Students in Qatar continue to be among the world’s poorest performers, according to a new global education ranking that scored the nation behind most of its regional and international peers.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has published its biggest-ever league table of educational attainment in 76 countries, which for the first time includes under-developed and developing nations, as well as richer states.
The report, Universal basic skills: what countries stand to gain, examined how representative samples of 15-year-olds performed in math and science tests, ranking them relative to their peers in more than a third of the world’s nations.
Qatar came in 68th place overall. Coming only ahead of Oman (72nd), it was among the GCC’s poorest performing countries.
None of the Gulf states did particularly well, with all ranking in the bottom half of the index. Students in the UAE came in 45th place, Bahrain followed at 57th and Saudi Arabia in 66th position. Kuwait did not appear in the index.
Ghana came in last overall, in 76th place, while the rankings’ top five spots were all taken by Asian nations, including Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
Maintaining its reputation as having one of the world’s best education systems, Finland ranked as the best-performing European country, at 6th. The United Kingdom took 20th place, while the United States was slightly further behind as it tied in 28th place with Italy.
However, some education leaders have warned that indexes can give a generalized and distorted view of the real situation of education levels in a country.
Speaking to Doha News, Niall Brennan, director of Park House English School, a private international school in Qatar, said:
“League tables based on narrow data fields should be interpreted with care and often do not represent the full picture.
Qatar has some excellent international schools which focus on equipping pupils with essential life skills such as critical thinking and problem solving as well as learning the key facts.”
The index used statistics from a number of international assessments, including OECD’s most recent PISA tests, which are conducted every three years to assess the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds, and chart how nations’ education systems are performing.
Also included were figures from TIMSS tests run by US-based academics and TERCE tests in Latin America, to create a single rankings system.
In the 2012 PISA tests, which are the most recent, half-a-million 15-year-old students from 65 countries were evaluated in math, reading, science and problem-solving, as well as financial literacy.
Students here performed below average in all three categories, putting the country at the bottom of the rankings, at 62nd overall. However, the Gulf nation appeared to show signs of improving since students here were first assessed in 2006.
Both Qatar’s independent (state-funded) and private, international schools were included in the PISA test.
However, a subsequent OECD report published last July found significant performance differences between students from the public and private sectors.
Out of the 47 countries assessed for the summer report, Qatar’s private school students had the biggest advantage over their state peers, with a 108-point differential – putting the nation at the bottom of the table in terms of education equality.
Its results also showed that state-educated children were three years behind their private schools peers in math ability.
More than two-thirds (68 percent) of Qatar’s students didn’t pass the basic PISA levels in math and science, which equate to a score of 420.
This is despite high school enrollment rates at being approximately 98 percent in Qatar.
But if all the 15-year-olds went to school and achieved the basic skill levels, then the “long-term economic gains are going to be phenomenal,” OECD’s education director Andreas Schleicher told the BBC, speaking about the potential of countries that improve their education systems.
According to the report, Qatar figures in the top 10 countries with the most potential for economic growth. Its current GDP could increase by 1,029 percent over the lifetime of its students if it boosts its education system and raises their achievement levels, OECD said, adding that these reforms would be worth around $3.6 trillion.
The authors of the report also issued a warning to non-OECD oil-producing countries, which includes many of the Gulf states that it said appear to have become complacent in improving education standards.
Commenting that “high-quality schooling and oil don’t easily mix,” the report said that resource-rich nations “have failed to convert their natural capital into the human capital that can generate the economic and social outcomes that can sustain their future.”
“There is an important message for countries rich in natural resources: the wealth that lies hidden in the undeveloped skills of their populations is far greater than what they now reap by extracting wealth from natural resources.”
It goes on to say that the PISA results show a “significantly negative relationship” between the money earned by countries which are rich in natural resources, and the knowledge and skills of their high-school population.
Efforts to improve
Qatar’s need to improve its education standards, particularly in the independent sector, is not new. The Supreme Education Council’s Schools and Schooling report, which was published in 2013, highlighted a number of issues affecting performance in government schools.
These include that one-third of independent school teachers did not have formal teaching qualifications; there were high levels of student absenteeism; and wide variations in the amount of homework set in schools.
