I’m a huge fan of Qatar Foundation’s initiatives. I love the push for the development of a knowledge-based economy through Education City especially since the education system was quite poor not too long ago.
I actually studied in an IB school in Bahrain. At the time my father was one of the heads of Gulf Air (Qatar had a share in the airline and this was before Qatar Airways existed) and their Head Office was (and still is) on the island. The education system was considered to be ahead of Qatar, there were more choices when it came to private schools, and parents had a choice of putting their children in a school with a British, American, Canadian, or French curriculum.
Anyway, before I go off into too much of a tangent, let’s get back to talking about Education City. Look at Qatar now! We’ve got more schools, choices of universities, and the nation is encourage to ‘Think’ and ‘Innovate’; just in case you weren’t sure, there were signs, adverts, and giant words on the cornice that spelled it out for you. Education City itself is a great idea. Getting the world’s best universities together in the same area and walk-able campus. So much so that more foreign students are choosing to come to education city for their further education and more Qatari’s are starting to choose to stay in the country.
Two thoughts that come to my mind though are 1) what’s missing in Education city? and 2) is it better for a Qatari to study here in Qatar than going off abroad?
I feel like the university campuses are still lacking in facilities and in having that community feel. As beautifully designed as they are, they don’t feel like the campuses I studied at and visited when I was in the UK. Campuses had squares or outdoor common areas, restaurants, cafes, recreational areas, or even arcades. It felt like a little town. Plus most universities were close to actual town centers. At the moment students are sort of isolated. Most students need a car to get around (alright this is Doha so it’s understandable), but they’re quite far from the main city. I loved being able to get up, go to a seminar, and then grab the uni bus and head to the town center that was 10 minutes away, have dinner, watch a movie, and head back to uni. I’ve been told by some students that there’s a nickname for the mood they get into because they don’t feel like they’ve got enough to do, it’s called the “Doha Depression”. Honestly, it’ depressing to hear that such a phrase or expression exists. When I pressed to ask why they felt that way, I was told that they didn’t think there was enough to do or places to go. Honestly, part of university life is the social experience. Learning to interact, mingle, make friends with strangers, hang out, play sports, and explore. I’ve heard of great plans to build malls, more sports grounds, and even a cinema, but I haven’t seen any plans so far. I wonder what the hold up is.
It was also fun having different universities competing…. For anything! “We’ve got the best looking building, we’ve got the best cafes, we’ve got the best courses for Sociology 305, we’ve got—“ you get the point. Right now I feel like Education City is the university and the different universities are departments. Not only because they’re so close to each other, but because of the shared student spaces. Should each university be more independent infrastructure wise as well?
When it comes to more Qataris choosing to study here, the question is whether it’s the best choice. It’s a personal thing, that’s for sure, but I loved studying in the UK. I made friends with people from all over the world, I learned to be independent, I learned how to manage funds living in an apartment alone, and I learned to understand things from different perspectives. Studying abroad gives you experiences that no classroom can provide. It’s both scary and exciting to be in a foreign setting and being immersed in a new cultural environment. I found new challenges and found ways to solve new problems.
It also gave me appreciation for what I have here in Qatar. No tax worries and lower cost of living are two that come to my mind. Personally I’d take studying abroad every time.
One popular Qatari group called Qatari & Qatariah had questioned the public with “Do you think that Qataris who study abroad are more intelligent or can perform better in the work place?”. It was a mixed bag of answers. Some said that intelligence depended on the abilities of the person regardless of where they studied, but most agreed that studying abroad gave them that extra edge and a different way of thinking.
I’m proud of the way that Qatar has progressed in the Education sector. We’re doing some amazing things. Qatar Foundation and Education City are encouraging people to read, question, and create. That’s exactly the type of social development the country needs to create a country of the future. Whether choosing to study abroad or here in Qatar. One thing’s for sure, it’s great that we now have more choices.