School admissions in Qatar: Tough Lessons To Learn
Did you manage to get your child enrolled in a school for this academic year? If yes, consider yourself very lucky. There are many parents out there who are still making endless trips and calls to schools to ensure a seat. JustHere talks to a few parents about their concerns…
#1 Waiting lists
Ring up any number of schools, and you will hear the same two words each time: “Waiting list”. If you think this is the case for this year alone, some schools have a waiting list running into the next academic year as well.
“I applied to four schools last year, and all of them put my son on waiting list. This year I again applied to the same schools, in addition to four new schools. However none of these schools have replied or called for any test or interview,” says Nadine, mother of a 5-year old boy and a DohaMums member.
“My son is currently enrolled in The English Kindergarten (TEK) which is one of the best in Qatar. Unfortunately this is the last grade in TEK. I need help soon otherwise it’s most likely that my son will be at home for the next academic year.”
Of course each application form costs between QR200 and QR500. So you end up paying at least QR 2000 just for applications.
Razan who has been running the admission gauntlet adds: “There is a long waiting list in each school and in order to secure a place for your kid, you have to apply one year before in at least 10 schools.
“Of course each application form costs between QR200 and QR500. So you end up paying at least QR 2000 just for applications. The worst part is that some schools keep accepting applications although the classes are already full.”
Exorbitant fees aside (*see table below), indiscriminate issuing of applications regardless of school capacity seems to be a revenue model.
#2 Student assessment tests
Every school has a different admission procedure and requirement. One of them is the student assessment test that could be either written entrance tests or personal interviews and meetings. While such tests seem appropriate for students seeking admissions in higher grades, it seems unreasonable to put 3- and 4-year-olds through this.
“I went through the admission process in two schools here for my 3-year-old son. At the American Community School admission was not connected to assessment. Only to the report from the pre-school or nursery. However, in another very well-established British school, children were grouped in a room for a 30-minute assessment where teachers spent some minutes with each each child,” say L.O.K., a parent who works as a communications consultant in Qatar.
JustHere contacted the American School of Doha, who conduct similar assessment tests. A representative of their admissions department says such tests were necessary to know if a child is ready for school or not; how good were they at following instructions; if they are social and how well they can adjust in a classroom scenario.
I understand schools have limited seats, but performance assessment at kindergarten or primary level is not fair.Meanwhile, Doha College said that assessment meetings for primary school admissions were based on discussions with the children and their parents, observation of children who are asked to complete simple tasks, and some drawing activities. They also observe how the children interact with each other and with adults. “We don’t refer to these meetings as “testing” as this creates entirely the wrong impression. Our early years staff are very experienced at assessing the readiness of younger children to start their primary education at the college through these assessment meetings,” said Mark Hunter, Vice Principal, Doha College.
L.O.K. disagrees with this rationalization. “How do you assess a child in that period and environment? My son is a bright, friendly child in an environment he is familiar with; but not in a strange one. He is three for goodness sake! Shouldn’t the report from the nursery suffice instead of placing this stress on parents and children? I understand schools have limited seats, but performance assessment at kindergarten or primary level is not fair.”
#3 When nationality becomes an issue
Apart from academic performance of the child, private English schools also check the student’s proficiency in English to ensure that they are able to cope with the curriculum offered. But many non-native English-speaking parents feel that their children would lose out to native English-speaking students.
Tamara, a Palestinian mother of a 4-year-old girl says she feels some schools show bias against certain nationalities. “They prefer candidates who are fluent in English. But they must consider the fact that if they are opening a school in a country like Doha which has mixed nationalities, there will be several candidates who are not native English speakers. The whole purpose of sending them to an English school is for them to learn the language.”
I feel schools are pushing me out because I am an Arab and it upsets me to the point of emotional breakdown. A similar concern was raised by another DohaMums member. Originally from Lebanon, she lived in London with her husband and two kids for 28 years, and moved to Qatar last year. A year later, she is going through the drill of application form fees, registration and waiting lists, with the same set of schools.
“We are British citizens and I have an English accent. When talking on the phone with schools, they are very positive about us getting in. Once I mention our (Arabic) names, suddenly the “waiting list” pops up. I feel schools are pushing me out because I am an Arab and it upsets me to the point of emotional breakdown. Something needs to change.”
Little wonder an increasing number of parents opt for homeschooling.
*A look at the fee structure of some popular schools in Doha.
|American School of Doha||
Registration fee – QR3,650; Capital fee – QR10,950; Tuition fee – QR32,368
|Kindergarten: Registration fee – QR3,650; Capital fee – QR14,600; Tuition fee – QR53,976
|Grade 12: Registration fee – QR3,650; Capital fee – QR14,600; Tuition fee – QR70,194
|ACS Doha International School||Registration Fee – QR3,500 Annual Capital charge – QR4,000 Tuition fees – QR40,000
|Kindergarten: Registration Fee – QR3,500 Annual Capital charge – QR4,000 Kindergarten (age 5 – 6) Tuition fees – QR50,000
|Grade 9: Registration Fee – QR3,500 Annual Capital charge – QR4,000 Tuition fees – QR63,000
|Doha British School||Registration fee – QR3,000 Tuition fees – QR18,618 Resources levy – QR1,000
|Kindergarten: Registration fee – QR3,000 Tuition fees – QR27,285 Resources levy – QR2,000
|Grade 13: Registration fee – QR3,000 Tuition fees – QR54,570 Resources levy – QR3,500
|Doha College||Tuition fees – QR 9,292
|Kindergarten: Tuition fee – QR10,684; Capital charge – QR3,000; Registration fee – QR 3,650; Refundable deposit – QR 10,000
|Grade 13: Tuition fee – QR19,997; Capital charge – QR3,000; Registration fee – All Years (New Students only) – QR3,650; Refundable deposit (New Students only) – QR10,000
|Al Maha Academy||Kindergarten: TOTAL: QR21,774||Grade 12: TOTAL: QR54,000|
|Birla Public School||Kindergarten: Registration fee – QR50; Admission fee – QR150; Refundable caution deposit – QR750; Special fee – QR400; Tuition fee – QR5145
|Grade 12: Registration fee – QR50; Admission fee – QR150; Refundable caution deposit – QR750; Special fee – QR1,500; Tuition fee – QR10,395
The fee structure is accurate to the best of our knowledge. JustHere is not responsible for any discrepancies in numbers.
This article is the second in the series JustHere is doing on the education scene in Qatar. Is there something you wish to say or contribute? Email us firstname.lastname@example.org.