Prominent American policy institute Rand Corp. has reached the end of its decade-long deal with Qatar Foundation, the two groups have announced.
The Rand Qatar Policy Institute (RQPI), which was tasked with redesigning Qatar’s publicly funded school system – and widely seen as failing in that mission – learned in September that its contract would not be renewed.
At the time, officials there said the decision came as “no surprise,” but that RQPI still hoped to remain in Qatar beyond December.
Today, Michael Rich, president and CEO of Rand, said in a statement:
“RAND’s work has helped the leadership of Qatar make numerous, major changes in the way that it plans, organizes and delivers social services. We hope that through our current and future projects in Qatar we can continue to have a positive impact.”
When reached for comment by Doha News, Jeffrey Hiday, director of Rand’s media relations, said in an email that the group expects to remain engaged in Qatar going forward, though its local office is closing imminently. He added:
“Once it is closed, future projects in Qatar will be supported by experts from our offices in Europe and the United States.”
For its part, QF’s new president Saad Al Muhannadi said:
“Qatar Foundation remains committed to building upon its academic and research excellence by forging partnerships that allow it to assist in the nation’s journey towards a knowledge economy. We would like to thank RAND for their work over the last decade.”
In 2003, Rand was commissioned to help overhaul Qatar’s independent school system, eventually producing a report, “Education for a New Era: Design and Implementation of K-12 Education Reform in Qatar.”
According to the report, Qatari officials were offered three different school options:
- One that upgraded the existing, centrally controlled system;
- A charter school model that decentralized governance and let parents choose where to send their children; and
- A voucher model that expanded private schooling in Qatar.
Authorities chose the second option, which led to the creation of the Independent School system.
But almost a decade after the reform began, students in the system continue to have some of the worst standardized test scores in the world, and concerns about attracting quality staff are growing.
Meanwhile, Qatari parents have begun using a government voucher scheme to partially fund the cost of private school tuitions for their children.
Though Rand has taken a lot of flak for the unsuccessful overhaul, some analysts say the blame does not lay entirely at its feet. And its exit may not bode well for other policy groups in the country.
Speaking to Doha News, Michael Stephens, Deputy Director of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British think-tank in Doha, said:
“This is a sad closing chapter in a relationship that has looked increasingly difficult in recent times. RAND have tried extremely hard to maintain a presence in Qatar and unfortunately it looks like that will no longer continue.
The continued presence of high class institutes in Qatar is important to building the brand of the country as an educational hub, while Qatar will no doubt seek to progress in future in the education sector this cannot be viewed as anything other than a backward step.”