History of Education in Qatar

Islamic education
Prior to the 20th century, Qatari society did not place any specific emphasis on formal education. This was common in traditional Bedouin culture. Rather, Quranic education was highly valued in urban society, and to a lesser extent, rural society. Most children living in urban settlements were taught how to memorize, understand and read the Quran. This type of education was typically completed by the age of 10, whereupon the child's family would celebrate al khatma, or the end of memorizing the Quran. By the 18th century, Zubarah, the most important town in the peninsula, had developed into a center of Islamic education.

Islamic schools were divided into three categories known as mosques, kuttabs and madrasas. Mahmud Shukri Al-Alusi, an Islamic scholar, stated that between 1878 and 1913, there were around 20 kuttabs, 30 madrasahs and 400 mosques in the Al-Hasa region, which included Qatar.

Mosques, in addition to serving as places of prayer, were also regarded as educational facilities as they provided Muslims with religious instruction and advice.

Kuttabs, which were also known as mutta or muttawa, were split into two sub-sections. The first type of kuttab taught only the Quran and basic religious principles and were very wide spread in both rural and urban areas. Children of both sexes could attend them, although they were gender segregated. Male children were taught in public areas or mosques, whereas females were taught privately in houses. The other variation of kuttab taught reading, writing and arithmetic in addition to the Quran. They were found only in large urban settlements, such as Doha, and were attended by children of wealthy families. There were several limitations on kuttabs, many of stemmed from the lack of qualifications of the instructors who staffed them.

Madrasas were advanced educational institutes which taught Islamic sciences and Arabic literature. They were located primarily in urban settlements. The country's most reputable madrasa in the early 20th century, Al-Madrasa al-Sheikh Muhammad Abdulaziz Al-Ma'na, was established in 1918 by a Bahraini sheikh. Its staff was composed of many highly educated instructors. The syllabus had an emphasis on Arabic literature and the Arabic language. There was no fixed number of years for a student to graduate. The madrasa produced some of the country's most highly skilled individuals, including a number of poets and government officials. It was closed in 1938.

Pre-modern and modern education
In 1949, the country's first formal school was established in Doha by the emir of Qatar under the name Islah al-Mohammadiyeh. It was staffed by one teacher and had 50 students. It experienced rapid development in its initial years, and by 1950-51, it was estimated to have accommodated 240 students and 6 teachers. The syllabus encompassed a broad range of topics, including religious education, geography, English, arithmetic and grammar. It imported its textbooks from Egypt. The city's second school was established in 1954.

Soon after the establishment of the country's first school in Doha, schools began their expansion into other settlements. A semi-primary school was established in Al Khor in 1952, and the first school in Ar Ru'ays was founded in 1954, raising the number of schools to four. Overall, there were 560 students and 26 teachers in 1954. The first formal girls' school opened its doors in 1955 in Doha.

In 1956, the Ministry of Education was founded, marking the beginning of several educational initiatives on a national scale. Seventeen primary schools were established that year, and accommodated 1,333 students and 80 teachers. In 1957, girls' schools were integrated into the national educational programme. That year, two girls' schools accommodating 451 students and 14 female teachers were formed. Girls' education grew at a rapid rate over the following years, until 1975-76 when the number of girls' schools equaled the number of boys' schools at 65 each.

A policy instated by the Ministry of Education during the 1950s limited the number of schools in order to balance the student-to-teacher ratio. Additionally, they provided teachers with numerous incentives, such as furnished accommodation and annual round-trip tickets.

The development of the school system witnessed the establishment of nine schools in rural villages in 1957. The villages included Umm Salal, Simaisma, Abu Dhalouf, Al Ghariyah, and Al Khuwayr. There were approximately 369 students and 14 teachers in village schools that year. The government invested heavily in rural schools into the 1960s. By 1965, there was a total of 54 schools in villages, with 37 being exclusive to boys and 17 being exclusive to girls. This was partly a result of Qatari tribes exerting pressure on the government to establish schools in their villages in order to avoid the need for their children to attend schools in neighboring villages. However, this initiative was halted as a result of large-scale domestic emigration to Doha in the following years. There were 70 schools in 1969. In the 1970s, the government initiated a policy of re-locating village inhabitants to larger nearby settlements where they then established co-educational primary and secondary schools.

There were four major school administrative zones by the early 1990s: Madinat ash Shamal (north Qatar), Doha, Al Khor (north-east Qatar), and Dukhan (west Qatar). The number of students in Qatar in 1996 was approximately 51,000, with 35,000 being primary students and 16,000 being secondary students. There were 8,000 university students.