The educational landscape of Qatar is set to welcome another renowned international school later this year as ACS Doha gets ready to open its doors at its purpose-built facility in Gharaffa in September.
ACS international schools currently have three campuses, Cobham, Egham and Hillngdon, all in England, where they are known for providing a high level of international education to students from all over the world. Their fourth campus opens this year in Doha, representing a significant new step in the development of ACS as an institution catering for a diverse student base.
The schools offer a variety of international programmes, including the American Advanced Placement (AP) course and the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma, among other courses.
Initially the Doha campus will cater to students between the ages of three and 14, but in future years, the school will provide the IB Diploma and the AP programme, as well as the American High School Honours Diploma.
Gulf Times spoke to the chairman of the ACS board of directors, David Thomas, about the school launch and what the institution will bring to students in Qatar.
“Ours is truly an international school,” he said, explaining that the schools in England catered to some 70 different nationalities, whilst the staff represented 30 nationalities.
“We are basically a college preparatory school, so we prepare students for colleges and universities across the globe,” he said.
“We are living in an increasingly global world, where national borders are becoming less and less relevant, and so providing students with an education to go on to study all over the world is becoming the norm,” he said. “In many ways we have been ahead of that curve – we have very good relationships with top universities around the world, and they know that ACS students come with certain attributes.”
Although the school has not set itself any targets in terms of initial enrolment, Thomas explained that ACS Doha expected to open with between 250 and 300 students in September, with that number rising to around 900 when the school is open for students up to the age of 18, expected to happen in 2015.
“Qatar is a very stable country, and a very dynamic and growing business centre, and our schools in England were built around meeting the needs of a globally mobile expatriate population, so for us, Doha is a very good fit indeed.”
Thomas expressed his excitement about the location of the school itself.
“It’s a very self-contained, purpose-built site, with quite an intimate feel – it’s a modern building with state-of-the-art facilities,” he said. “We are equipping it to the highest standards we can, so we are bringing in science labs, furniture and everything we need to give our students the best possible platform to succeed in our inaugural year.”
The school has a fully-equipped sports hall and swimming pool on site.
Thomas said that he was very impressed with the efforts of Qatar’s leadership in encouraging educational institutions to come and establish a presence here, explaining that the country’s emphasis on the importance of education had been a contributing factor to ACS coming to Doha.
Having decided to start the school here, Thomas said he had been “welcomed with open arms” by everyone in Qatar, including the other schools that are already here.
“We’ve had an open door from other schools here that have been very encouraging, and they continue to be so,” he said, suggesting that collaboration and extra-curricular activities involving students from other schools will be an important aspect of ACS’s offering.
“We’re very enthused by the vision of HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser in encouraging schools to come into Qatar, the growth of the university sector and the various educational events and conferences that are held here with such a strong profile – that’s another reason that we feel Qatar is such a harmonious fit,” he
“We know that having a school in Qatar will enrich from an educational and cultural viewpoint our schools in the UK,” he said, adding “that transfer of knowledge and skills between our schools will be very powerful.”
“It’s really important for us to be part of the community, to learn about that community and be embedded within it - learning about local customs will enrich the international offering of our school.”