Robert Siegel

In Qatar's rapid race to modernity, the emirate has created a distinctive approach to educating its young: It has effectively imported a host of American universities.

Dr. Sheikha Aisha bint Faleh bin Nasser Al-Thani, a member of Qatar's ruling family, sits on the Supreme Education Council and owns a few independent schools. For her own children, she wanted a top-flight college education. Her sons were educated in Britain.

Over the past decade, Qatar's population has soared from 660,000 to more than 2 million. Here's the catch: Qataris themselves number only around 260,000.

The rest, more than 85 percent of the population, are not citizens. As Professor Mehran Kamrava, an American scholar at Georgetown University's campus in Qatar, says, they are all migrant workers of varying types.

Qatar is a tiny place that insists on being heard.

The Arab nation just off the coast of Saudi Arabia has made itself a major diplomatic player, a generous donor of foreign aid, and a leader in modernizing education in the region. The ultra-modern capital Doha is full of skyscrapers, museums and history, much of it dating as far back as ... the 1990s.

Qatar is also a commercial capital that aims to become a cultural, sports and tourist center for the Gulf region despite having just 260,000 citizens.

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