04 Sep Schools and what you may have to go through to get a place in Doha
One of the most frustrating and expensive things that all families have to get sorted in Doha is the places for the kids at a school.
Let me tell you now, if you’re coming here for the first time, even if it’s from another GCC country, YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE PROBLEMS!
Firstly, the Cost! Doha is not only extremely short on school places (more below on that subject) but those that are available are ridiculously expensive if you’re looking at an international school. I won’t quote exact pricing here as they change frequently but they have gone nothing but up in the 6 years we have been here. Right now we have to pay near on QAR 100,000 for two secondary school places so make sure your financial package allows enough for that cost. I understand that the Indian curriculum schools may be cheaper along with the Pilipino schools but the amounts are still pretty high.
Second, Availability! Despite the recent downturn in the market here in Qatar (as of August 2016), you will find getting a school place difficult. Most, if not all, International schools will carry out a pre-screening and selection process before your child may attend. Each school will have different criteria which may preclude your child from even being considered for a place such as speaking the language, being toilet trained or being able to carry out differential calculations on astrophysics in their head whilst juggling 6 chainsaws and conjugating verbs in Latin (OK, I may be exaggerating a little bit…. But only about the chainsaws….). Oh, and the school will charge you a fee (sometimes in the hundreds of riyals) for the privilege of allowing your child to be tested. So factor that in to your plans. I’m including a list of schools below for you to look at here in Doha.
If you do get through the pre-screening, you are still NOT guaranteed a place (especially in some of the more popular schools), so you’ll be put on the dreaded “Waiting List”. This is some sort of dead zone where your child’s name will reside until some unfortunate soul has to leave the school in the year you need. Again, you may be charged for this privilege.
Third, Uniforms. Most of the schools here will operate with a specific uniform code with colour coded shirts or trousers that will be only available at 1 or 2 places in Doha (see below for a “short” list). And you don’t have an option in that. No going out to some tailor in the back of beyond to rustle up some shirts for you. You couldn’t get the materials anyway. A set of uniforms for a school may set you back over QAR 500 for a few months wear. Another expense to be factored in I’m afraid.
Fourth, transport. If you’re looking at both parents having full time jobs (such as us) then you’re going to have to figure out how the kids will get to and from school. Usually the trip in isn’t much of an issue as schools start early here (by 7.30 at the latest) so one or other of the parents can drop the little ones off. Getting them home is a bigger headache. Schools generally close between 1pm and 2pm here in Qatar, sometimes earlier for the younger ones. So you’ll need to have a flexible work schedule to get them home or an alternative arrangement with a driver / taxi / bus service.
All the schools will run some form of bus service for children. These can be hit and miss on quality and convenience though so do some groundwork and investigate properly. They are not a free service either (as far as I know), so again, factor in the costs for that if you’re going to use them. And bear in mind that the schedules they run on can involve your children being on a bus for over an hour in either direction so that may entail an extra early start or late finish. Again, do your research first!
Another thing to consider is how close the school will be to where you are going to live. Often here people choose the school first before settling on the villa / apartment.
Fifth, Documents, Records and the need for an RP! The one is a bit of a killer. In order to get a school place the Supreme Education Council has mandated that all children must have a Qatar Residency Permit (or RP) before they can be offered a school place. In order to get an RP the sponsor of the child (usually the father) must have at least 3 months of bank statements showing his salary deposits before the family can start the application process for the RP. So I’m afraid that makes it supremely difficult, if not impossible for a family to arrive together and for the kids to start schools in a minimum amount of time. Be prepared to be separated from loved ones for a time if you want to have your family with you. It’s a sad state of affairs but those are the rules here in Qatar. You’ll also need to provide proof of your living accommodation being suitable for the family i.e. your lease contract.
Also, make sure all your children’s previous school reports are available and ready for submission to the school along with your application. They will ask for them. This includes any reports from the child’s nursery if it will be their first year at big school. You’ll also need the child’s birth certificates, vaccination records (very important) and possibly your marriage certificate to support your application. Bear in mind that the birth and marriage certificates will need to be attested (and possibly translated) and stamped by the authorities in your home country and the local Qatari embassy as well (more costs).
