By Majd Othman
KUWAIT: Education in Kuwait has been subjected to many criticisms in recent years, while the COVID-19 pandemic revealed lots of flaws in the educational system, whether in private or public Arabic schools, which led to students graduating with a very weak level that has shocked the society.
Kuwait Times spoke to educational activist and teacher Abdullah Al-Sharif and discussed with him his point of view on the quality of education in Kuwait and outcomes over the years. Sharif said the main issue facing the educational system in Kuwait is that the ministry of education turned from an educational authority to a political entity that depends on hiring people with no experience and qualifications, who cannot develop the educational system.
He added there are many other reasons for the decline in educational outcomes in the country, including development of the educational system not being a priority and facilities that are in a bad condition. “When teachers teach students in a classroom that has no air-conditioners, how are they supposed to give their best?” he queried. “In addition to the abovementioned reasons, the school curricula are not in line with global developments in the field of education,” Sharif added.
When Kuwait Times asked Sharif about the reasons teachers are losing power over students’ evaluation, he stressed the blame is mainly on parents who support their children to rebel against teachers. Also, there is external interference by some officials to support the misguided students despite their attitude just to please their parents, and this leads them to become rebellious, he pointed out.
“In public schools, parents cannot threaten the school administration with withdrawing their children and making the school suffer financial losses, as schooling is free of charge. Meanwhile, many parents refuse to accept their children’s failure, while sometimes it is just a way to show their strength. So, they turn to finding external help from some official who forces the authorities to make a decision that is not in the school’s favor most of the time,” Sharif explained.
Many Kuwaiti teachers have posted on social media several times regarding students’ level of education and performance. They complain that many students have reached high school, but they barely know how to write their names or spell basic Arabic words. The teachers’ posts have met with no action by the ministry of education, despite these teachers being key witnesses of students’ performance and development at schools.
According to a science teacher working in the public education system for more than 12 years, who preferred to remain anonymous, a promising step was taken during the pandemic, when the ministry of education set up the online platform to teach students remotely. “Unfortunately, despite having many positive aspects, its effects were negative on students. The main issue was dropouts that happened in the online classes which we all know about — skipping classes, sleeping during class, turning cameras off, not doing homework or parents doing it instead, and cheating,” she said.
She added the most important thing still facing the educational process, whether online or in class, is the weakness of teachers’ control in evaluating their students. To a large extent, many school administrations have no power to make a free and independent evaluation due to the parents’ interference in the teachers’ work, as they don’t accept their children’s failure. In addition, some schools fear the parents’ reactions for many other reasons.
She concluded by saying the education ministry should play a realistic and active role, more than what is happening right now, pointing to the absenteeism that happened lately during the Eid holidays, were all students skipped classes for more than two days, with no serious accountability for students who were absent from school. Many citizens and educational activists are calling on the ministry of education to spend its budget on developing the educational system, methods and facilities, as the current teaching system has become out of date and far from the technological era that these students are living in.
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