Parents in Qatar who are still scrambling to find school spaces for their children could see some relief in the coming weeks, a senior official at the Supreme Education Council (SEC) has said.
Nine new private international schools are in the process of obtaining final government approvals and are expected to open in time for the 2015-16 academic year, said Aysha Saleh Al-Hashemi, the assistant director of private school affairs at the SEC’s education institute. She spoke to Doha News today following a press conference at the SEC’s West Bay/Dafna headquarters.
Al-Hashemi declined to name any of the schools, but said the “majority” will follow the British curriculum and that some 5,000 new student spaces are expected to be created. She also suggested most will be located outside of central Doha in outlying communities such as Al Wakrah.
Al-Hashemi said many of the schools are waiting for approvals from other government offices, such as a sign-off from the traffic department saying that the area around the school can safely accommodate the volume of vehicles dropping off and picking up students during peak periods.
She said she hoped to make a formal announcement and provide details about the schools within two weeks. Most students in Qatar will start the new academic year on Sept. 6.
As Qatar’s population continues to rapidly increase, some parents have said that they’ve struggled to find school spaces for their children.
However, Al-Hashemi said there is an adequate number of schools for the country as a whole.
While there are a sufficient number of British and American schools, there is currently a shortage of spaces in Indian, Syrian and Egyptian schools as well as for other curricula in some specific areas of the country.
In February, the SEC announced 14 new Indian schools were scheduled to open in an attempt to help meet the demand, which has seen enrollment at one school, MES Indian School, soar to 10,476 – almost double the permitted number of 5,400 students.
No further update has been given on these new schools.
Al-Hashemi said the SEC is working to make it easier for investors to open new international schools in Qatar and is also creating an online portal to allow residents to search for schools that teach a specific curriculum.
In the meantime, she said parents who are still searching for school spaces are encouraged to contact the SEC for assistance.
Al-Hashemi said the most recent figures show there are more than 262,000 students enrolled in 433 schools across the country. That includes:
- 102,426 students in 191 independent (government) schools;
- 146,188 students in 155 private schools; and
- 13,584 children in 87 private kindergartens.
Comparable figures for the previous year were not immediately available.
The SEC also announced on Sunday that it would make changes to the standardized testing system in Qatar’s independent schools, which are primary for Qatari students.
In July, many residents expressed outrage over a sharp increase in the number of high school students who failed their exams.
Some of the frustration came from students receiving relatively high exam scores throughout the year, but coming up short in their finals.
Al-Hashemi said the SEC would be working more closely with individual schools and teachers to develop more consistent evaluation criteria.
Additionally, exams for grade 12 students will be administered solely by the SEC at the end of the first and second semesters. Currently, they are tested separately by their individual schools and the SEC.
Separately, Al-Hashemi said the SEC planned to open a new training and support center for educators in Qatar teaching students with disabilities or special needs.