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The sovereign state of Qatar, also known locally as Dawlat Qatar, is a small Arab country located in the Middle East region of Asia, with a total geographic area of just over 4,400 square miles. Occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeastern coast of the larger Arabian Peninsula, Qatar shares a sole land border with Saudi Arabia to the south, and the rest of the country is completely surrounded by the Persian Gulf. The country is also near Bahrain, separated only by a strait of the Persian Gulf. With the world’s highest per capita GDP and abundant reserves of oil and natural gas, Qatar is the richest country in the world, according to Forbes Magazine and has the second highest human development index in the Arab World after the United Arab Emirates. The capital and largest city in Qatar is Doha.
As of the last census in 2011, Qatar had an estimated population of 1.6 million—a population that is very ethnically and linguistically diverse. Arabs account for approximately 40 percent of the population, half of whom are native Qatari and the other half from neighboring Arab countries. The remainder of the population is made up of people from India (20%), the Philippines (10%), Nepal (13%), Pakistan (7%), Sri Lanka (5%) and others (5%).
The sole official language of Qatar is Arabic. It is used in government, commerce, media, communications and education, and spoken colloquially by the majority of residents. Other popular languages in Qatar include English, which is taught as a second language in Qatari schools, as well as Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Tagalog, Urdu and Punjabi. Islam dominates religiously in the country and is the religion of choice for nearly 78 percent of the population. Of those, nearly 95 percent are Sunni Muslims and 5 percent adhere to the Shia branch of the religion. Christianity is the largest religious minority at 8.5 percent, with the remaining 14 percent practicing something other than those two, including Hinduism and Confucianism.
Education in Qatar
The control of and responsibility for education in Qatar is shared between the Ministry of Education and the Supreme Education Counsel. Education is provided free to all Qatar residents and is compulsory at all levels through high school. The system of education is broken down into four levels: pre-primary or kindergarten, primary education, secondary education and higher education.
Primary education in Qatar begins at age 6 and follows the one-year kindergarten program, in which students become prepared for school from a social standpoint. Primary education spans eight years in total (Grades 1-8), and offers a broad and far-reaching curriculum, with courses in subjects such as language (Arabic and English), mathematics, science, history, geography, social, cultural and religious studies, physical education and practical arts.
Secondary education in Qatar is also compulsory and spans four years (Grades 9-12). At this level, students and their parents have some control over the curriculum and the direction of theirs or their child’s education. They can elect to attend either the general secondary school, a program that is largely academic and helps prepare students for university enrollment, or opt for the vocational-technical track, in which students receive occupational-based instruction and training in careers important to the Qatari economy.
Higher education in Qatar is highly valued, especially in the fields of science, technology and engineering—fields that are heavily in demand due to the country’s economic dependence on oil production. Along with its own system of universities, there are also several United States universities with satellite campuses in Qatar.
Qatar also has many international schools at the primary and secondary levels that are very popular among expatriates and locals alike. In these schools the language of instruction is usually English or bilingual with English and another language, and the international curriculum used and the diplomas students earn are generally accepted at universities worldwide.
Map of Qatar