Let’s Make a Good System Better (by Guest Blogger Abdullah Alfadhala)

The Public Writing

EducationPhotoKuwait is a small country but with a growing population. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, as of July 2012, the population of Kuwait 2,646,314, including 1,291,354 imported workers (CIA; Infoplease).  The age structure of this population was:

Age

Percentage

1-14

25.7

15-24

15.5

25-54

52.3

55-64

4.4

65 and over

2.1

The huge bulge in the 25-54 age group is primarily accounted for by the influx of expatriate servants and workers, which currently accounts for about 60% of the country’s workers and almost half of the population.  There are also a significant number in the 15-24 age group who need jobs now or will in the near future.  Additionally, we can see an even more significant bulge in the 1-14 age group.  How is the school system preparing them for employment and success on the modern world?

There is a 93.3% literacy rate as of the 2005 census but jobs are becoming more and more competitive (Infoplease).  Many require college degrees.  What about those people who are not great students or are forced (usually by family circumstances) to drop out without finishing high school?  They are literate, but essentially unemployable.  There is virtually no alternative to full-time school at either the high school or college level, few and limited vocational programs and almost no adult education programs.  The government should do more to increase educational opportunities for adults who were not able to take advantage of the school system while growing up.

The Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAET) was established in 1982 to supervise technical and vocational training (only available to males); however, it was felt that there was limited need, since most Kuwaitis work in public service.  Generally, technical, lower administrative and manual labor required in Kuwait is supplied by migrants, as is common in the Gulf States.  Unfortunately, the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, the damages done to the infrastructure, and the disappearance of many expatriate workers created a vacuum in the technical and lower administration positions.  Clearly there was a need for educational reform.

Vocational education needed to include young women and more than trades dependent on oil, to include telecommunications.  What happened is an explosion of private universities and colleges since the 1990s.  This is part of a government effort to educate and train young Kuwaitis who are not able to go to college and prepare them for meaningful jobs.  At the same time, it is desired to provide opportunities for Kuwaiti citizens to take over jobs currently done by expatriates in order to employ our own citizens before importing specialized workers.

Kuwait is a welfare state.  Full, unconditional employment for citizens has been a standard practice (Al Shehab 181).  The government has guaranteed all Kuwaiti citizens who so desire a guaranteed position.  By 1993, 93% of all government employees were nationals (Bilboe 256).  This policy is pushing the government to its limits and it is no longer able to absorb every citizen who wants a job.  There is a growing number of unemployment among young people, especially those who cannot gain admission to university.  To reduce dependence on government jobs, the government has been subsidizing the private sector to employ Kuwaitis rather than expatriates; however, non-Kuwaiti Arabs continue to dominate in technical, managerial and clerical categories and Asians dominate in services and production, agriculture and other low skills categories (Bilboe 257).

Vocational education continues to be the poor cousin in the educational system because these jobs are perceived negatively by most Kuwaitis.  Also, this type of schooling is poorly understood by Kuwaitis.  Students are used to formal end-of-semester examinations and rote learning.  Working independently, a variety of assessment tools, redoing work until competency is achieved are all unusual for students.  Vocational training as a pathway to higher education is not well understood and the potential to link to further education is not widely accepted (Bilboe 258).

One key element in this situation is the lack of a strong work ethic among the population.  High income levels, government-sponsored support systems and the ability to pay for hired help such as maids, nannies, cooks and drivers has led to a belief that manual labor and technical trade skills are low status positions.  In addition, the fact that Kuwait, like most Gulf countries, has tuition-free schools through university for those who qualify makes private school tuition even less attractive in most cases (Al Shehab 182).  Kuwait does not have a flexible education system providing pathways between academic and vocational streams.  There are few options for reentering the system if one does not complete a program directly after high school.  For everyone’s sake and providing more employability, many of these practices need to change.

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Works Cited

Al. Shehab, Ali J. “The Impact of Private Sector Competition on Public Schooling n Kuwait:  Some Socio-Educational Implications.”  Education, 131 (1): 181-195. Print.

Bilboe, Wendy.  “Vocational education and training in Kuwait” Vocational education versus values and viewpoints.”  International Journal of Training Research, 9(3): 256-260. Print.

Central Intelligence Agency.  World Factbook, Web:  March 16, 2013. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ku.html

Infoplease.  Kuwait.  Web:  March 16, 2013.  http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107694.html.

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The Research Collection

Al. Shehab, Ali J. “The Impact of Private Sector Competition on Public Schooling in Kuwait:  Some Socio-Educational Implications.”  Education, 131 (1): 181-195. Print.  This article explains the school system in Kuwait and the challenges it faces from public schools, primarily at the post-high school level and to some degree at K-12.  It explores the differences between public and private schools within Kuwait, where public schools have always had somewhat of a monopoly.  Finally, it explores the economic, social, and national factors that significantly relate to private school enrollment.  The article provided a lot of details about Kuwaiti schools and the government policies.

Bilboe, Wendy.  “Vocational education and training in Kuwait” Vocational education versus values and viewpoints.”  International Journal of Training Research, 9(3): 256-260. Print.  This article was short, but packed with information about the limited number of vocational schools and why they are not yet well accepted by Kuwaitis. In general, people do not honor the kinds of jobs that one trains for in vocational education.  Additionally, they do not understand the link between a 2-year degree and continuing on to a 4-year degree.  Finally, competency-based training is not well understood as it is completely different than the traditional school system.

Central Intelligence Agency.  World Factbook, Web:  March 16, 2013. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ku.html.  This website was limited but provided some good statistics about Kuwait and its population.

Infoplease.  Kuwait.  Web:  March 16, 2013.  http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107694.html.  A website offering a variety of information about Kuwait—geography, politics, agriculture, culture, education, and so on.  It gave me some helpful statistics and details that set parameters for my blog discussion.

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