Education in Kuwait
The State of Kuwait, at the head of the Persian Gulf, supports an educational policy that seeks to provide opportunity to all children, irrespective of their social class, including children with special needs. Kuwait was ranked 63rd on the Human Development Index ( HDI) report for 2011 by UNDP, placing Kuwait above the regional average. The education system in Kuwait has celebrated several achievements; in the year ending 2006, thirteen percent of all public expenditure was given to education, comparable to many OECD countries, although lower than other Arab nations. As a percentage of GDP, at 3.9 percent, it remains well below the OECD average.
In 2005, the literacy rate of Kuwait was 94 percent. Kuwait is striving to improve the quality of its education at all levels and for all ages. The Ministry of Education is also making efforts to incorporate women into the educated workforce through various programs; for instance, the 1989 initiative to establish daytime literacy clinics for women. The Kuwaiti government offers scholarships to students who are accepted in universities in the United States, the United Kingdom and other foreign academic institutions.
History of education in Kuwait
Kuwait is a small country situated in the Persian Gulf. It is one of the high-income countries with a GDP per capita of above $24,000. Oil exports account for nearly half of Kuwait’s national income and about 80% of government revenues. Between 1975 and 1985, the proportion of all working nationals employed in the public sector, including oil, rose from 76 percent to 92 percent. The government of Kuwait is now looking for alternative ways to stimulate employment and the generation of income. With this in mind, it is keen to diversify and improve the skills of its labor force; hence the high priority given to the reform of education at all levels.
At the beginning of the 20th century, there was no formal educational system in place in Kuwait at all. There were a few Quranic schools, known as Al-Katatib, funded by the wealthy private citizens of Kuwait, that taught reading, writing and basic arithmetric. In 1912, the Al Mubarakiyya School was established as one of Kuwait’s modern educational institutions. It was founded by merchants to train their clerks in commerce, arithmetic and letter-writing skills. In 1921, the Al-Ahmedia school was established, which offered English courses, and soon thereafter, an all-girls school was founded that provided education in Arabic, home economics and Islamic Studies. The government became involved in providing formal education in 1936, and by 1945 there were 17 schools in Kuwait. With the increase in oil production and hence state revenues after World War II, the government began investing huge sums of money into social services, including education. By 1960, there were 45,000 students enrolled in Kuwait's educational system, including 18,000 girls.
In 1965, following the constitution that made education a fundamental right of a citizen, education was made compulsory for children aged between 6 and 14. Since the early 21st century, the Ministry of Education has sought to prepare a general, long-term education strategy, focusing on educational teaching for the years up to 2025. This effort aims to align teaching methodologies with the current needs of an increasingly globalised world. The World Bank is conducting an analytical study to explore the various policy options needed to implement this new strategy.
A National Conference for the Development of Education was held in Kuwait in February 2008, in order to discuss this national strategy further. Other multilateral organizations, such as the OECD, are working towards improving the business environment in Kuwait and providing training for women to promote female entrepreneurship within the country.
The population of Kuwait has grown rapidly in recent times, more than doubling between 1985 and 2005. Kuwaitis now make up about a third of the country’s population, expatriates the rest. The school-aged population of both Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis represented 24 percent of the total population in 2005. There were 716,000 people aged between 4 and 21 years old in Kuwait that year, of which 426,000 were Kuwaitis (representing 60 percent) and about 290,000, non–Kuwaitis. There are more males than females in every age group of the school-age population. The proportion of non-Kuwaitis is slightly higher among the 18 - 21-year-olds.
In 2007, the female enrollment at primary and secondary level was 97 and 91 percent respectively, and for males, the corresponding figures were 99 and 90 percent. At the same time, a burgeoning young population is posing a burden on the job market, with rising numbers of young people unemployed. "The Government is looking at wider economic reform, including moving some of the 95 per cent of Kuwaitis who work in the state sector to the private sector", in order to increase job opportunities for the new entrants.
Levels of education
The general education system consists of four levels: kindergarten, or nursery (lasting for 2 years), primary (lasting for 5 years), intermediate (lasting for 4 years) and secondary (lasting for 3 years). Schooling at primary and intermediate level is compulsory for all students aged 6 – 14. All the levels of state education, including higher education, are free. There are two main ministries involved in the development of the education sector: the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher of Education.
