DOHA–When independent schools first opened in Qatar in 2004 as part of the country’s education reform program, many teachers, parents and students hoped these new schools would lead the country into an era of world-class education. Previously, all public schools were run by the Ministry of Education, which hired and assigned teachers directly and set the curriculum that each grade level had to teach.
Independent schools, however, offered more freedom to principals and faculty members. Monitored by the Supreme Education Council, a new governing body also created as part of the reform program, these public schools operate on the American charter-school model. Independent school administrators are allowed to hire and fire their own staff and devise their own curriculum. Today, there are more than 170 independent schools in Qatar and most ministry schools have been converted to the new system.
However, even with such flexibility, many independent schools are finding it difficult to prepare their students for higher education. Even making sure their students move on to the next grade has been a struggle.
In the last academic year, more than 7,000 fourth-to-11th graders at independent schools failed their preparatory and secondary exams. And nearly 40 percent of students who sat for the second round of the Supreme Education Council’s Independent Secondary Certificate exam failed.
These poor results have infuriated parents and students, and many Qataris claim that independent schools are a failure.
But amidst the controversy, one independent school appears to be succeeding.
For the past two years, the Ahmad Bin Mohammad Al Thani Independent Secondary School for Boys, led by Hasan Al Baker, has experienced a 100 percent passing rate amongst the school’s seniors. In the video, Al Baker explains the reasons for the school’s success.