In response, several initiatives have been brought in to tackle these problems.
The Teach for Qatar program, launched last year, trains college graduates and high-performing professionals as teachers. Meanwhile, Qatar University’s College of Education runs ongoing professional development courses to raise and maintain teachers’ skills levels.
See the full OECD report online here.
How can one be motivated to achieve at school when such a comfortable life awaits you after graduation?
Schools are of a poor standard here in Qatar due to 3 main factors.
1. Unmotivated native students who have no interest in learning. Therefore school for them is considered a llacd for entertainment. All they do is selfishly disrupt the learning of tbe expats. Nothing can be said or done to the rude, disrespectul and lazy majority of natives due to their “Wasta” status.
2. Teachers are underpaid and overworked in Qatar. Many schools have a serious shortage of support staff and admin staff. Leaving the teachers to pick up the pieces and extra work.
3. Most parents of native students do not teach their children about respect and equality in society. The students go to school and walk the classroom like they are supreme beings and believe non-qatari teachers are below them, when in fact, most 14 year old natives are likely to have an IQ of less than 50. Average is around 100.
Until the above 3 change, education in this country will continue to fail.
From an experienced teacher working in an independent school in Qatar.
I cannot agree with you MORE…BRAOV for calling a SPADE A SPADE !!
until NATIVE kids are taught about RESPECT for ALL …they will FAIL
Shabina .. Clean this mess please.
Deleting for stereotyping.
“most 14 year old natives are likely to have an IQ of less than 50. Average is around 100.”
and that’s okay? try putting Indian in the sentence and see how it sounds. Or blacks.
Indians are usually pretty gifted. They work hard.
That’s stereotyping and should be deleted. But consequent editing isn’t Shabina’s thing.
On a purely scientific level the shallowness of the gene pool here COULD have something to do with the low IQs as well. I know it’s culture but science shows that marrying someone that close to you genetically is not good.
Why study … when you’ve got the money!
you know what would be interesting, to show a chart with the GDP/capita on one side and the PISA results on the other. and then try to explain what makes a country successful in education.
it would show that some rich countries do well and others don’t. it’s about a culture of hard work of personal achievement, high standards, a competitive environment and true work ethics.
Just not enough that Protestant work ethic in Qatar I’ve always said. j/k 😉
Anyone notice the corrolation between religon and educational achievement? Or to put it another way, those in the top five allow questioning and if something is proved to be incorrect, then their education is revised. Those that fill up the bottom 10 do not allow questioning of the state or old books, you have to take them as fact even if you know what they are saying is wrong.
Education is not just about learning ‘facts’ its about being able to think, to evaluate and critique. The Gulf fares baldy in all of these areas.
I don’t want to be a baldy…I like my hair. It is turning white though…..
I kid, I kid.
I think their is an obvious relation between salaries of teachers and educational achievements of the pupils.
Exactly, education in this region is just rote memorization with no thinking outside the box. Tie that in with the religious fervor and then science goes out the door as well.
guess prejudices abound a lot among the so called ‘learned’
Science is present in government schools, it’s just useless, outdated stuff. Kids learn theoretical physics, then, when they inevitably fail because they see the subject as useless and/or simply don’t understand it, the system finds ways to bump up their grades to create the appearance of success without any success.
Its not about religion. Its about the attitude towards education. I know people who are deeply religious and their kids excel at school.
The issue is they are never forced to think. These children literally have every done for them. They dont even pack their own school bag or carry it. When they come home from school they don’t engage in productive activities after school. They spend their time sitting in front of a tv and ipad.
I’ve been teaching a while here in Qatar. From my experience is that expat children regardless of race or religion excel higher than locals because they are made to think. Their parents are not having every aspect of their life done by someone else.
I see your point, but when you think there is a set of words from 1500 years ago that will fulfil and answer your every question about life, that doesn’t really help the thinking thing either……
Well the thing is many (not all)Qataris aren’t really practicing Islam. They may have the appearance with wearing abaya and thoub but its more cultural than religious for them.
People in the gulf are steeped in cultural tradition that doesn’t even have anything to do with islam.
Places like Egypt you will find more practicing muslims but many of them hold engineering and other science based degrees. They have a better attitude towards education because their parents push it.
