Education and Welfare

Persian Gulf States Table of Contents

University of QatarBefore oil was discovered, there was no formal education system in Qatar. Instead, some children in villages and towns memorized passages from the Quran and learned to read and write in a kuttab, an informal class taught in mosques or homes by literate men and women knowledgeable about Islam. Based on the custom of keeping women in a milieu shut off from the political, social, and economic opportunities afforded men, the development of education in Qatar focused mainly on the male population. From 1918 to 1938, for example, an Islamic school for adult males was run by Muhammad Abd al Aziz al Mana, an eminent scholar who had studied under Muhammad Abduh of Egypt and Al Alusi of Baghdad. According to a 1970 study, only 9 percent of the population born between 1895 and 1910 were literate, as were 15 percent of those born between 1910 and 1920 and 14 percent of those born between 1920 and 1930.

In 1949 Shaykh Hamad ibn Abd Allah opened a somewhat more modern school. The school, the Islah al Muhammadiyyah, had one teacher and fifty boys. In 1951 the school received funding from the ruling family, and the number of students and teachers increased. Subjects included Islamic religion and history, Arabic, arithmetic, geography, and English. By 1954 there were four such schools, with a total of 560 male students and twentysix teachers. The first girls' school funded by oil money was a small kuttab that had been run by Amina Mahmud since 1938. After it was reorganized in 1956 as the first public school for girls in Qatar, four teachers taught 122 students the Quran, Arabic, arithmetic, ethics, and health. In the same year, the Department of Education was established. The budget for education increased from QR1 million in 1955 to QR25 million in 1960. Not only was all public schooling free, but between 1956 and 1962 students received a monthly stipend. Despite inequality during the 1950s between the number of boys and the number of girls attending school, attendance was almost equal by gender in the late 1970s, with girls outperforming boys academically.

In the early 1990s, the education system consisted of six years of primary school, three years of intermediate school, and three years of secondary school. The secondary education program includes schools specializing in religion, commerce, and technical studies in which only males are allowed. Females, however, might attend teacher-training institutions. Instruction throughout the system is in Arabic, but English is introduced in the last two years of primary school, and there are special language-training programs for government personnel. Private facilities are available for kindergarten instruction. In addition, many foreign communities have established schools for their children; the largest are the schools for the Indian community. Although the government offers assistance to private schools, they are funded mainly through tuition and private sources.

In the 1975-76 academic year, 21,402 children attended primary school; by the 1985-86 academic year, that number had risen to 31,844. Students continue to be segregated by gender. In 1986 approximately 5.6 percent of the gross national product went toward public education. The state in the 1990s continued to cover education costs, including school supplies, clothing, meals, and transportation to and from school.

In the 1988-89 academic year, there were 48,097 students in ninety-seven primary schools taught by 2,589 teachers and 22,178 secondary students in seventy-eight schools taught by 2,115 teachers. At the three vocational schools, there were 924 students and 104 teachers. In the 1989-90 academic year, there were 5,637 students at the University of Qatar, which had 504 instructors, mostly Egyptians and non-Qatari Arabs.

The first institutions of higher education in Qatar were separate teacher-training colleges for men and women that opened in 1973. Before that, those wishing to pursue higher degrees either studied abroad (mainly in Egypt and Lebanon) or took correspondence courses. A decree establishing the University of Qatar was passed, and in 1977 faculties of humanities, social studies, Islamic studies, and science joined the education faculty of the teacher-training colleges. In the 1985-86 academic year, about 1,000 Qataris received government scholarships to pursue higher education abroad, mostly in other Arab countries and in the United States, Britain, and France.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress