Qatari children are proud patriots who value sports, but are not very interested in reading and have a limited knowledge of other cultures, a new survey has found.
The results of the survey, which were conducted by Qatar’s Childhood Cultural Center and released last week, paint an occasionally conflicted portrait of Qatari children.
Findings were culled from several questionnaires completed by more than 850 Qatari children between the ages of 10 and 12, as well as 740 parents and dozens of caregivers.
The aim was to understand how children interacted with their own culture in Qatar, as well as to help develop standards for furthering their knowledge.
Most of the children said they were proud of their national identity and expressed that pride through respect for Qatar’s flag, enthusiasm in performing the national anthem, participation in religious rituals as well as wearing national dress to formal occasions.
During many of these events, Qatari flags, balloons and stickers flood the streets as many children proudly wear their national garments.
However, the survey said that supervisors of cultural activities noted some shortcomings in children’s awareness regarding national identity, such as a lack of knowledge about the Qatar map as well as some religious and traditional aspects of the country.
And, despite living in a country where an estimated 88 percent of residents are foreigners, “weakness was observed” in children’s learning about other cultures.
One reason for this may be that the survey was restricted to children in independent (state) schools – which most Qatari children attend – and excluded nationals at private schools who would have expat peers.
The survey also faulted Qatari youth for not following local and international news more closely, although it’s not clear how Qatari children compare to their peers in other countries.
A recent media consumption study among youth in Israel, for example, found that eight and 11-year-olds typically read a newspaper, online news, watched TV news and listened to a radio broadcast less than twice a week.
Additional areas of the center’s survey focused on other cultural themes, such as children’s social attitudes.
It found that the country’s youth showed a positive attitude toward helping others, and believed in the importance of working hard and sticking to ethical principles.
It also determined that children knew how to preserve public property, an area in which authorities have put considerable effort. In recent years, there have large-scale anti-littering public awareness campaigns as well as organizing community beach cleanups.
However, it appears that energy conservation efforts are occasionally falling short. The report stated that some children displayed a weakness in their consumer behavior by not rationalizing electricity and acquiring commodities other than basic and useful objects.
While children around the world have been known to prefer toys and pricey gadgets to essential household items, previous studies have shown that Qatari parents and adults tend to overspend on luxuries, setting an example for their children.
Sports and arts
When it came to sports, children showed high awareness regarding the importance of athletics in improving public health and some of the rules for various sports.
However, they have minimal awareness about the value of arts such as theater, starring in plays and lack interest in reading books, stories and magazines, according to the report.
Qatar annually hosts many major athletic events as part of a push by authorities to position the country as a global sporting hub and develop a stronger athletic culture ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
It also has an annual public holiday, National Sports Day, to encourage residents to spend a day playing sports, getting active and being outdoors.
On the other hand, the report states that the children lacked knowledge about a healthy diet and first aid.
Young people are especially at risk for health-related complications such as diabetes due to weight problems.
Many attribute the high rate to Qatar’s harsh climate, which can limit opportunities for exercise and increase residents’ reliance on cars.
The Childhood Cultural Center concludes that it should be appointed as an official body to oversee children’s culture in Qatar, and work on improving the deficiencies and weaknesses cited in the report.
Additionally, it highlights several other issues such as encouraging Qatari children to use and learn the Arabic language as their mother tongue.