I think blaming religion is a very simplistic way of looking at the issue.
OK, fair enough, that was just a soundbite, but I see you do simplistic pretty well too…I don’t think many Qataris would agree with your first two generalised claims, and your choice of Egypt as a beacon of educational achievement is surely undermined by its relatively high illiteracy rates.
There is certainly a correlation, the debate being about how strong, between the greater piety of a country and lower educational achievement. Look at the list above..the 10 countries with the least kids not getting basic skills (HK/China, Taiwan, Finland, Japan, Singapore etc.) have high levels of non-belief, at least in the abrahamic faiths. The worst performers share at least one common denominator in high levels of belief, especially in evangelical christianity, catholicism and islam.
I never said Egypt was a beacon of education. My point was simply that being religious doesn’t affect one’s educational level.
I didn’t generalize about the locals being irreligious. I said many not most are not practicing. In fact the same thing could be said about the worldwide population of Muslims is that many do not practice their faith.
Even if it religion is a factor, religion isn’t what is stopping GCC nationals from excelling in school.
Their lack of motivation due to the extreme wealth is the huge issue. The younger generation is slowly starting to see the importance are education but it is slow progress.
But historically Egypt has been the center of much learning in the ME, unfortunately many now emigrate the the US of Europe to further their studies, advance their careers and in some cases commercialize their work. 4 Nobel prize winners (2-Peace/1-Chem/1-Lit). Other than Yasser Arafat once for Peace, the other ME countries have a total 0 combined with the exception of Israel with 12.
This brain drain wasn’t the case until probably the 80’s. Until then Egypt was very advanced. Ironically I think the main cause for much of the problems today lies in the Gulf. When the oil/gas was pumped out of the ground here in 70’s, Egyptians and others, flocked here for jobs in the fields. When they went back they also returned with a very conservative brand of Islam that they’d been living under for how many yrs in the Gulf. It clashed with the extremely secular ideas of the times in Egypt. But eventually, as more people went to the Gulf, more and more conservatism could be seen in the streets. How many women were fully veiled? What were the messages being blasted on the speakers at Fri prayers? Results, less women in schools and workforce and a different “focus” in studying. If your ultra religious it’s hard to accept science, think with an open mind lest something contradict your paramount thoughts.
Just because Qataris have money doesn’t make them smarter. I lived in Egypt many years and knew extremely wise, intellectual people. A man who owned a horse stable at the pyramids could speak 5 languages very well from dealing with the tourist he dealt with daily. He didn’t have a proverbial pots to P!$$ in.
Money can’t buy smart. There is no reason to be smart here. Most here have enough money to be comfortable and many very comfortable. The hunger is lacking here. Plain and simple. If I’m driving a Porsche 911T to school at EC, I don’t need to go to school. You may not
need to but in the long run it dulls the society and you become ever reliant on imported help.
Because the Asians you mentioned don’t believe an Abrahamic religion does that make them less pious? And the Christian, and especially the Catholic schools, in the US are usually the best performing schools in any given city. Outside the US especially in rural Africa, C America, S America these C&C’s are the only education available. So not sure of your info that they underperform. Christians and Catholics have all brought their respective religions at least into the 20th century. They’re much more progressive as a whole.
The basis of the empirical scientific was founded in the Islamic world and was a as direct result of the thinking that the religion of Islam cultivated. The oldest existing universities are in the Muslim world.
Your assumption that religious piety leads to lower is obviously false.
There was a golden age of forward thinking associated with Islam, but that was a long, long time ago……there’s a considerable amount of progressive catch up needed in the Muslim world, I would suggest. And your claim about the oldest university depends on the definition of university. Ones like Al Karaouine in Morocco were essentially progressive madrassas with some diversified learning. Oh, and many of the scientific claims alluded to in the Quran were known by Galen in Ancient Greece, among others,1000 years prior.
there is no correlation., except maybe in your imagination
Leading to the problem that the teachers are hair today gone tomorrow…………………
Only 4 of the top 10 are non secular so your comment is nonsense. Not that I believe a non secular system is good for education..
