Written By Anna Moneta
Qatar, once a modest Gulf state, has undergone a remarkable transformation into a global economic powerhouse, largely attributed to the discovery and exploitation of oil reserves in the mid-20th century. The revelation of oil beneath Qatar’s arid desert sands in the early 1940s marked a pivotal moment, catapulting the nation into a dominant position in the global oil and natural gas markets. This economic ascent is intricately linked to Qatar’s historical ties as a British protectorate, formally established in 1868 with interactions dating back even earlier. 
The British, leveraging their extensive experience in oil resource management in the Gulf, played a crucial role by providing technical expertise and guidance for oil drilling and export infrastructure. This collaborative effort laid the foundation for Qatar’s thriving oil industry, enabling the nation to capitalize on its newfound resource wealth. However, the influence of British colonialism extended beyond economic realms, permeating into Qatar’s educational system. The British presence, which included military corps and colonial workers engaged in the oil industry, prompted the emergence of an educational system designed to cater to the children of both Qatari nationals and British colonial workers. This collaborative initiative led to the establishment of the Ministry of Education in 1956, shaping the trajectory of Qatar’s educational landscape. 
Today, Qatar stands among the world’s wealthiest nations, largely driven by its revenue from oil and natural gas. Nevertheless, the legacy of colonization raises pertinent questions about the enduring impact on the country’s educational framework. As we explore Qatar’s historical evolution and the complexities of its educational system, it is crucial to address contemporary concerns. The World Bank, in particular, underscores issues in early childhood development (ECD) outcomes in Qatar, shedding light on deficiencies in self-regulation skills and early literacy and numeracy skills among young children.  These concerns, despite economic progress, pose potential long-term consequences by impeding crucial brain development, adding a new layer of complexity to the narrative of Qatar’s historical and educational journey.
Qatar’s school system
Qatar’s educational landscape is characterized by a diverse system that includes both public, government-operated schools and privately-run institutions, each offering distinct curricula and languages of instruction. The prevalence of international curricula in many private schools has sparked discussions about the enduring influence of British colonialism on the nation’s education.
Government schools in Qatar are structured into three levels: primary school, serving students between the ages of 6 and 12; preparatory school, accommodating those aged 13 to 15; and secondary school, catering to students between the ages of 16 and 18. Additionally, for younger children, there is a range of options including nurseries for those aged 0 to 3, and kindergarten or preschool for children aged 3 to 5, providing flexibility based on individual needs. It is important to note that associated costs can vary significantly, typically ranging from QAR 15,000 to QAR 40,000.
In higher education, institutions in Qatar are classified as private, national, or branch campuses. The University of Qatar, established in 1973, stands as the oldest higher education institution in the country. Offering a diverse array of programs at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, the university encompasses faculties of engineering, social sciences, education, Islamic studies, humanities, and sciences. The presence of these higher education institutions further enriches Qatar’s educational landscape, contributing to the nation’s academic and intellectual growth.
Issues arising from Qatar’s colonial history.
Postcolonial theorists, exemplified by scholars like Hickling-Hudson (2006), provide a critical lens through which to examine the lasting impact of colonialism on education systems in former colonies. One of their central arguments revolves around the deliberate under-resourcing of education by colonial powers as a means of perpetuating control and exploitation of local populations.
The British presence in Qatar necessitated the establishment of an educational system to cater to the children of both Qatari nationals and British colonial workers. This early system laid the groundwork for Qatar’s educational landscape. Thus, when the nation embarked on its journey of economic transformation fuelled by oil wealth, its educational foundations were influenced by its colonial past. 
The postcolonial argument put forth posits that colonial powers intentionally kept education under-resourced in their colonies. This tactic was not merely neglect rather; it was a calculated strategy to exploit local populations. In fact, by depriving colonized peoples of adequate education, colonial powers could maintain control and perpetuate socio-economic inequalities.  The 2015 OECD study, which ranked Qatar in the bottom 10 of its educational index, hints at the implications of such deliberate underinvestment.
The correlation between Qatar’s colonial history and its educational challenges becomes apparent when considering the consequences of insufficient educational resources. While Qatar has made remarkable advances in various sectors, including infrastructure and healthcare, its education system has faced persistent disparities in terms of quality and access. These disparities are a reflection of the historical under-resourcing of education, an issue that postcolonial theorists emphasize.
The 2015 OECD ranking serves as a stark reminder of the enduring impact of this historical underinvestment. Qatar’s educational system, despite the nation’s substantial wealth, lagged in international assessments.
