The beginnings of interest in education among the Qatari society date back to the late 19th century, as schools were spread in all regions of Qatar to preach religion, science and culture. The Kuttab was the first traditional non official educational institution undertaking the task of educating young people matters related to life and religion until education became a social phenomenon. Then, Qatari people advanced education as a religious obligation and a human duty. At that stage, education focused on teaching children how to read, write, learn and recite the Koran. Boys and girls, until the age of ten, were accepted at the Kuttab without discrimination. The teaching was done by a person called the Muttawa or the Mullah.
In 1890, during the reign of Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed bin Thani, such Katatib expanded to include most areas of Qatar, and then began teaching Arabic language Grammar and Mathematics in addition to its first task of teaching the Koran and the principles of Islam. This system of education continued till the early years of the 20th century, when the country witnessed the first serious attempt to set up a regular system of education. Opening the Athariyya religious school in 1913 was a major step in that direction. This school was more modernistic than the Kuttab.
In 1947 the first school, with a defined comprehensive curriculum, was opened on the premises of the "Al Athariyaa School", and was named "Al-Islah Al-Hamadiya School”, after its founder, Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani. The School, whose students were 154, lasted for two years only. However, regular education as it is known today started only in 1950/1951 when the “Qatar Elementary School” was opened. This was the first school to be opened at a dedicated premise incorporating four classes with 190 pupils. Official curricula were introduced in 1952, and books were imported from some Arab countries. More schools were then opened in other parts of the country. In 1952/1953 the “Education Commission”, which assumed the role of the Ministry of Education, was established and opened new schools in other parts of the country.
In 1953/1954, it opened the first girls’ elementary school in Doha to replace the then existing four Kuttabs for girls. In 1955 the Education Department was established to oversee education, and two years later it became the Ministry of Education with Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani as the first Minister of Education. The ministry began establishing regulations for spreading and developing free education for all education stages, and making it compulsory in primary stages. By then the number of schools rose to 14 elementary and kindergarten schools, while the number of teachers reached 45 and the number of pupils exceeded 1000.
In 1958 it was decided to offer education to all male and female Qataris and expatriates of school age. All kindergartens were turned into primary schools, thus raising the total number of elementary schools in the country to 22, two of which were for girls, in addition to a secondary school for boys and one industrial school. In 1959/1960 the educational ladder was modified to incorporate three stages:
• Elementary (6 years)
• Preparatory (3 years)
• Secondary (3 years)
The secondary stage was divided into two streams of specialization: scientific and literary. In 1962 religious and trade education were incorporated in the general education system. The first Teachers Training Institute was opened in 1967 to help overcome the shortage of qualified teachers. The number of schools continued to increase, and in 1967/1968 the first commercial school was opened, while the first secondary school for girls was opened in 1969/1970 alongside a Teacher Training School for girls. Qatar University and the Language Institute were opened in 1973. In 1978 "model schools" were introduced. Three such schools were opened. In 1989/1990 a five-year plan for a nationwide model schooling system for all male pupils was formulated and their number continued to increase thereafter.