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Qatar — small, natural-resource-rich country in the Persian Gulf — has embarked on an ambitious, comprehensive effort to upgrade its educational institutions. In 2001, the Emir of Qatar asked RAND, a US-based nonprofit research institution, to conduct an objective analysis of the existing education system. Based on this analysis, the RAND team and Qatari partners considered how the current organization of schooling dominated by the Ministry of Education was meeting the country’s needs, and suggested systemic improvements. In 2002, the Emir announced a sweeping plan based on (1) new government-funded schools that are not operated by the Ministry of Education but by other parties and (2) standardized national student tests aligned with internationally-benchmarked curriculum standards. The reform includes the development of many types of schools and an information system about school performance that facilitates parental choice and involvement. Implementation of the reform began in Fall 2002. In this paper, the authors describe the background analysis underlying the reform and its main elements. They briefly discuss the progress of the reform, and highlight some of the challenges encountered.

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