A significant development in Qatar’s education landscape has been the proliferation of private international schools, particularly in the last three decades. These schools cater primarily to Western expatriates and offer curricula in languages such as English, French, and German. While these institutions have contributed to Qatar’s educational diversity, they have also exacerbated disparities. Students attending private international schools often receive what is perceived as a higher quality education, leading to unequal opportunities in terms of academic performance and prospects. This educational divide raises questions about equity and access within the Qatari education system.
One further challenge facing Qatar’s education system is the need to strike a balance between the Arabic and English languages. Arabization and hybrid approaches have emerged as potential solutions to this linguistic dilemma. Arabization advocates argue that a strong emphasis on Arabic is crucial to preserving cultural and linguistic heritage. Conversely, advocates of the hybrid approach argue that a bilingual model, combining English and Arabic, is essential for equipping students with the skills needed for the globalized world while preserving traditional cultural values. This linguistic draw reflects the complexities of navigating a postcolonial educational path. Although, concurrently, the Qatari government has been active in its efforts to build a cohesive national identity through its governmental curriculum. This curriculum not only imparts knowledge in core subjects like mathematics, science, and the arts but also emphasizes Islamic studies, history, and the Arabic language. While these efforts aim to instil a sense of pride and national identity in Qatari students, they encounter challenges when it comes to preparing students for higher education and the workforce. The need for a curriculum that can adapt to the evolving global landscape while preserving cultural values is a complex task.
The World Bank’s Concerns
The World Bank has raised concerns regarding the state of Early Childhood Development (ECD) in Qatar, specifically highlighting deficiencies in self-regulation skills and early literacy and numeracy skills among young children. Despite the country’s economic progress, these developmental gaps pose long-term consequences by impeding crucial brain development. The World Bank recognizes the potential transformative impact of enhanced ECD, not only in academic realms but also in promoting better health outcomes and fostering economic prosperity. 
The World Bank proposes a comprehensive three-fold strategy to enhance Early Childhood Development (ECD) in Qatar. Firstly, it advocates for the establishment of a Qatar-based multisectoral body to coordinate and oversee the implementation of a holistic ECD strategy. This body would prioritize the formulation of robust child protection policies, creating a secure environment for young children, while also emphasizing the expansion of support for breastfeeding and parental leave.  Secondly, to ensure a more inclusive ECD approach, the World Bank recommends broadening the coverage of programs to encompass all children in Qatar. This expansion involves a significant increase in the scope of nutrition programs and the introduction of pre-primary education initiatives. The focus extends beyond the supply side to cultivating public demand for ECD programs and addressing existing inequalities across socioeconomic lines . Lastly, the World Bank stresses the necessity of establishing a robust quality assurance system for Qatar’s ECD. This involves harmonizing standards for teachers and educational providers, ensuring a coherent curriculum spanning ages zero to six, and implementing monitoring mechanisms. A comprehensive set of key performance indicators, supported by a robust data system, is proposed to track child development outcomes and monitor progress effectively. 
In conclusion, Qatar’s educational journey reflects a profound transformation, evolving from an initially inadequate educational provision to a nuanced landscape deeply influenced by historical colonialism. Although commendable strides have been made in enhancing educational performance, the enduring legacy of colonization persists, leaving an indelible mark on the country’s educational framework. This narrative gains additional complexity with the World Bank’s highlighted concerns regarding early childhood development (ECD) outcomes, emphasizing the urgency of addressing contemporary challenges.
To effectively navigate the intricacies embedded in Qatar’s historical and educational context, a compelling solution emerges—the establishment of robust national educational institutions. These institutions should not only aspire to academic excellence but also actively integrate globally relevant subjects into the curriculum. A strategic imperative lies in prioritizing Qatar’s national educational system over international institutes, ensuring alignment with the nation’s distinctive history, cultural values, and contemporary requirements. Through this strategic emphasis, Qatar can pave the way for an education system that not only preserves its rich heritage but also equips its youth with the skills and knowledge essential for navigating the complexities of the modern globalized world. Embracing this transformative approach ensures that Qatar’s educational landscape becomes a beacon of cultural preservation and global readiness.
 Zahlan, R. S. (2016). The creation of Qatar. Routledge.
 Nikaein Towfighian, S., & Adams, L. S. (2017). Early Childhood Development in Qatar. The World Bank.
 Hickling-Hudson, A. (2006). Cultural complexity, postcolonial perspectives, and educational change: Challenges for comparative educators. In J. Zajda, S. Majhanovich, & V. Rust (Eds.), Education and Social Justice (pp. 191-208). Springer Netherlands.
General Secretariat for Developing Planning. (2018). Qatar Second National Development Strategy 2018-2022. Retrieved from https://www.psa.gov.qa/en/knowledge/Documents/NDS2Final.pdf.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2015). PISA 2015 Results in Focus. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2015-results-in-focus.pdf.