There are about 1,145 schools in Kuwait, at all levels from kindergarten to secondary (2006 figures). Out of this total, 664 are public and 481 are private schools. There are 6 districts in Kuwait and the highest number of schools are in the Al-Ahmedi district, which has 152 schools (representing 23 percent of all public schools), while Al-Jahra has 85 schools (representing 12 percent of all public schools), which is the lowest number of schools by district.
Two-thirds of all students (from kindergarten to secondary) were in public schools during the year ending 2006. Most Kuwaitis study in public schools. The private schools are split about equally between Arabic medium schools, which follow Kuwait’s national curriculum, and foreign language schools, which follow other curricula (e.g., American, British, French and Indian). There are currently 591,359 students enrolled in Kuwait's schools which makes up approximately 20 percent of the entire population.
Between 2003 and 2006 there was a substantial increase in the growth of teachers, compared to the growth in students, especially at the primary level. In the year ending 2006 there was an increase of 21 percent in primary school teachers despite a decrease in student enrollments. A large proportion of public school teachers are Kuwaiti females, particularly at the primary level. Only 4 percent of women teachers are older than 45 years, compared to 35 percent of non-Kuwaiti males.
Nursery and primary education
In Kuwait, schooling usually begins at age six. Pre-school or nursery education is also available to children from four to six years old. Under a new system, primary education will begin at age 5 years.
There is the option of attending one of the private schools, which have foreign sponsors and mostly offer co-education, whereas the Kuwaiti public schools are segregated by gender starting at the primary levels. Examples of private foreign schools in Kuwait are the Bayan Bilingual School, the American School of Kuwait, the New English School (Kuwait), the American International School of Kuwait, the Kuwait English School, the French School and the Canadian School of Kuwait (CSK). Most of the private schools are subsidized by the state. In 2007, the primary gross enrollment rate was 98.5 percent. The gender parity index, which is the ratio of female enrollment to male enrollment, was 0.98. This shows parity in gender for the enrollment at primary level. The percentage of Kuwaitis studying in private schools in kindergarten is 20 percent.
The Kuwaiti government puts about KD5.6 million per annum into private educational facilities, in addition to allocating land for school construction and paying for the distribution of books.[verification needed] The Kuwait government also ensures that each school is equipped with a library. The government has focused on expanding the collection of books from 230,000 to 3 million today. The government is also promoting the use of information technology at school level. The launch of the 'Education Net' project is a manifestation of that, as it connects every government school and library in Kuwait to a telecommunications data network.
Intermediate and secondary education
Students are required to spend 4 years at the intermediate level, up to grade 9, after which they move on to the secondary level. Secondary education is for 3 years, after which students can adopt the higher education track by entering university or gaining admission into a vocational college to study for technical or vocational qualifications. The secondary education system is now being standardized from the present academic and credit system to a single system. The application of this new organization started during the academic year 2006/07. The percentage of Kuwaiti nationals in private schools at the secondary level is between 8 and 12 percent.
Enrollment rates at the secondary level have been rising since the year 2000, except for the period 2005/06, when the system changed from 4-4–4 years at each education level to 5-4–3 years, thus distorting the figures. The gender parity index of the secondary level gross enrollment rate in 2007 was 0.98, reflecting parity in gender at the secondary level. Now the focus of the Ministry of Education will be on improving the quality of the education system. Girls outperform boys in every subject of the 12th grade examinations, particularly in philosophy, English, Arabic languages, chemistry, physics, mathematics and biology. International indicators such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study are not very encouraging. Special attention is being given to reducing repetition and dropout rates.
The Ministry of Education in Kuwait is also trying to foster the use of information technology (ICT) in schools by including e-learning in the curriculum. For fourteen-year-olds in 2006, there were 13 students per computer on average in Kuwait's public schools. This is very similar to the OECD average, back in 2000, for 15 year olds. Despite the availability of computers in schools and at home, there is no guarantee that computers will be used solely for learning, however, and the government may need to rethink the strategy of making technology accessible to a large number of students, whilst developing a curriculum that incorporates e-learning in most of the subjects.
In Kuwait there are also religious institutes which offer a program of general education at the intermediate and secondary levels, along with enhanced Islamic and religious studies. There were 1,026 students in the 7 religious centers in 2005/06, of which 75 percent were Kuwaiti nationals .
