Posted on April 24, 2015

With the number of private schools in the country increasing steadily, several Qatari academics and experts have called for a separate authority to monitor these facilities, said The Peninsula. At present all private schools are licensed and supervised by the Private Schools Office at the Supreme Education Council (SEC). The experts point out that establishing a separate body under the SEC will help improve the quality and performance of private schools and kindergartens.

There are 240 private schools and kindergartens in Qatar, with a total of 158,357 students enrolled in them. The number of schools is expected to reach 330 or more in the near future with the SEC giving initial approval to 91 new schools and kindergartens this year, local Arabic daily Al Raya reported yesterday. Dr Ahmed Al Naama, former associate professor at QU and chairman of the physical education supervision department in the erstwhile Ministry of Education, said there was a need to establish a new authority due to the rapid increase in the number of private schools.

"The role of the authority should not be limited to administrative aspects. There must be specialists to monitor and assess the performance of private schools because they should be developed parallel to Independent schools," the daily quoted Al Nama as saying. The authority should prepare reports on the strengths and weaknesses of each school. It would help the SEC play its supervisory role more effectively, he added.

Currently, the standards of some schools and their facilities are not up to the mark. Some are functioning in villas, with insufficient space for sports and other outdoor activities. Dr Ahmed Al Saee, professor at the College of Education in Qatar University, also said that a separate body was necessary to monitor the increasing number of private schools. "The time has come for the establishment of an authority which has the power and potential to supervise private schools, listen to the complaints of parents, and improve the quality of education," said Al Saee.

He said many complaints about the schools did not get a quick response. They are sometimes ignored because of the huge workload of the Private Schools Office. Fareeda Al Obaidli said that private schools needed strict monitoring because they had become profit-oriented. "Their curricula and the teaching staff should be monitored because many schools are depending on unqualified teachers," said Al Obaidli. She said there were long waiting lists for enrolment in these schools, especially in the kindergartens. Sometimes parents were forced to wait two years to get a seat for their child. For parents with three or more children, education in private schools had become a major problem, she said, adding that complaints about schools were not getting effective responses.

Hamad Al Sulaiti, director of the department of private education in the erstwhile Ministry of Education, called for an independent authority to supervise private schools. He said there was a contradiction in the same body monitoring Independent and private schools. "This is a long-awaited proposal because supervising private schools through the Private Schools Office is limiting their powers and hindering the development of private education. With an independent authority, private schools will have more freedom in decision-making. The number of students in private schools is high compared to the number of Independent school students," said Al Sulaiti.

However, Ibrahim Al Darbasti, former director of the supervision department in the erstwhile Ministry of Education, disagreed with the idea of setting up a new authority, saying it would only create more offices and more administrators. The Private Schools Office at the SEC is doing the job carried out earlier by the private education department at the Ministry of Education, he said.