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JustHere | November 15, 2017

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A failure of education

A failure of education

As a senior student at Virginia Commonwealth University, I look back at the journey that has gotten me to this stage of my education, and I can’t help but feel a sense of helplessness and contempt.

Talking about education, specifically mine, isn’t an easy thing for me to do. As my mind instinctively suppresses those memories, I can’t properly convey how bleak and depressing the entire experience was in those formative years.

I was almost entirely educated in public schools. These schools were gender-segregated, with a curriculum that focused on rote memorisation. I remember the constant reminder by our teachers that we as students ought to memorize our textbooks so that we could pass the exams. That was the only requirement that was expected of us, with absolutely no value placed on critical thinking. Like a programmed robot, that is precisely what I did.  I memorized those books, trying to mentally store every word I came across on the page of whichever book I had in my hands, and if I forgot, I would try to memorize it again, until I recite it out loud from memory.

Suffice it to say that after sitting through an exam and trying hard to squeeze out every bit of information stored in my mind verbatim on to that piece of paper, it all evaporated quickly, becoming a distant memory.  After all, we just had to pass, since that was our sole objective.

I remember that there was always more pressure to memorize our Islamic studies textbooks, where we would blindly regurgitate everything we memorised, not really understanding it. I also remember that caning was an accepted form of punishment, which was common in most public schools until it eventually stopped entirely.

I also remember that caning was an accepted form of punishment, which was common in most public schools until it eventually stopped entirely. Aside from the curriculum, the actual buildings housing the schools were dreadful to say the least, with broken windows, cracked walls, malfunctioning air-conditioners, exposed electrical wiring, damaged desks and chairs, leaky pipes, dirty, foul-smelling bathrooms with broken toilets and exposed drainage. These decades-old buildings barely withstood the test of time:buildings better suited to shanty towns than to one of the world’s wealthiest nations. It’s only recently, with the country’s push to improve education, that these buildings have been rebuilt or renovated.

My younger cousin and I we were recently discussing how we felt let down by the educational system in Qatar, and that we were basically paying the price for it. I always say I owe my education to watching TV, which is actually how I learned to speak English. However, what I could learn from watching shows or movies could only take me so far. By the time I graduated from high school, not realising what lay ahead, my lifelong aspiration of studying abroad came to naught, as I was ill-equipped to study in a prestigious Western institution that required advanced critical thinking abilities, the type that can only be learned through many years of proper schooling. Many letdowns later, blaming myself for my shortcomings as I became increasingly frustrated and lost, not knowing where I would end up, I eventually found my way to VCUQ.

Needless to say, Qatar has taken great strides to transform the education system into a world-class one. However I have to wonder who the true beneficiaries are, as recent research suggests that Qatar’s students still rank poorly compared with most other countries.

I only pray, for the sake of this country’s future, that these problems will be addressed seriously, as this has long-term ramifications for bright young minds who ought to be nurtured instead of destroyed, so that they may one day contribute to Qatar’s growth and development. After all, that’s all we’ve ever wanted.


  1. Ghada Al-Subaey

    Well said Nasser, I completely agree with you.
    My education experience was similar to yours I didn’t learn as much as I memorized during my schooling years. After graduation I felt the same frustration and helplessness. I wondered what did I get from school?
    As you mentioned I also developed my English skills through watching shows + taking courses at British Council at a young age ” thanks to my parents”.
    This problem still exists in our education system and its worst than before but with fancier buildings! The problem is with the style of teaching that deprives students from learning or engaging in any way. Knowledge becomes a test of memory.

  2. Shaily Agrawal

    Hey Nasser, I met you a while back along with Sasha. Glad to see your post here. Qatar has come a long way from where it was. Development has been rather fast and we have had much success in a short span of time. Lets hope for a continuously improving and thriving community of people in this country.

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