Arguably, one of the silliest comments I have read. If you read the article you will notice that the results for Qatar also encompass those of the private schools which are mostly occupied by children of Western expats whereby religion is not a factor in the curriculum / teaching style and even through they fare slightly better, I’d attribute that to privilege rather than due to it being a non-faith environment.
Secondly, have a look at both the UK and USA and you will find that a fair proportion of top performers in public schools come from backgrounds that faith plays a major role (notably Hindu and Muslim families).
Couple that with a visit to the NHS (UK’s National Health Service) and count the number of doctors who use the multi-faith room. You will be surprised by the results.
I have been an expat most of my life and growing up in different countries I can say that the true drive to success (at least for some people) is ignited in the kind of environment in which one feels that you need to be “better” in order to be “equal”.
Until you pay teachers properly, provide them with ongoing high quality professional development and then regulate schools by inspecting them rigorously and publish inspection reports nothing will ever improve. The UAE is doing all three of these things effectively that’s why they have a relatively strong education system.
That’s true. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Secondary schoolteachers in Germany start with QR 13,332.-. After ten years their salary is QR 19,126. They must have a MSc in their subject. In the USA salaries are from QR 13,056 up to QR 21,380.
Teachers in Germany do not even get half what you are claiming if you factor in the taxes and accommodation price they pay. Teachers in Qatar’s independent schools get salaries starting from 15k tax free.
Is that all? That’s much worse than I thought! The secretaries in our company make much more than that. Why is teaching deemed such a low career here?
It is actually an excellent salary for expats. Qataris get 45k+ when they work as teachers, which is most probably the highest in the world.
45k+ only after min. 10 years of teaching, Yacine, stop throwing random info you hear on the street.
Thanks for the clarification. So what is their salary when they start teaching?
Shouldn’t we first be asking where secretaries average higher than 15k in Qatar? Or is it executive secretaries that are being referred to?
No, I am personally aware of Qataris with the ‘right’ paper in administrative positions in independent schools with 2-3 years experience.
I disagree, that’s not an excellent salary for an expat
some lessons must be learned accordingly
Study guys study.
Wouldn’t there be more expat kids in the schools here than local kids? Anyone know?
UAE is far ahead among GCC even though statistics say in lower half…They are fast assimilating the core values of good education. Students should also learn to respect teachers.
At least they have QF world-class universities, so that the most brilliant pupils can access better education when they reach higher levels.
The best and the brightest Qataris rarely choose local universities.
QF universities are a game changer and the government will definitely lower the budget for overseas scholarships to incite people to study here. So eventually even the brightest students will study here.
Dream on. The established families are not exactly cash-strapped, so if the government lowers scholarships they will pay from their own pocket and send the kids to decent universities overseas. That gives them not only good education, but helps them broaden their horisonts.
I think you have a wrong idea of Qataris (and GCC students in general) abroad. I studied in the UK and I can tell you not all of them are as bright as you are thinking. Many of them are there mainly for tourism purposes, with studying being the “secondary” activity. And while some can afford to send their kids abroad, only a few can match the generous scholarships offered by the government and some companies.
Non-GCC Arabs are known to be Jellllly. Yacine, get over it. If we should start stereotyping, we can easily say that you’re sister is whor.. That’s the stereotype we have about you people, and there’s some truth behind that 😉
Uncalled for remark.
It’s not that the students are dumb it’s just that Qatari students don’t like studying and the SEC aren’t doing anything to show them how serious studying is and being present in school is they should take immediate action.
Not sure anyone really likes studying tbh, but there doesn’t seem to be a drive from parents for the kids to get a good education, so they can get an interesting job that also lets them buy food and shelter. That’s probably as employment and therefore money is relatively easy to come by.
You just wonder what these places that happen on easy oil money could be like if instead of clearing nationals’ personal loans and granting massive payrises every 5 years, that money was used for education, research, and start-up incubators? Perhaps the next Intel, Toyota or SpaceX could be Qatari.
When you drive to school in a car I could never think to afford what’s the point of going to school? When there’s no hunger for education to better your life you have a stagnant society. Cradle to grave welfare is not sustainable.
I have many friends who teach in these schools and the abuse and disrespect they endure is crazy. And god forbid you give bad grades to little Mohammed as his parents will have you fired in a heart beat cause little Mohammed would never do anything wrong.
