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Article: Qatar University's language policy

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 7:13 am    Post subject: Article: Qatar University's language policy Reply with quote

How Qatar University's language policy is holding back students


In Qatar, where expats outnumber local Arabs nearly 8 to 1, there is a palpable concern among locals that the gas-rich nation has put its cultural identity on the selling block. With a steady influx of global businesses and Western law firms opening their doors in Doha, you’re more likely to hear the sounds of English banter on the Corniche than Arabic.

But Qatar is fighting back—much to the detriment of its future and that of its next generation. Last year, Qatar University reverted to Arabic as its primary language for business, law, social sciences and humanities as part of the country’s push to strengthen the use of Arabic language in public education. “Arabic is the mother tongue of most QU students so there is certainly an advantage to teach in Arabic,” says Nael Mohamad, a spokesman for Qatar University in an e-mail.

That may be true in the short run and for those students seeking public sector jobs within Qatar. But Qatar’s ambitions lie further West, making English a language of necessity for Qataris eager to be part of the large global marketplace. That’s especially true since Qatar won the right to host the FIFA 2020 World Cup. The tiny Gulf kingdom has committed to developing $60 billion worth of infrastructure projects ahead of the deal, ushering in a wave of foreign players eager to be a part of the development boom. Who better to work alongside the influx of foreigners in the private sector than local Qataris, fluent in English, who are adequately trained in the finer aspects of business and law?

Beyond its own infrastructure goals, deep-pocketed Qatar has become an aggressive investor in foreign assets. In February, Qatar Holding, a unit of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, said it will launch a $12 billion investment firm to buy assets globally. Such endeavors offer a unique opportunity for Qataris to play a larger, sustainable role in the shaping of their country’s economy. But to make a meaningful contribution, their skills must be on par with Western competitors.

There is no debate that Arabic is at the heart of Qatar’s cultural heritage. Even Robert Musgrove, chief executive of the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre—an English common-law court established in 2009 to attract international business to Qatar—agrees. Yet, “similarly it is recognized that if there is a global language of commerce and law, it is English,” he said. “If Qatar is to develop lawyers whose ambition is to appear in international commercial courts of the world, they will need to be educated in international law in English. “

And business majors will need to understand a basic truth: most modern international business contracts are written in English. QU’s Mohamad said “a suitable level of specialized English will continue to be a requirement for graduation” and some elective courses will be offered in English. But that may not be enough to make QU graduates – a majority of whom are locals –competitive in today’s workplace. There are a number of foreign universities, such as Northwestern and Texas A&M universities, with campuses in Doha. They teach in English.

Graduates from these institutions will have an edge. And that edge may make all the difference.
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Joined: 20 Feb 2003
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Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To me it makes the most sense for the majority of Qataris to study in Arabic at their national university... while the more ambitious can choose to learn in English at University City in their field of interest.

While the current system has provided us native speakers of English great work opportunities, most of us have been saying the same thing for years... in private.

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Sirens of Cyprus

Joined: 21 Mar 2007
Posts: 255

PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 4:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

VS, you truly have mastered the use of the royal "we." Most of us? In private? Who is "us?" The ESL profession? And you get to say "most" and "in private" because, what? You took a private poll of a few thousand of your closest friends?
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Apparently you are very new to the EFL field in the Gulf and/or don't talk to the people who have been there for years. It has also been discussed here dozens of times.

But, of course, you are free to believe that it makes sense for any country to teach their universities in a different language than that of their K-12 schools or the native language of their people.

Starting next year, perhaps the US will start teaching all of their universities in Spanish... or a better choice would probably be Chinese since they are making all our stuff.

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Joined: 24 Jan 2010
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with having an Arabic option in theory, but in practice, students have neither the level of Arabic nor English to succeed in tertiary education. QU's decision was hasty to say the least.

Qatar really needs to sort out its primary and secondary system to graduate students fully bilingual in Arabic and English. What they do right now is graduate students with poor English and poor Arabic. Children today literally cannot write in Arabic. It's a problem if you can only write Khaleji Arabic if you must study in Modern Standard Arabic.The smartest move would have been to focus on primary schools and change QU when those students were of university age. The constant changing of curricula and language focus in incredibly disruptive to students here.

The schools in education city are elite. There is no place there for the average student. The students that make it there are the ones who graduated from top international schools, and they are not literate in Arabic. The average student from those international schools who would be rejected from education city is out of luck if their other choice is to study in Arabic.
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