In August 2016 Kuwait’s Supreme Council for Planning and Development announced plans to invest KD4.75bn ($15.8bn) in its 2017-18 development plan, roughly one-third of state budget financing. The development plan has several goals, including developing a sustainable and diversified economy, and long-term livelihood for citizens. Specific education initiatives under the plan are aimed at improving the quality of education and expanding accommodation at the tertiary level.
Integrated Education Reform
Recent government reforms initiated in the general education sector fall under Kuwait’s Integrated Education Reform Programme 2011-19, which is focused on developing curricula, improving learning outcomes, encouraging efficient teaching and leadership, and refining the accountability and efficiency of the education system.
As part of the second phase of the strategy, the Ministry of Education (MoE), the National Centre for Educational Development (NCED) and the World Bank will work collaboratively in a five-year technical cooperation agreement to support capacity-building in the education sector, improve the quality of teaching and learning, and supervise impact on schools and students. The project will aim to strengthen the capacity of the MoE and the NCED in policy, decision-making and implementation of competency-based education reforms.
From an investment perspective, ongoing educational reforms and modernisation efforts are expected to result in greater technology usage in education, creating opportunities for providers of e-learning content, tools, technology and platforms. The e-education project, launched by the MoE in 2011, aims to digitise textbooks and roll out e-learning products across schools. E-books are now required for the science and maths curriculum beyond the fifth grade, and high school classrooms are commonly equipped with interactive smartboard projectors and computer stations.
The government is also actively seeking to boost private sector participation in education infrastructure development projects. To that end, the Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects, in association with the MoE, has invited companies to participate in the Kuwait Schools Development Programme.
In line with the objective of increasing private sector involvement in the sector, the Schools Development Programme is structured as a public-private partnership under the build-operate-transfer model. The first phase covers the development of nine schools – one middle school, three elementary and five kindergartens – with private investors building, financing and maintaining the facilities, while the MoE manages the curriculum and school administration. In private sector infrastructure spending, international real estate funds with the capital to build schools and lease them to school operators may be in a strong position to capitalise on the country’s requirements, according to regional asset management and investment banking firm Global Investment House. Under this model, the banking firm projects capital costs of KD7.5m ($24.8m) for a 5000-sq-metre bilingual school to generate a 9-10% yield in the form of rent, and a net margin of 8-16%.
New Public University
In the tertiary segment, the government is seeking to ease the pressure of overcrowding in higher education by moving forward with a $580m construction programme for the Sabah Al Salem University City. The China State Construction Engineering Corporation has been contracted for the project and anticipates completion in 2019. The campus is expected to be among the world’s largest when it opens, accommodating around 40,000 students in 13 faculties. A principal challenge that must be overcome to meet these education objectives is the instability of sector leadership. While it often takes a complete generation of students moving through the system to develop and implement a strategic vision at a national level, frequent Cabinet reshuffles have limited efficiency. Success in implementing these reforms therefore hinges on greater continuity and consistency.