for Qatari nationals, schools have their own policies when it comes to admitting non-Qatari students.
International schools in Qatar
Even though the government puts a lot of effort into ensuring high standards at local schools, most expat children attend private international schools in Qatar due to restrictions and language barriers at public schools.
There are many options, with schools following various curricula, including the International Baccalaureate (IB), British, American and Indian systems. These schools must meet the standards of the Qatar National School Accreditation system.
Education can be a significant expense, so expats working in Qatar should try to negotiate school fees into their contract or ensure that they budget carefully. Fees such as tuition and registration fees, uniforms and excursions can add up quickly, and most fees are expected to be paid upfront at the beginning of the school year.
Enrolment requires long-term planning as waiting lists are often long and application fees high – and often non-refundable. An application form and previous school documents are usually among the acquired documents. Some schools also require a letter of recommendation, on-site entrance exams and occasionally even interviews.
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 personalities. Young children can explore basic numeracy and science, but the focus on their physical development and creative expression is paramount.
Expats needn’t worry about a language barrier in Qatari nurseries – young kids pick up new languages easily and the curriculum offers communication in both Arabic and English. All nurseries, both public and private, offer top-quality educational and play materials, as well as experienced teachers.
Special-needs education in Qatar
Empowering persons with disabilities is one of Qatar’s top priorities, and this includes quality special-needs education integrated with mainstream classrooms wherever possible.
Public and private schools provide support for students with learning, physical or developmental disabilities as well as those with behavioural, emotional and communication 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 teaching staff, are responsible for providing optimal support to children and their parents.
Though schools are becoming increasingly integrated, 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 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 will find an active community of expats who can be reached online and through social media groups.
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 find tutors for a wide spectrum of subjects and curricula – some tutors may focus on IB or IGCSE and A-Levels, while others use the Qatari curriculum. TeacherOn and MyPrivateTutor are among the commonly used online platforms.