The Ministry of Education in Kuwait is making efforts to provide equal educational opportunities by opening special needs institutes. In total there are 44 special needs schools out of which 33 are public schools and 11 are private schools. Some of the special needs children are also enrolled in special needs classes offered in general schools.
Vocational, post-secondary and tertiary education
Post-secondary education comprises technical and vocational courses offered by the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAET), a state institution, and degree programs offered by Kuwait University, and a small number of private universities .
The Government of Kuwait is encouraging its citizens to opt for vocational training programs to fulfill the demand for a skilled workforce. Students enrolling for vocational training at PAAET can join programs after primary, intermediate or secondary school, although the majority of students, about 70 percent, are enrolled having completed secondary level education. In 2005/06 there were 12,285 students enrolled in after-secondary training courses, of which 62 percent were female. The total number of students in vocational training at PAAET increased by 8 percent from the previous year, to 17,459 students. The male enrollment decreased by 10 percent whereas the female enrollment increased by 42 percent. This substantial increase was due to the introduction of new vocational programs in line with the demands of the female students .
Post-secondary education include courses at a PAAET technical college lasting for two and a half years, following which the students receive a certificate that is less than a tertiary diploma, but does allow the graduates to enter the workforce.
There are four state-supported higher education institutions in Kuwait.
- Kuwait University
- The College of Basic Education in PAAET
- Higher Institute for Theater Arts
- Higher Institute of Music Arts
In the academic year 2005/06, the total enrollment within these institutions reached 27,308, an increase of 7 percent from the previous year. The proportion of females in the undergraduate studies is 70 percent. The gross enrollment ratio in tertiary education in both private and public institutions in 2006 was about 18 percent; the male gross enrollment ratio was 11 percent, a slight increase from the previous year, and for females it was 26 percent, a three percentage points decrease from the previous year.
Kuwait University was established in 1966. It is a co-educational institution and comprises five campuses in Kuwait City. Since its inception, the number of students has increased considerably, from 400 at its inception to 19,711 in 2005/06. It offers a wide range of academic courses.
Public Authority for Applied Education and Training
The Public Authority for Applied Education and Training was established in 1982 to fill the need for a vocational and technical training institution. PAAET has two missions: PAAET is responsible for providing and developing the skills of the national labor force to meet the demands of a developing nation, and it provides training to students to have careers beyond the oil industry. The College of Basic Education in PAAET, with an enrollment of 7,132, enjoyed an increase of 26 percent from the previous year.
Higher Institutes for Theatre Arts and Music Arts
With a total enrollment of 465 in 2005/06, this represents a decline of 25 percent.
There are also a number of post-secondary institutions in Kuwait that are approved by the Ministry of Higher Education:
- Gulf University for Science and Technology
- Arab Open University
- Australian College of Kuwait
- American University of Kuwait
- Gulf American College
- Kuwait-Maastricht Business School
- Box Hill College Kuwait
- American University in the Middle East
The largest private institution for undergraduate studies is the Arab Open University, which had 6,294 students in 2005/06 and which accounts for nearly 60 percent of all private undergraduate students. Kuwaiti students make up 53 percent of all undergraduate enrollments in private institutions.
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- "United Nations,Human Development Indicators Country Profile".
- "CIA World Factbook. Based on 2005 census".
- "Embassy of the Kuwait, Cultural Office".
- Kuwait Education Indicators Report 2007,pp4
- "World Bank 2008.The Road Not Travelled: Education Reform in the Middle East and North Africa.pp225".
- "Embassy of the Kuwait, Cultural Office".
- "State of Kuwait, Ministry of Education."National Report on the Development of Education 2004-2008." pp19".
- "The British Council".
- Kuwait Education Indicators Report 2007,pp10
- UNESCO Institute of Statistics
- Ministry of Education.Education Indicators in the State of Kuwait 2004-2005 report
- Kuwait Education Indicators Report 2007,Executive Summary
- Kuwait education Indicators Report 2007, p 18
- edu indicators, p 18
- Kuwait education Indicators Report 2007,pp4-7
- Kuwait education Indicators Report 2007,pp87
- Kuwait Education Indicators Report 2007,pp88
- Kuwait Education Indicators Report 2007,pp85
- Kuwait Education Indicators Report 2007,pp110-111
- Kuwait Education Indicators Report 2007,pp122
- "Embassy of the Kuwait, Cultural Office".
- Kuwait Education Indicators Report 2007,pp124