Constitutional & Legal Foundations
The Constitution of the State of Qatar assures citizens of social welfare provisions made possible through the oil revenues generated since oil exports began. All Qatari nationals are entitled to free education in the state's comprehensive schooling system that began with the first primary schools in the early 1950s. Equal rights for and obligations of citizens are outlined in the constitution, and the government's responsibility for providing citizens with jobs is highlighted.
There have been signs that the Qatari government may take steps toward allowing greater political freedoms in the country. The Majlis As Shura, or consultative council, of Sheikh Hamad, may be replaced by an elected council or parliament. This would add an element of democracy to the governing process, and the fact that such a move is even being contemplated illustrates the pressures for change. The ruling family, comprising an estimated 10 percent of the Qatari national population, is very powerful, and although the ruler is accountable to the family, other elements of Qatari society have little or no say in the process of governance. The emir is vested with the authority to issue decrees after consultation with the Majlis As Shura. Emiri Decree number 2 established the University of Qatar in 1977, and Decree number 10 (1990) established the Educational Technology Center. But if greater freedoms result through an elected consultative council, a step may be taken toward liberalization and greater social freedoms. In fact, Sheikh Hamad himself has promised that such elections will occur. It remains to be seen how educational development will be affected by further involvement and greater participation of Qataris in governing their own country.
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