The private–public literacy divide amid educational reform in Qatar: What does PISA tell us?

Author(s): Cheema, Jehanzeb R.

Date: 2015

Pages: p. 173-189

The education system in Qatar comprises of both private schools, which receive money through student fees, and public schools, which are fully government-funded. In the mid-2000s, Qatar started its transition towards an independent school model with the aim of eventually converting all public schools into government-supported independent schools. The idea was to give public schools more autonomy in terms of hiring decisions, adoption of curriculum and textbooks, and budget spending, enabling them to emulate some of the private schools’ strategies for turning out successful students. This study examines evidence from the 2006–2012 administrations of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in Qatar in order to evaluate whether or not recent educational reform efforts in this country have succeeded in bridging the literacy divide between private and public schools. The results, presented in a number of detailed tables and discussed in the last part of the article, indicate that there is a significant difference in key literacy skills between the two types of schools. Private schools were found to outperform their public counterparts in areas such as mathematics, reading and science, both before and after controlling for important student-level differences, and this gap has evidently persisted from 2006 to 2012.

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