Interview: Fahad Al Othman

In what different ways can creativity and entrepreneurship be encouraged?

FAHAD AL OTHMAN: Yes, there is a high level of financial and job security in our society, but that is not the real cause of the perceived low motivation amongst our people. Our people aspire for self-actualisation and meaningful achievements in their lives. We need to provide them with meaningful and challenging jobs. Today, the government sector is the largest employer, but it lacks enough enterprising and meaningful jobs. A transparent and progressive national policy that understands our people’s needs, links the job market with national growth, and invites equal contribution from the public and private sector would provide a great platform for our people.

Do you feel that the education system is equipped to produce the skilled manpower needed to build up the private sector?

AL OTHMAN: Kuwait’s education system is capable of producing a workforce that is skilled enough for our public and the private sector. The presence of government and private education institutions provides us with an opportunity to have greater engagement with industry and drive economies of scale, entrepreneurship and innovation. Having said that, there are essential improvements and corrections that have to be put in place for the education sector to achieve a higher degree of efficiency and effectiveness. Some of the most important measures include re-engineering of the local economy with announcement of clear national objectives and separation of the government’s regulatory function from its role in school administration and operations.

How would the education sector benefit from the separation of the government’s regulatory and management bodies?

AL OTHMAN: It is important to have the right checks and balances in the system. The regulator should not be also an operator. A liberalised education system is a fundamental need for the sector. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education handle many schools and faculty members, and the operational administration overshadows the developmental aspects of the education sector. Hence, it has become necessary to separate the regulatory body from the school administration and operations duties. This will provide unbiased attention to both the public and private sectors. It will promote free and healthy competition, leading to better learning opportunities and quality of life for our people. A neutral approach from the ministries will invite more capital into the sector and drive innovation and economies of scale.

In what areas is the private sector better suited to meet the country’s higher educational needs?

AL OTHMAN: For any vibrant economy, both the public and private sectors are equally important. It is not correct to generalise and hold one sector as better than the other. There are good and bad performers in both sectors. While the public sector becomes a natural choice to handle national projects due to their huge scale and size, the private sector plays a key role in driving a culture of efficiency, entrepreneurship, innovation and economies of scale. It is vital that the government provides neutral and unbiased support to both sectors in order to foster fair competition.

How will accreditations and bilateral cooperation with global universities help achieve improved quality and standards?

AL OTHMAN: Accreditations are important for setting high-quality standards and benchmarks for our sector. Furthermore, partnering with global universities allows us to draw on these institutions’ success and achievements to support the evolution and development of our own education sector. However, a lot of wisdom is needed to effectively adapt such bilateral partnerships to the local or regional context.