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Friday, June 18, 2021

English vs Arabic: Qatar University decision continues to stir controversy

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Controversy continues over the government’s surprise order to Qatar University to switch from English to Arabic instruction, as questions remain over how the policy will be implemented and whether it will help or hurt students’ futures.

Effective this fall, the disciplines of law, international affairs, media and business administration must all be taught in Arabic, the Supreme Education Council decreed shortly before QU broke for spring break.

The decision, which effectively scraps the university’s English-language prerequisites, will undoubtedly make it easier for Qatari students to gain acceptance to the school.

But key issues remain, namely:

  • The fate of non-Arabic speaking instructors and students. The Peninsula reports:

The new decision is in essence a burden on the faculty and administration of QU. One of the key reasons why QU climbed the ranks of universities in the world was because of its research and publications in English, which also helped it to gain international accreditation.

The SEC decision also means that the fate of foreign teachers is in a fix. If the deans and heads of departments cannot speak Arabic themselves, how they can be expected to instruct students in Arabic?

  • Whether scrapping QU’s English-language requirements will hurt graduates’ employment chances. The global landscape is such that many careers in business, international relations and media involve a healthy understanding of how things work in the West, as well as the use of the English language. Additionally, many textbooks and research relevant to student coursework is not available in Arabic. If QU students are not required to be well-versed in English, how will that affect their employability?
  • How this will affect other higher education institutions in Qatar. If students choose not to matriculate at QU because of its new policy, their only other choice is applying to universities within Education City. For many, the cost, rigorous academic standards, and potential culture shock of learning in a mixed gender environment render this option unfeasible.

What other issues have been raised regarding this SEC decision? Thoughts?

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