Before the mid-1970s, Qatar had to rely on the fact that teachers, teaching materials and curricula were imported from other Arab countries. A turning point came in 1973 with the founding of a university with initially two educational faculties, one for men and one for women. Since then, an explosive development has taken place by the school system. A greater part of the students start school at the age of six and have twelve years of compulsory and free schooling. Literacy in 2010 was 96%. Among young people, aged 15-24, reading and writing skills were almost total. At least half of the students graduating from universities and colleges are women. In recent years, several branches of well-known American and British universities have opened in Qatar.
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At the end of 1991, a new conflict arose between Qatar and Bahrain over the right to the many small islands along the coasts of the two emirates. This was particularly true of Howard Island and the underground under Dibval and Qitat, where there may be large oil reserves. The rising tension between the two countries triggered mediation on the part of Saudi Arabia.
The European, North American and Japanese companies involved in natural gas exploration had a combined share of 35%, while the state-owned Qatar General Petroleum Corporation controlled 65%. Production volume was estimated at 24 billion cubic meters in 1996 and exports began in 1997.
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In 1993, per. capita income $ 28,000 a year. The government was able to balance the budget due to the rising oil exports reaching 400,000 barrels a day.
However, the fall in oil prices on the world market led to a 20% fall in state revenues that year. In an attempt to diversify revenues, the government began negotiations in 1994 with a number of Asian companies on natural gas extraction.
In June 1995, Crown Prince Hamad ibn Khalifah ath-Thani overthrew his father and made himself emir of Qatar. The new ruler vowed to step up efforts to resolve territorial strife with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The country’s continued membership of the Gulf Cooperation Council was called into question when it emigrated in December from a meeting of the organization.
In April 1996, Saudi Arabia and Qatar signed an agreement to resolve the two countries’ territorial disputes. A similar dispute with Bahrain was resolved in March 1997, when both countries agreed to bring the dispute before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
In 1997, Qatar froze its relations with Israel, thus following the decision of the Arab League to reintroduce the Arab boycott. At the same time, Qatar made its capital available for the implementation of the Economic Conference for the Middle East and North Africa in November. In October, sheik Abdullah ibn Khalifa ath-Thani was appointed prime minister. A post that until then had been taken care of by the emir Hamad.
On March 17, 1998, the 25th Conference of Foreign Ministers of the Islamic Conference ended in the capital. In its resolutions, the conference called the Arab states to reconsider sanctions targeting Israel. Qatar welcomed the agreement between Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Mexico to reduce these countries’ oil production, and promised to implement something similar during the year.
In March, Qatar and France conducted joint naval exercises under the name «Collection of Pearls III». In April, the emir signed an agreement with Russia on military cooperation, including the exchange of specialists and training of officers.
The ban on the employment of Egyptian employees was lifted in June 1998, and in November of that year a constitutional reform proposal was published, which talked about the establishment of a parliament and direct elections to it. At this time, the emirate was the only Gulf state with an elected parliament, but voting rights were limited to men over the age of 18. At the March 1999 local elections, women were given the right to vote for the first time. Despite the attention it gave, none of the 6 female candidates running for the election were elected.
The emir escaped diplomatic activity, contributed to criticism of US policy towards Iraq and mediated in the conflict between the Saudi royal house and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over agreements with Iran. The UAE complained that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council members were improving their relations with Iran, while the UAE continued to have a border conflict with this country. A proposal by the emir Khalifa al-Thani created agreement between the parties and thus unity in the Council.