Lastly, the Curriculum. If you’re coming from a country outside of the UK, the USA, France, India, Pakistan or an Arab country (please excuse the generalization), you may have problems getting your child into a suitable school. Options are limited here are and if you take our example, 2 kids from the UK, we had a choice of schools to apply to. However, friends of ours from for example, the Netherlands, have had issues getting through the selection processes of certain schools. Be prepared and look at all the options you have! More schools from different countries are opening here in Doha now. We already have Finnish, Turkish, Tunisian, Iranian, Palestinian and others alongside some other International schools. There are also a whole bunch of smaller scale schools which may be able to offer places to those who can’t get in to one of the more popular schools. Be patient and again, do your research diligently!
So, if you’re still up for the challenge, where are you going to try and send the little tykes? Here are some options for you to go and look at. Please understand that this is not a comprehensive list and new schools are opening in Doha each year, as well as some closing down!
For a review of some of the best rated schools in Doha try looking at this site
British Curriculum Schools (up to IGCSE and IB levels)
- Doha English Speaking School (DESS) – Embassy sponsored UK school. High reputation with long waiting lists. Tends to look at UK passport holders first. Located near the Al Jazeera TV station
- Doha British School (DBS) – Private British school with two branches, Ain Khaled and in Wakra
- Park House School – Private British school and one of the longest running British schools in Qatar. Located in Abu Hamour
- GEMS Wellington – A relatively new school located in Barwa (has a sister campus, GEMS American Academy)
- Compass International School – Located in Madinat Khalifa & West Bay
- Newton Academy / British / International School – A franchise style school with multiple locations throughout Doha
- The Phoenix School – A private school with classes from 3 to 14 only. Located in Mamoura
- Doha College – One of the oldest British curriculum schools in Doha. Large with over 1200 pupils. Two campuses in one in West Bay and the other in Al Waab. Another one with long waiting lists.
- Royal Grammar School – Guildford – A newly opened school (in 2016) copying the original from the UK
- Al Maha School – Teaches the British curriculum alongside Islamic and Arabic studies. Has separate facilities for boys and girls.
- Vision International School – Opened in 2014, located in Wakra
- Pearling Season International School – A centrally located school on B Ring Road
- Qatar International School – Large school with over 1600 students. Located in Mamoura
- International School of London – Located just north of Doha in Duhail
- Al Jazeera Academy – Located in Abu Hamour (next to Park House and the Iranian school). Internationally renowned. Holds some classes in Arabic.
American Curriculum Schools
- American School of Doha (ASD) – Large and established US school with a huge range of facilities. Located in Al Waab
- ACS Doha – US school located in Al Gharaffa in the north of Doha
- American Academy School – Located in Al Thumama. Has an associated kindergarten as well. Follows the New York curriculum.
- GEMS American Academy – A new school (opened at the same time as the GEMS Wellington) located in Wakra
- Qatar Academy – School with multiple locations throughout Qatar including Al Khor, Wakra and Education City
- Michael DeBakey High School – a Secondary level only High school with a focus on mathematics and medical sciences
Indian Curriculum Schools
- Doha Modern Indian School (DMIS) – Large Indian school located in Abu Hamour
- MES Indian School – Also located in Abu Hamour. Been established since 1974
- Ideal Indian School – Located near to the QDC shop in Abu Hamour. Segregates older pupils by gender
- DPS Modern Indian School – Located in Wakra. Established in 2002
Pilipino Curriculum Schools
- Philippine International School Qatar (PISQ) – Located in Ain Khalid. Offers a Montessori approach in pre-school.
- Philippine School Doha (PSD) – Located in Al Messila area. Large school with over 2500 students
Other curriculums available
- Qatar – Finnish School – Newly opened school offering the top rated Finnish curriculum. I think the classes are in English.
- German International School – Located in Mamoura offering the German curriculum. Classes are in German
- The Lebanese School – Founded in 1975, primarily serving the Lebanese community here (obviously)
- Al Rowad International School – A Saudi school with emphasis on Islamic teachings
- Stafford Sri Lankan School – Affiliated with the Sri Lankan Embassy. Located in Mushereib
- Lycee Franco-Qatarien Voltaire – French language school located in West Bay, Al Waab and on the Salwa Road
- Tunisian School of Doha – Located in Al Gharaffa
I haven’t listed the Arabic curriculum schools as I’m afraid I’m not qualified to state what is available (I don’t read Arabic, sorry!)
There are many others so do some research!!
For school uniforms you seem to have only two choices for the International Schools
Zaks Uniform Shop – Located on Barwa Commercial Avenue, near the F Ring flyover
Uniform Mart – Located in Al Rayaan but near Gharaffa Sports Club
Other places may be available but I’m not aware of them I’m afraid. Good luck!
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