Kuwait steps up pace of education reform

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A new national curriculum, possible regulations for private sector providers and plans to outsource certain functions in the school system are among changes Kuwait’s government has proposed for the education system.

In November, Education Minister Nayef Al Hajraf announced his department was developing a new structure for the national curriculum, one that could be used as a reference point for the system in the future. Having already made advances in improving the provision of education, the new framework will further define parameters for higher quality, the minister told a seminar on curriculum development.

“The National Curriculum Framework will define national education standards, the objectives of each subject and consequently the required teaching hours,” Al Hajraf said. “The national framework will enable the ministry and the National Centre for Education Development to gauge the efficiency and the outcome of the educational system.”

The process of reform will also extend to the private sector. In late October, at the beginning of the new legislative year, Al Hajraf said the coming parliamentary term should see new laws on the regulation of private schools tabled for approval. According to local media reports, the rules would require private institutions to respect the regulations of the public school system regarding exams, educational planning, curriculum and admissions. Private schools are increasingly popular in Kuwait, accounting for around 40% of students.

Reform in line with larger development plans

There have been a number of calls for education reform, with much of the focus on creating a learning environment that will support the push for economic diversification. Among those to stress the need for Kuwait to reinforce its education system as part of wider efforts to strengthen the economy was Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF. During a visit to Kuwait in early November, Lagarde said it was important for the government to act on its national development plan, which has a modern education system as one of its cornerstones.

“To the extent that the plan advocates diversification of the economy, education of the best possible quality for all and investment of public funding in infrastructure for the country, we applaud it,” she told a press conference on November 9.

In the IMF’s latest Article IV consultation concluding statement for Kuwait, published in September, the international lender recommended enhancing educational quality and vocational training, as well as coordinating with the private sector to establish skill improvement programmes, as part of broader efforts to diversify the economy.

The use of e-learning – i.e., the use of computers to deliver all or part of a course – could help boost skill levels both in the workplace and schools, according to industry players. In an interview with the local press, Mohammed Amro Maken, CEO of Arab Information Management Services, said several government organisations have shown an interest in using e-learning to train employees, and noted the Ministry of Education was open to the idea of increasing the use of technology in schools.

Ministry mulls outsourcing, cost cutting

It is not just in the classroom where the ministry is seeking change. In mid-2013, the ministry announced it was planning to transfer some of the administrative functions within schools to the private sector, a change aimed at allowing teachers to focus more on core activities. Such a move would go some way to alleviating the shortage of trained teachers within the system, while also offering opportunities to firms operating in the business process outsourcing sector and other professional administrative service providers.

It will likely be some time before the government unveils its National Curriculum Framework, although the state’s intent seems clear. By looking to define educational objectives, set targets and put in place mechanisms to gauge the efficiency of both the public and private segments of the system, while simultaneously moving to reduce the administrative burden on educators, the government is seeking a more responsive, accountable and above all productive education framework.

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