With reporting from Ankita Menon
Over the past few weeks, some of Doha’s private schools have stopped accepting applications for school places after the Supreme Education Council (SEC) warned them to pare down class sizes.
Speaking to Doha News, several schools confirmed that they received a memo from the SEC last week informing them that their classes should have a maximum of 30 students.
Many other private schools, however, told Doha News that they had not gotten such a notice, indicating that the SEC only sent out circulars to schools it knew to be in violation of the class size limit.
The limit appears to have been set in 2008, but many schools have begun operating outside of these boundaries in recent years, due to the growing population and a lack of awareness about the mandate.
In response to the memo, several of Doha’s popular Indian schools and at least one Filipino school have announced a suspension of all new admissions, as they work out how to reduce their class sizes without excluding existing students.
The move comes at a time when Qatar’s secondary education system is struggling to accommodate a big influx of students, as the population jumped by 12.5 percent last year. Another 15 percent jump is predicted this year.
Ashghal, the country’s public works authority, has been working to build schools at a frantic pace to meet rising demand, but its president previously said that it would take several years before the crunch is resolved.
Two Indian schools, the Birla Public School and MES Indian school, have confirmed to Doha News that they have ceased to accept applications from new students.
MES Principal A.P Sasidharan told us that the school is following class size maximums recommended by Indian authorities:
“The SEC has said only 30 students in each class, but according to the CBSE (Indian Central Board of Secondary Education) the limit is 40, so we are basically trying to readjust and figure out what to do.”
Sasidharan confirmed that some of MES classes exceed 30, so the school cannot accept any more students at present. The school is currently searching for new premises that would be large enough to accommodate the expanding school population, he added.
Other schools told Doha News the following:
- Birla Public School said that their admissions process for the 2014-2015 academic year has been closed, adding that the school also had a long waiting list from which any places would be filled if any current students leave during the academic year.
- Asna Nafees, principal of the DPS Modern Indian School, told Doha News that the school had also received the SEC circular, but “this actually does not make a difference to us” as class sizes are already capped at 30 students.
- The Lebanese School said that although their class sizes sometimes reach 32 students, they have yet to hear from the SEC.
- According to Gulf Times, the Philippine School Doha said it has stopped accepting new students for the 2014-2015 academic year which begins in June, stating that its campus has reached maximum capacity. The principal told the newspaper this was due to the class size directive.
Not all of the schools that have received the directive are clear about how to proceed.
The secretary to the principal at the Ideal Indian School (IIS) told Doha News that the school was still unsure whether the new directive applied to them or not.
“The message from the SEC just told us that the change will occur in the future, but didn’t tell us whether we had to follow it,” he said. The school has emailed the SEC for clarification, but hasn’t yet received a response, he added.
IIS currently has between 30 to 35 students in each class, and that admissions are currently closed for all years except for Kindergarten 1, he said.
Meanwhile, several British curriculum schools said that they had received no notification from the SEC, possibly because their classes already operate with 30 students per class or less. They also said that they were unaware of any ruling from the SEC governing maximum class sizes.
Different rulings on class sizes appear to exist for government-run independent schools and private schools in Qatar.
In 2008, the limit for government schools was set at 26 – an increase of one from the previous limit of 25. This is in tandem with school building criteria published on the SEC website, which specifies a class size of 25 for all years except kindergarten, which has a set maximum class size of 20.
Also in 2008, Qatar’s Ministry of Education (the forerunner to the SEC) sent a directive to all private and community schools in the country, asking that they limit their class sizes to 30 students, with a maximum of 25 in kindergarten.
Whilst there is no evidence to suggest that this rule for private schools has been rescinded, it is clear that many schools have been operating outside these limits in recent years.
The SEC has not responded to requests for comment.
Is your child affected by renewed enforcement of this directive? Thoughts?