THE EDUCATION SECTOR IS THE FOUNDATION, PILLAR AND CORNERSTONE OF ANY COUNTRY’S NATION-BUILDING EFFORTS. IN OUR ANNUAL EDUCATION SPOTLIGHT, QATARTODAY FOCUSES ON THE ACTIVITIES OF SOME OF QATAR’S PREMIER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS IN THE PAST YEAR.
It’s the opportune time to bring out our annual education sector feature. We are inundated with press releases about new intakes in various colleges in Qatar, with many boasting record numbers this year. The two universities in the country are expanding their offerings, with Qatar set to get its first home-grown medical school. There have been talks in the Supreme Education Council about allowing foreign universities to set up in Qatar, if recent media reports are to be believed. All these rapid changes are already being reflected in the workforce with the “Cultural Statistics in Qatar” report released by Ministry of Development, Planning and Statistics, stating that Qatari women held 21% of the jobs in education, the social and natural sciences and the media. International students are flocking to Doha in bigger numbers than ever to take advantage of the country’s world-class higher education system. In a short while, Qatar has managed to rank itself high on the preferred education destinations by students in the Middle East because of factors such as simple visa procedures and the presence of international education institutes of repute. Several new schools are set to open this academic year to ease the stress on the desperately underserved kindergarten, primary and secondary school markets.
Qatar retained its fourth position among 148 countries around the world last year in terms of the quality of its education system, according to the Global Competitiveness Report 20132014 and Alpen Capital. And although foreign investment in the local education sector leaves much to be desired (and one hopes the recently announced changes in the commercial law will affect this for the better), the government continues to allocate a sizable budget towards education - $7.2 billion last year, with a 100% increase for the next five years, much of this geared towards K12 education. The popularity of independent schools in Qatar is a reflection of the success of government initiatives in this area. “Qataris prefer independent schools over the private ones. The Ideation Centre survey shows that independent schools score over private institutions in terms of student preference, translating into higher enrolments,” according to Alpen Capital's GCC Education Industry report.
But there is no time to rest on our laurels. The development of the industry demands nothing short of sustained attention, specifically in the K12, vocational training sectors and schools to cater to students with disabilities (Qatar already is ranked highest in the GCC for its inclusive education system). Despite the country’s demand for skilled and semi-skilled labour, it falls short of a national-level structure to promote and regulate vocational education. Education doesn’t end when you graduate. It’s a continual and lifelong process. That Qatar recognises this is evidenced by the several executive and niche courses for professionals that are available here – namely by HEC Paris, Qatar Leadership Centre, Josoor Institute and more. By all accounts, it has been a good year for the sector and the momentum gained promises many more such years