Deep into the 20th century, Qataris had only traditional schools, available for both boys and girls. Although instruction was basic, it covered several subjects, not only Islam and Arabic.
Today, the education system is well developed, and schooling is free for all citizens, from kindergarten through to university; and compulsory from primary through to secondary. Still, many Qataris do not consider public school as good as Western-style schools. Great efforts have been put into developing a high quality educational system, but the country is still only in the process of achieving these goals.
Schools in Qatar are sex-segregated, all they way through to the university.
Expenditure on education was estimated at 3.3% of GDP in 2005, which by 2008 corresponds to $3,300/capita.
Official programs to fight adult illiteracy were launched already in 1954, although the first centres for women were opened first in 1976. These programs were far more ambitious than in many other Middle Eastern countries, as 4 years of elementary education was given.
The programs, plus the advancement of ordinary schools, were quite successful, especially for women, where literacy rates have gone up from 82% to 89%. Figures suggest however that literacy rates for men have gone down, from 91% to 89%.
Kindergartens are both governmental, as well as private, then usually meeting the needs for expatriates.
Primary to secondary education
The school system of Qatar is divided into 3 stages: primary; intermediate; and secondary.
Primary education, or the Elementary Stage, takes 6 years. English is about to become part of the curriculum at this level.
Intermediate education, or the Preparatory Stage, follows directly from the Elementary Stage, and takes 3 years.
The Secondary Stage takes 3 years, and is divided into an academic branch preparing for studies at university level, and a vocational, praparing for work life.
Foreign children attend international schools, with a different curriculum. These outnumber the government schools. The international schools are co-educational. In addition to Western and various Asian schools, there are also schools for other Arab nationals, like Lebanese, Jordanian and Sudenese.
The University of Qatar, in Doha, opened in 1973 and had about 8,200 students in the academic year 2008/2009, ca. 75% were female. It remains an institution with two campuses, one for each sex. With the exception of engineering, all subjects are available to female students too.
In addition, Qatar has granted scholarships for higher education in other Arab countries, Britain, France and USA, to about a considerable number of its citizens.
The Education City is a specially designed district of Doha, covering 14 km², designated for modern higher education facilities. 6 US universities have satellite campuses here, together with 3 national insitutions. The Education City is projected to become a leading centre of learning and research in the Persian Gulf.