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Education in Kuwait


The general education system consists of four levels: kindergarten, or nursery (lasting for two years), primary (lasting for five years), intermediate (lasting for four years) and secondary (lasting for three years). Schooling at primary and intermediate level is compulsory for all students aged six to 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, according to 2006 figures. Out of this total, 664 are public and 481 are private schools. There are six districts in Kuwait and the highest number of schools are in the Al-Ahmedi district, which has 152 schools (representing 23% of all public schools), while Al-Jahra has 85 schools (representing 12% 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% 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% in primary school teachers despite a decrease in student enrolments. A large proportion of public school teachers are Kuwaiti females, particularly at the primary level. Only 4% of women teachers are older than 45 years, compared to 35% 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 five.

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 at all levels. Examples of private and prestigious foreign schools in Kuwait are the Bayan Bilingual School, the American School of Kuwait, the American International School of Kuwait, the Kuwait English School and the French School. Most of the private schools are subsidised by the state. In 2007, the primary gross enrolment rate was 98.5%. The gender parity index, which is the ratio of female enrolment to male enrolment, was 0.98. This shows parity in gender for the enrolment at primary level. The percentage of Kuwaitis studying in private schools in kindergarten is 20%.

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. 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 standardised from the present academic and credit system to a single system. The application of this new organisation started during the academic year 2006/07. The percentage of Kuwaiti nationals in private schools at the secondary level is between 8 and 12%.

Enrolment rates at the secondary level have been rising since the year 2000, except for the period 2005/06. The gender parity index of the secondary level gross enrolment 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 drop-out 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 14-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 seven religious centres in 2005/06, of which 75% 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.

PAAET 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 labour 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 enrolment of 7,132, enjoyed an increase of 26% from the previous year.

The Government of Kuwait is encouraging its citizens to opt for vocational training programs to fulfil 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%, are enrolled having completed secondary level education. In 2005/06 there were 12,285 students enrolled in after-secondary training courses, of which 62% were female. The total number of students in vocational training at PAAET increased by 8% from the previous year, to 17,459 students. The male enrolment decreased by 10% whereas the female enrolment increased by 42%. 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 Theatre Arts;
• Higher Institute of Music Arts.

In the academic year 2005/06, the total enrolment within these institutions reached 27,308, an increase of 7% from the previous year. The proportion of females in the undergraduate studies is 70%. The gross enrolment ratio in tertiary education in both private and public institutions in 2006 was about 18%; the male gross enrolment ratio was 11%, a slight increase from the previous year, and for females it was 26%, 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.

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% of all private undergraduate students. Kuwaiti students make up 53% of all undergraduate enrolments in private institutions.




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