Samer Al Ahmadieh & Abdullah Al Nabhan - May 30 2019
How Kuwait can Transform its Education to Meet its Economy's Demands

Kuwait needs a 21st century education for its 21st century economy.

We are in an unprecedented era where information is readily available to anyone who is simply "connected". Technology is reshaping our social lives, workplaces, and also education. Traditional learning models and conventional education focuses are fading away and being replaced by contemporary methods that develop essential skills for an unpredictable future.

In 2017, Kuwait launched its National Development Plan which set out how the country would transform the economy by 2035, including a focus on human capital.

Currently, in the Gulf region, Kuwait is ranked the lowest in quality of primary schools and skillsets of graduates. It is challenging for the private sector to find and recruit candidates with the needed skills.

How can the country revamp its educational system to meet the demands of a modern, technology-dependent economy? Here are four ways:

1. A New Educational System That Delivers Social and Economic Value

The Worldwide Education for the Future report states, "The world no longer cares about what students know, but what they can do with what they know". Kuwait's education system should prime students for a workforce with changing business needs and market trends. Here's what Kuwait can do.

Kuwait's education approach should focus on project-based learning and involve collaboration and problem-solving. This includes:

  • Replacing the "head-down studying" approach with a focus on "softer skills" that enable students to form their own opinions from daily experiences
  • Nourishing STEM and language subjects in curriculum
  • Not make schools over-specialised
  • Have less structured environments where students can make connections between different concepts and issues
  • Test students on skills that are learned from experiential learning, and use fewer high-stake examinations

Some such government reforms are already underway. For instance, 100 science laboratories are being set up in secondary schools to enable students to conduct experiments and understand the concepts and applications of nanotechnology.

2. Raise Teachers' Status

Teachers are the prime facilitators of what and how students learn. Kuwait must foster qualified teachers and continuously train them. There should be more focus on a teacher's role as a bridge between the classroom and the outside world, which will help students apply skills and knowledge in non-academic settings.

To attract the most effective teachers, Kuwait can raise the professional and social status of the profession – just as Finland and Singapore have done. By highly valuing the career, others will be attracted to the profession and motivated to become teachers of the future.

Already, the government is designing a professional licensing system for teaching-related jobs at all academic and supervisory levels. Under the same initiative, it will test and develop teachers' competencies and performance through professional teacher examinations and continuous professional development.

3. Use Data and Technology Wisely

Kuwait should use data and technology to complement education, not as an end itself. There are great technological tools like predictive analytics, virtual and augmented reality, smart sensors and objects, and digital and personalised learning that allow students to advance at their own pace in the subjects they find most interesting. These should be embraced, but only within a broader review of how to reform the education sector. An education system that simply delegates teaching to digital services is unlikely to succeed.

Additionally, for direct technological and digital skills, students should have strong foundations in computer science and computational thinking, so they can think critically and be creative with technology rather than just act as end users.

The government's determination, coupled with a sizable budget allocated to revamping the sector, pave the way for a brighter future for Kuwait's students and graduates.

4. Commit to Reform

In order for Kuwait to increase its education rank in the Gulf region, meet the demands of its workforce, and train its youth to advance Kuwait's economy in the future, it must take a hard look at how it is educating its students.

Kuwait needs to ensure wise use of technology, place a higher value on its teachers, and revamp teaching and learning methods. Fortunately, Kuwait's government is already investing heavily in this area. The government has accelerated its spending on the education sector, which accounts for 15% of the country's total expenditure in recent years, and it has implemented investor-friendly policies and public-private partnerships that incentivise foreign investment.

Kuwait's reforms are moving the education sector in the right direction, and it is determined to "nurture creative human capital". Following these steps will help the country continue paving the way for a brighter future for the country’s students and graduates.

About the Authors:

Samer Al Ahmadieh
Samer works as a Business Analyst with Palladium, providing research and information analysis in a dynamic business environment. Samer holds a BE in Civil Engineering from the Lebanese American University in Beirut, as well as an MSc in Construction Management from Loughborough University in the UK. During his studies in the UK, Samer was selected to participate in a 4-month Global Teamwork Program at Stanford University in California, United States.

Abdullah Al Nabhan
Abdullah is Palladium's Middle East Regional Director and Country Director in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, overseeing all of Palladiums operations in the Middle East. He has over 15 years of experience implementing strategy planning and execution across the world, and specifically in GCC countries. Abdullah has been involved in projects in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Canada, the US, and the UK. He is also a researcher and an active writer, and has published several articles on strategy and performance management.