Teaching English in Qatar

- Qatar

The following comments are from English teachers who have worked, or are currently teaching English in Qatar. If you are an English teacher and have some advice to share about Qatar, please post here.

Teaching English in Qatar can be a rewarding job. The entire country is in the middle of major education reform. They are moving into a mode of instruction where the basics are taught in English from K on up. There are plenty of jobs for the native speaker. Although traditionally there was a preference for British teachers, the educational model that is being adopted is more and more American and the hiring is more and more American friendly, so even if an advertisement specifies British teachers send your CV and see what happens.

(Note: as an American I found it odd that my employer requested my photograph with my CV, but that is common practice here; as is a potential employer asking about marital status, family and religion.)

There are three basic types of K-12 education: private schools, public / government schools, and independent schools which seem to be a hybrid of the American Charter schools and magnet schools. Every year the number of government/public schools that are being switched to Independent schools grows. FYI: a modern educational system only started in Qatar in the 1950s. The old ways of teaching by rote memorization are actively being replaced by more modern methods of more learner-centered interactive classrooms. There is a paradigm shift underway. It is a dynamic time to teach in Qatar. It is also rewarding to be a part of positive change in educational practices.

There are also universities and language centers where you can teach. Qatar University is the local university started in 1972. There are also several American universities with branches here, one Canadian University that has a reputation for only hiring Canadians, as well as a famous Dutch university for hospitality.

Qatar is a lovely Gulf country. Most of the population of Qatar lives in Doha, the capital. Qatar is small (and easily adapted to). There is a modesty of dress but it is not strict. You find women outside in relatively normal western dress - no bikinis yet though, unless at the western hotels. Women drive - one of the most common questions I am asked. Getting a Qatari driver's license as an American was very easy - no lessons or tests other than an eye test. I am told Brits get them easily as well, but most other nationalities have to take a driving course, pass tests and then they are allowed a Driver's license. Do not even bother to get the International Driver's License because it is not recognized here.

There are numerous malls; one that is five stories tall and rather enormous. Shopping is a main past-time here. There are also some more traditional type suqs as well.

As far as cultural events, there are major sporting events year round. A pro men's golf tournament, pro men's (ATP) and women's (WTA) tennis tournaments, pro squash, pro motorcycling, sailing, speed boating, horse and camel racing, soccer/football, table tennis, and the list is longer than I can imagine.

Other cultural events include famous European musicians, rock bands performing outside on the seashore, plays and numerous international expositions. There are numerous groups to join. The Qatar Natural History Group has great lectures at a yearly nominal fee for membership. There is a Ramblers group for walking in various areas in Qatar, no membership fee, open to all. There are Toastmasters groups, Doha Singers, the Doha Debates (as seen on BBC), Doha Scientific Club, Stamp collecting (Philatelic), petanque, AA, various women's groups, clubs for French, German or Spanish speakers, sailing and scuba diving lessons and clubs, centers to learn about Qatari culture and Arabic if you like (contact QCPI), scouts and brownies troops, ice skating, ice hockey, tae kwon do, even a Harley Davidson Club. Moreover, if you have the necessary income you can join all sorts of social and sporting clubs that offer nice activities.

I recommend picking up a Marhaba guide for 20 Qatari Qiyals at your first convenience to know the current local happenings (available at Al Jarir Bookstore as well as other locations.) This English language guide is geared to ex-pats offering cultural tidbits of information as well as suggestions on what to see and where to eat (to eat, may I recommend Al Bandar and Star of India as two musts.)

Alcohol is not currently allowed in any restaurants excepting those in the big western hotels. Qataris do not drink or eat pork and these will not be found in restaurants or store shelves.

The following is some technical information you may need to realize, but do not let it frighten you away. There is a huge ex-pat community here and numerous societies to join to make your stay here lively and not all about work.

As a foreigner in Qatar, you have to have a work visa (iqama). At the time of this posting, this is linked specifically to your employer and can potentially make switching jobs on a whim, or higher salary offer very hard. Some employers are nicer than others about letting you switch your work visa from one employer to another. Others are not and you may get kicked out of the country for up to two years. So be aware. Recent legislation has been passed for certain sectors wherein the iqama is no longer linked to a specific employer, but that is not yet the case for teachers.

If you find your employer did not fulfil his or her contract once you are there, you can go to the Labour Ministry and they will help you mediate with your employer. Sometimes foreigners win, other times they don't.

Working in Qatar is not difficult. The majority of the workforce is not Qatari. On the whole, the country is used to foreign workers. It is just that foreign workers are viewed as workers and often as less human. This classicism is usually not the case for Western ESL / EFL teachers. It is just a sad reality you should be aware of, and one that we ex-pats lament as a problem found in most of the Gulf where overnight excessive wealth has led to a new generation of idle rich who feel entitled and somehow erroneously better than others who work. Please note that this is not the case with all Qataris by far. Most are kind-hearted people.
Fatima 10 February 2006

My advice is firstly to maximize the student learning experience. Also, the main objective in child education is mostly about morality and personality development, not only teaching English. It is my belief that an educator's mission is to enhance student confidence. Remember, we must never lose sight of the fact that our work is the education of individual people.
Sabrina 24 June 2006

I have visited Qatar and stayed in Doha. I found it to be a lovely place. It was quiet and serene. I am furthering my education and am one class away from obtaining my TESOL certificate. I would like to move and find a job there teaching English. I am an experienced teacher, and am currently working as a elementary teacher. I know there are a lot of opportunities for Americans as far as work is concerned and I hope I am able to fulfil my wish!
Kristin 22 December 2006

I just want any of you who have visited Qatar to help me. I'm from Iran and I want to get my TESOL. Any suggestions? Do I attend TESOL classes in Iran or Qatar? What's your opinion about the level and quality of TESOL classes there? And can I trust their promises like providing house, etc? Which institutes do you recommend?? Do I have any chance to be a teacher in an institute considering that English isn't my native language? Are you satisfied with your salary? Appreciate any comments? Thanks all. I'm eagerly waiting for your response.
Sami 24 October 2011



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