‘Qatar’s private school students had the biggest advantage over their state peers, with a 108-point differential – putting the nation at the bottom of the table in terms of education equality…..Its results also showed that state-educated children were three years behind their private schools peers in math ability.’
This is the really telling statement. Having checked the previous round of PISA tests where the SEC published school by school scores only13 schools in Qatar scored over 500 points in all categories, well above the world average. These were all private British, American or Indian system schools; the one exception being Al Maha Girls School. The independent (i.e. Government) schools are even further below Qatar’s woeful average score. As the report said….the biggest ability gap between Private and government schools out of the whole survey.
When your male and your career choice is kafeel, then no need to pursue excellence in education. It is a shame for those bright students who want to try and make a difference, especially the women.
For a kafeel, on-the-job training is good enough. Motivation to do bigger and better things is hard to find; it mostly depends on the family. My cool Qatari friends put pressure on their kids to do well at school and university and prepare for the challenges of succeeding as the leaders of tomorrow.
Qatar is still in development and these are early days for them as the kingdom had their take off in 2000 ‘s era , so one should not be surprised by this report . At the same time they are improving their infrastructure quite rapidly and education is one sector in which they are improving phenominally. Qatar University and Qatar Foundation are big examples. And In sha Allah with in years they are going to change this report.
Good Luck #Qatar ,
Respect and love from #Pakistan
15 years to go until the target date for being ‘an advanced nation’. Long way to go, they’d better get on with it, quick!
It is a bit misleading to say “Qatar’s private school students had the biggest advantage over their state peers, with a 108-point differential”.
It is not “private v.state”. Rather, it is Qatari v. expat/migrant children (or western education v. Arab education). I think I have linked relevant OECD report some time ago: http://www.oecd.org/edu/Untapped%20Skills.pdf . Very interesting data, and very damning one for Gulf education.
Schools rarely lead changes in an economy or a society; they follow them. Qatari-dominated schools perform so poorly here for the same societal reasons Qatari-dominated institutions perform just as badly: no incentive to improve, a rapid jump from a tribal society to a modern one with plenty of hangovers, a lack of a truly free press or democratic institutions to allow genuine and useful criticism to affect policy and performance, and a very shallow labor pool that, simply by the law of averages, can’t produce all the highly skilled people needed to run a society as complicated as modern-day Qatar.
Schools cannot overcome those problems on their own. They can help nudge things along once they improve, but nobody should kid themselves that throwing more money at schools, or trying to bring in new, expensive curriculums, or copying other successful school systems, will reform Qatar’s schools.
‘we’re at the bottom, but we have potential to improve’ ! well there is a statement of the bleedin’ obvious
‘Mull’ potential to improve?
Lesley Walker, Estonia is in Europe and second on the table. – someone from Finland-
Top ten! Nice! :)))
Rumours are that the final school term will be cut short by two weeks. So that says it all really.
I am wondering if it is the “State” that is complacent,as stated. Human capital itself may be at risk with motivation stymied by the family cash flow.When students do not see the need to work excell(except for females),think they can complain their way to success and think about the easy life,why “get your learning on”(so to speak).
the problem here is that the student don’t really have any motivation to study… one of my student even asked me “why do I have to study I have money” or they even say “I will pass no matter what, so don’t worry”. They don’t respect their teacher; Arabic or not unless it’s a Qatari teacher. I feel that they only come to school to say that they are graduate but not educated. But of course I will not say all of them, some kids are really striving to learn.
The first universities in Europe were founded in the 11th century. The first school in Qatar was founded in 1955, while the first university was founded in 1973. For some reason I am unmoved by this ‘news’.
IN the 11th century what was the connectivity of the world? Nil. Starting in 1955 here is like starting in 11th century in Europe all things considered. That’s not an excuse. You have full advantage of outside resources. Since 1955 how many people here had the opportunity to study here and abroad reliant on effort in formative years? And paid by the state. Pretty much 100% of the population. No effort = what we have today. It’s not the populations fault so much. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to do little and live comfortably? For me it would be boring but that’s me. I need some other purpose to my life. The government has enabled this thinking by continuing with such a huge welfare system.
