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By Isabel Ovalle
DOHA: With demand for international schools on the upswing, Western families living in Doha have a hard time admitting their children in such institutions.
A burgeoning economy drawing a large number of Western families to the country leads to a race for seats in international schools which have long waiting lists. The phenomenon is exacerbated by anxious parents applying for admission in numerous schools in keeping with their needs and preferences.
European embassies here, such as those of the United Kingdom and Spain, have received enquiries on the issue from families planning to relocate to Qatar. The British Embassy told The Peninsula: “Qatar’s burgeoning economy and fast growth has drawn an increasing number of people to the country, including many British nationals. We recognise that this means there is high demand for school seats and we welcome efforts by the Qatari authorities to address this challenge, for example, with opportunities for other international schools looking to work in partnership with Qatar”.
There are about 15,000 British citizens living in Doha. The Spanish Embassy has also received enquiries of a similar nature.
According to some Spanish citizens, it is difficult to be admitted in certain schools because of high demand. Nevertheless, the Embassy doesn’t recall any student who failed to be schooled.
One of the most popular schools for Westerners is Doha College. Mark Hunter, vice principal for Student Services of this center informed The Peninsula that it has 1,500 students from 50 different nationalities and it teaches children from preschool to 18 years. This College is a selective entry school and it has waiting lists for all academic grades. The management of the centre is aware that when parents apply to their school they have other options, but Doha College is in many cases the first choice.
Other well known schools among the Western community with waiting list are Doha English Speaking School, the American School of Doha and the International School of London (ISL), among others. The Head of Admission and Marketing of ISL, Nivin El Aawar, informed this daily that this center has 862 students of 63 nationalities, with ages from three to 18 years. There are three classes per grade with 22 pupils per group and 20 pupils per class in Early Childhood and approximately 200 teachers. Currently ISL has around 300 students on waiting list. This list is reviewed in January for new admissions for the next academic year. Carlos N is the father of two girls, one of them in Primary. He applied for admission in all of the mentioned schools, as well as two others. Aware that it could be hard to find a place for his child, he decided to travel to Doha in February with his wife, seven months ahead of the beginning of the school year and before moving definitely to Qatar.
This family decided to apply to five schools, paying in some cases QR500 to reserve a place, an amount that will not be reimbursed and will guarantee a reservation of a place for two years. The grade Carlos was interested in Doha College, had 200 students on waiting list. In other centres the situation was similar, with certain companies reserving a number of places for their employee’s children. An added difficulty for some families is that it is easier for an American child to be admitted in an American school, or for a British one to get a place in a British school, and so on.
The Supreme Education Council (SEC) has launched an educational voucher programme to allow Qatari children to pursue school education at selected private schools in the country. The vouchers represent money given by the state to Qatari students to cover their school fees, fully or partially. The draft law stipulates the value of the voucher to be QR 28,000 per year. The selected private schools include the Al Jazeera Academy, Newton International School, Doha College, Park House English School and International School of London, among others.
ISL clarified that demand for admission to ISL is growing locally and internationally, but the turn over of students leaving the school is not high in which makes the availability of the seats an issue. There are 75 International schools in Doha according to the Schools and Schooling in Qatar 2010-11 Report, the last one to be released by the Supreme Education Council. These schools had a total of 67,193 students and 5,303 teachers in the period mentioned. The Average monthly household expenditure on educational related matters for families with children in International schools is QR23,063.
At least 9 centres teach according to American curriculum, 20 do the same following a British curriculum and two are French. Al Jazeera Academy and Compass International School offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, whereas there are also schools that teach with Norwegian and Canadian curriculum.The Peninsula