American School of Doha

If you are a parent who is considering a job overseas, and your contract will allow you to bring your family, one of your main concerns will be finding a school for your children.

In November 2011, we had the opportunity to meet with staff and students of the American School of Doha. Among those generous enough to share their time and energy with us were Phillip Stroup, Director of Development and External Relations, Scott Barnwell, Director of Admissions, and Jan Goulden, PTA President.

From its humble beginnings in an old villa in 1988, ASD has grown to a bright, airy, and welcoming multi-building campus educating approximately 2,000 children from Pre-K to grade 12.

We'd like to let you know some of the things we learned during our visit, and to give you a feel for what this lively academic environment can offer your children.

Students

To help new students find their feet, ASD pairs up newcomers with experienced buddies who can show them the ropes.

Although 60% ASD's nearly 2,000 students are from the United States and Canada, students hail from 79 different countries, and their flags are proudly displayed in the upper school's cafeteria. We were told that about 10% of students are Qatari citizens.

Student involvement within ASD is encouraged, with the senior students helping to tutor the junior students. For graduation, students are required to fulfill a minimum 40 hours of community service (they typically do more), volunteering and raising money for projects in developing countries.

Since the majority of students are the children of expatriate contract employees in Qatar, the average stay at the school is from three to five years. ASD graduates have earned spots in the top universities in the United States and Canada.

When asked what types of students do not do well, the consensus was: those who do not value education, those who do not want to work, and those who are not there for the right reasons. ASD has students with mild learning or behavioral issues, but lacks services for students with significant needs, so cannot accept these children.

By the Numbers

Pre-K and K classes have a maximum of 15 students; grades one to two have a maximum of 20 students; and grades three to 12 have a maximum of 22 students.

Teachers

The Qatari government requires that teachers be certified. It is possible for a school to hire non-certified teachers, but the teachers have a limited window of time in which they must complete courses onsite to become locally certified.

The majority of ASD's staff members hail from the United States and Canada, but there are also teachers from the UK, Australia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Having spent many years in school -- and being a certified teacher -- I can tell you that the enthusiasm I encountered among the teachers was refreshing - not to mention infectious!

Parents

For parents who like to be active in their kids' schools, ASD is the place to be. The school has a very active PTA. A current PTA fundraising effort is to raise QR1 million (US$2.7 million) to build a new playground for the elementary school. ASD also has a Booster Club, made up of parents who assist the athletic department by providing fun activities and doing fundraising, e.g., holiday market sales, hot dog lunches, concessions, and more.

Academic and Other Programs and Services

ASD offers a wide range of programs, facilities, and services for your children, of which a sampling includes:

  • This school is tech-friendly and computer savvy! ASD has Wi-Fi, high-speed internet access throughout. There are two well-equipped Mac computer labs. Also, in the 2011-2012 school year, students in grades 11 and 12 were issued tablets, and those in grades six to nine were issued netbooks. ASD also has well-equipped science labs and an after-school robotics program.
  • Students have the option of taking the challenging Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs.
  • ASD offers Classical Arabic, Arabic as a Foreign Language, French, and Spanish classes, all of which are taught by native speakers of the language.
  • ASD has two nurses' offices, as well as counselors for the elementary, middle, and high school age groups. So whether your child has simple school-related scheduling questions, career counseling, or college placement needs (e.g., SATs), they can help.
  • If your children love the Arts, ASD can offer them drama, music, visual arts, and digital arts programs. The school has a new (2007) auditorium for student theatrical productions. To stretch their musical wings, ASD students can participate in the choir, orchestra, jazz band, a capella group, or chamber group.
  • For your child's sports and fitness needs, ASD has a double gymnasium, an indoor pool, a weight and fitness room, and large green fields, where students can run track and play on a full-sized soccer pitch. (ASD can also boast that it is home to the only baseball diamond in Doha!)
  • Sporting students can participate in competitions with other regional schools through the Middle East South Asia Conference (MESAC). MESAC is involved chiefly in athletic competitions -- basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, badminton, softball, track, cross country, and swimming -- but also organizes academic games, Arts festivals, and forensics (i.e., debating and public speaking) competitions.

Admissions

ASD's website provides the full details of the admissions process, but in brief, an application involves submission (in English) of an application and fee, health questionnaires/forms, school records, recommendations, photos, and passport/birth certificate copies to the Office of Admissions. Once the full file is in, the committee takes about an hour to give an answer about eligibility for admission.

Accreditation

ASD is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Fees

At ASD, fees include an initial application and registration fee, as well as annual capital fees and tuition fees. Tuition and fees are subject to change each year. To see current costs, visit the Tuition and Fees page.

Some Considerations When Looking at Options for Schools Overseas:

  • What curriculum is offered, e.g., American, British, other?
  • What is the accreditation status of the school?
  • What are the entry requirements (e.g., minimum grades, language abilities, health requirements)?
  • What is the admissions process (e.g., rolling admissions, admissions only during certain times in the year)?
  • Are there spaces, or is there a waiting list - if there is a waiting list, how long is the list? (We have found that many of the schools in Qatar have limited spaces and waiting lists.)
  • What about the teachers (e.g., where are they from, are all teachers certified in their home country)?
  • What facilities are available on campus (e.g., sports fields, pool, library, computer lab)?
  • Are education-related programs available (e.g., tutoring, special education, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate)?
  • What other programs and/or extracurricular activities are available (e.g., Arts, competitive sports, debating)?
  • What do your future colleagues think about school options in the area. Ask your future colleagues what they think, and check out expat chat rooms and information sites.
  • What is the cost? If the full costs of assessment, tuition, etc., are not covered by your employer, the costs will be significant.

Watch the Video of the American School of Doha

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