I’m just looking at it from a historic point of view. Someone else mentioned the abrupt transition from a tribal to a modern society, and while I think it is a bit insensitive (for lack of a better word) to assert, it is very true. I’m not entire surely what you mean by connectivity. If you are referring to things like studying abroad or cultural diffusion, then there was most certainly a lot of connectivity in Europe in the early middle ages. Western Europe imported Byzantine teachers, after all, and it was common for English, French and Germans to study elsewhere than their home country. And, as far as I remember, they had to study at least 8 years to obtain a degree.
You have a point with Qataris being able studying abroad or going to university for free, but this is unrelated to primary education. Have you ever been inside a Qatari public school? Most of them are entirely staffed by uneducated and unqualified Arab and African expats. There isn’t much difference from 1955 except for the facilities, which explains the very low test scores. The development of an effectual education system with no foundation takes time. Even in the last 5 years, there have been immense re-hauls to the education system.
(PS if you are right that the students are to be blamed for putting forth no effort, then Qatar’s scores should see an improvement in ~15 years when they run out of oil).
Connectivity in all respects. If it took you weeks to get from Paris to London, that’s not connected. For then yes but as I said it’s all relative to the time and era. And how many of the general population actually was educated? Only the rich. Considering the feudal systems in place at the time I doubt many serfs were going to Oxford. the poor and down trodden outnumbered the elite by quite a margin.
How is it unrelated? The skills and habits you obtain in primary education is the foundation for future education. Once they’re in HS it’s pretty much a lost cause.
To say the teachers are uneducated is quite wrong. Not to western standards in most cases but that doesn’t make them uneducated. MY wife was educated in the Egyptian system and is quite “educated”. I personally know many arab teachers in the schools and they say the abuse and disrespect is the problem. They are afraid to discipline any student, fail any students or otherwise have any control over their classroom. Just ask the Sri Lankan teacher accused of blasphemy by two 12 yr old after calling him a MONKEY. And this at QA.
It’s a top down problem. The parents seem to not teach respect for others or able to, for the most part, lead by example of a hard working, you get back what you effort, role model.
I meant unrelated in relation to PISA scores. The quality of our *universities* is unrelated to the performance of the students in primary schools. I’ll give you the point on the Serfs.
Upbringing does have an influence on the performance and behavior of students, but I still say that society needs more time to develop. There has been a lot of transition in the last 35 or so years, but the evolution of society has been inconsequential. It is still a relatively tribal society.
The difference being that Qatar is not inventing an educational system from scratch, so is/should be building on decades of established best practise. SEC need ‘only’ look at what places like Singapore and Finland are doing and adapt it for here. The Not Invented Here Syndrome is a difficult one to get over though.
where’s India in the list?
Just select well who is allowed to teach the kids ! If we have a look at the Finnish education system then we can see that only the top students can go to teacher;s training colleges /universities . My kids went to Arab ,Indian , American schools here . Some Arab and Indian teachers were clearly not teachers but they had a piece of paper that allowed them to teach ! We were much happier with the American schools but tell me why someone has to pay a fortune to get good level of education ? Have a look at the Finnish schools – they are available for anyone!
The competition is keen to get into the American School. The cost of maintaining that education standard is quite high. The cost of living and doing business is quite high to most anywhere else in the world. the American School does have some pretty top tier teachers. This and more are the reasons.
It is noticeable that the top 5 countries have little in the way of natural resources. Thus the emphasis on education to drive their economies.
“It is solely a maid’s responsibility to pick up a child’s fast food wrappers after they have eaten”
“It is solely the drivers responsibility to ensure a child gets to school on time, regardless of what time the kids get up”
“It is a child’s home tutors responsibility to check that a child does their homework”
“It is solely the classroom teachers responsibility to teach all students about respect, work ethic and the importance of education”
……it is the parents responsibility to pay for it and forget the rest. Just point a finger and blame the person working for a fraction of what the parents get paid for doing…..nothing.
Before even considering an evaluation of the effectiveness of an education system, remember that 80% of a child’s education comes from home.
Stop the system of handing out money to natives for doing nothing and education may then evolve.