In Qatar, youth literacy rate has gone significantly higher in the last couple of years and more than 99% of Qataris who are young are literate and overall illiteracy rate of the country has declined. The illiteracy rate is higher among older people as there was huge gap in education sector and opportunities available for acquiring relevant education. Qatar has relatively different gender imbalance when compared with other Arab countries as currently number of males acquiring higher education has increased because of government support in the form of free educational fees and scholarships for further education abroad. Enrolment rate of students in tertiary education sector has not increased at faster rate when compared with enrolments in secondary sector. According to UNDP (2012), gross tertiary enrolment ratios are 27% for men and 50% for women in year 2010-2011. The main reasons for such lower rates in enrolment in tertiary sector are insufficient quality education provided at secondary level, inadequate number of incentives for youth to invest their time in tertiary education and considerable high dropouts from programmes of foundation level (Khodr, 2011).
However, many students are acquiring education from foreign countries so that they can obtain appropriate knowledge and skills that are mandatory for making a successive career for good earning. It has been reported by PGDP (2012) that high number of Qataris especially boys are going abroad for higher education especially of university level. It is estimated that there are around 1000 to 1500 students who are enrolled in universities of foreign countries (Coughlan, 2012). In Qatar, the number of private universities and colleges related to medical and technical fields has increased but they are still far behind than international ones. In order to promote healthcare system of Qatar, the country is motivating students to go to foreign countries to study abroad. Although Education City of Qatar is comprised of top ranked universities but their campuses in respective countries are well designed and have all the facilities that allow easy learning and application of theories studied during course of study.
The primary reason for sending Qataris abroad is to prepare them with appropriate skills and knowledge to deliver best quality services and get an idea about difference cultures. Such increasing trend is because of support provided by Supreme Education Council in the form of scholarships which are being offered both to students who want to obtain university education and researchers who want to make valuable contributions in country's research fields.
In the academic year of 2010-2011, about 126 students of Qatar i.e. Qataris obtained scholarships of external programs for postgraduate and undergraduate studies; there were forty-three women and eight-three men (Qatar, 2012). Majority of the Qatari students were sent to United States, Canada and United Kingdom and fields that they occupied were Engineering, social sciences and business administration with distribution of 37.3%, 7.9% and 31% respectively (UNDP, 2012). Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar has initiated a student exchange program under which it sends its graduates to its University campus abroad for gaining practical exposure in foreign country so that when they came back to Qatar they are well prepared to provide their services with exceptionally high quality level. Likewise, students have to be encouraged to acquire tertiary education and government is taking all necessary steps to enhance quality of secondary education and develop interest in youth to acquire higher education for making a promising career.
Foreign Students in Qatar
Qatar is among most fastest growing countries in Middle East which has per capita production higher than other countries worldwide in oil and natural gas sectors. Since GDP of country increased to 19.40% last year, it is considered to be destination of investors and students (Eason, 2011). In addition to such tremendous growth, it is offering various employment opportunities for foreign students in two top ranked fields i.e. gas and oil production and healthcare system. For decades, Qatar's illiteracy rate was going on higher trend as few people were acquiring education; currently, education system has changed completely because of education reforms happening in the country. The key players in such impressive educational reforms are Supreme Education Council, Qatar Foundation and Ministry of Education. Even Qatar's government has done extensive efforts of developing education system that is comprehensive and meets international standards (Nasser, 2012).
More than 14% of entire expenditure budget for year 2011-2012 of government is allocated to youth and education welfare (UNDP, 2012). At present, there are nine national universities and Qatar University is given top ranking; each year more than 1000 students from foreign countries get enrolled in various programs offered by the University. In Qatar, more than 80% of its population is comprised of non-Qataris; labor force is heavily dependent on foreign workers that includes about 15% of Qatari Arabs, 13% other Arabs, 11% Filipino, 24% Indian, 5% Bangladeshi, 5% Sri Lankan, 15% Nepali, 4% Pakistani and 7% others that comprise of Canadian, American and European.
Some foreign universities have started their operations in Qatar so that they can take advantage of talented workforce that country possesses. The universities that have satellite campuses in Education City are Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), Weill Medical College, College of the North Atlantic-Qatar, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Qatar), Texas A & M University, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar School of the Arts (VCUQ), Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q), HEC Paris and University College London in Qatar (UCL-Q); there are many other universities in Qatar but there are the leading ones in the country (PGDP, 2012).
This year more than 242 students are graduating from these foreign universities in Qatar and breakdown of students is as follows
Name of University
Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar School of the Arts (VCUQ)
Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q)
Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar
Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Qatar)
Texas A & M University at Qatar
Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies
The number of foreign students that are graduating this year comprises of only 20% of graduates; majority of the foreign students are from GCC countries who want to acquire education in medical, engineering, Humanities and Arts fields. Since students from developed countries can acquire high quality education from universities in their destination places, they prefer to get enrolled in universities within their home countries; there is no variation in fees structure as well. However, some student exchange programs are being conducted on international level so that students from abroad can visit Qatar and learn about its culture and work environment. One such initiative is being done by Qatar Study Tour along with Young Professionals Institute; the student exchange program allows students to gain experience in international countries and share their experiences with each other so that learning is enhanced by both participants (Khodr, 2011). As of 2011, the number of international students enrolled in Qatar universities is 89 (UNDP, 2012).
Competitor countries of Qatar
Although Qatar's educational system is getting better with the passage of time but still there are some areas that need to be developed such as medical facilities, technological innovations, infrastructure development, practical learning while studying and flexible programs. Most of the students who are reluctant to acquire further education after secondary education are that they are willing to get job and consider investing their time in higher education as of less importance. As the economic recession has impacted lives of Qataris, they prefer to earn money at an early stage; however, government has taken initiatives to motivate them by making education cost feasible for them. Supreme Education Council is offering various grants and scholarships who want to either continue their studies here or go abroad (Coughlan, 2012).
For Qatar, the closest competitor countries are United Arab Emirates and Malaysia who have undergone educational restructuring processes to revamp their educational system. It can also apply same education model and Education City is one example of it like Education City in United Arab Emirates. When there is a gap between the curriculums offered by local provisions, then there are two ways of going about them; one is to do market analysis and introduce those courses that are demanded by students and other is to seek help from foreign countries by allowing them to open their campuses in home country. Qatar has successfully opened new campuses in its Education City and has changed education perception among its prospective students. The students are allowed to get enrolled in part-time programs that allow them to work along with acquire education and offer them scholarships so that they can get relived of cost incurred for their education (Eason, 2011).
Education system of Qatar at secondary level is still in development phase and students entering universities after secondary education still need to develop their intellectual and soft skills so that they can compete both in international and local markets. In local markets, they will have to compete with international students as they have more intellectual capabilities. The main problem still faced by students is English language; after introduction of English learning programmes and training initiated by trainers, there has been decline in this issue and students have successfully gained fluency in English language. Foreign students coming to Qatar are provided adequate guidance and have easy access to information as there are many sources available in English that can help them learn important facts about its culture and work environment (Nasser, 2012).
Therefore, Qatar is among top preferred destinations for students in Arab countries who want to acquire higher education as there is a lot of similarity between culture of countries and education options available for them are diverse. Once students complete their education from local college or university, they can avail the opportunity of going to foreign country for higher education either by taking advantage of student exchange programs of foreign universities in Qatar or getting scholarship from Supreme Education Council. Hence, Qatar's education system has been developed to a greater extent to match the standards as set by international educational bodies.