Qatar Rewrites ABCs of Mideast Education

Margaret Coker:

A seven-year school revamp spearheaded by this gas-rich emirate’s first lady is emerging as test case for radical education overhauls in the Mideast.
The United Nations and World Bank have long blamed low educational standards for contributing to economic stagnation and instability across the region, which faces the highest rates of youth unemployment in the world and the threat of growing religious extremism.
Schoolteachers across the region have been bound by entrenched programs that emphasize religion and rote learning, often from outdated textbooks. Qatar, with a tiny population and outsize natural-gas export revenue, launched a new system in 2004 that stresses problem-solving, math, science, computer skills and foreign-language study. The final slate of new schools in the program was approved last month, giving Qataris over 160 new schools to choose from when the next school year begins in September.
“The old system churned out obedient but passive citizens. What good is that for a global economy?” says first lady Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned.