UNIQUE POSITION

Kuwait 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Hanan Al-Mutawa, Co-Founder & Chair, Education Consortium, Executive Committee Member Supreme Education Council, on the education sector in Kuwait and challenges in the private sector.

Dr. Hanan Al-Mutawa
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Hanan Al-Mutawa currently serves on the boards of various education-related government committees and speaks widely on strategy, management systems, competitiveness, healthcare delivery, and subjects related to business, government, non-profits, and humanitarian leaders. She has been formally recognized for her work by way of awards and honors from numerous embassies and governments, with the recently formed non-profit Education Consortium being the latest award recipient for Inspirational Female Leader with Exceptional Tangible Business Results (UAE, 2015), Women’s Comprehensive Development Excellence Award for the Arab World for Cultural Development of Businesswomen in the Arab World (UAE, 2015), Outstanding Educational Service (UK, 2014), Outstanding Personal Achievement in the Education and Childcare sector (UK, 2014), and Female Entrepreneur of the Year in Europe, the Middle East & Africa (NYC, 2014).

What synergies exist between your roles at the Supreme Council and the Education Consortium?

The Education Consortium (EC) works closely with the Ministry of Education (MoE), the SEC, and NCED. We at EC, being a private non-profit organization, are in a unique position as we are usually invited to consult with the Kuwait government on a broad range of educational imperatives. This relationship was established with the previous Minister of Education and Higher Education in 2012, because the MoE wanted to develop new strategies in developing national standards thereby creating synergies by integrating roles thus receiving the same benefits as the private schools and universities as is the norm around the world. The MoE nominated private sector leaders from different industries, and, as a result, I was hand picked to consult on educational issues that would impact the future impetus of Kuwait.

What are the challenges facing private-sector education in Kuwait?

One issue the private sector is facing is a small smattering of unfounded doctrines that are enforced on the education system by the various Ministries. One example is the capping of school fees. This is the only revenue that schools in the private sector can depend on. When a stakeholder such as the MoE determines the fees, it puts unjustified pressure on the private sector. Fees should be meritocratic and based on quality. Schools that aim to provide the best quality hit a wall because they cannot legally command fees over the capped limit. The private sector has been given the freedom to bring in quality teachers depending on the taught curriculum. Owners should be in charge of managing their own respective businesses thereby fuelling Kuwait's economy creating wonderful new opportunities. Another restraint on the private education system comes from the limit of certain nationalities of quality accredited staff we can bring in. For example, private-sector schools from the UK, the US, or Europe do not have an issue recruiting teachers to run their own curriculum, however other Asian-centric schools occasionally have issues recruiting as politics and discrimination mix with the delivery of quality education clouding objectivity and clear rational judgments.

What are your expectations for 2016?

Currently, the committee is set on finishing its five-year plan. One issue all industries are facing is what transpires when a Minister leaves their position. We obtain the required signatures when a Minister approves a plan, but if the Minster gets removed, however, we have to go back and start from the very beginning. The idea is for plans to stay in place, with or without a Minister. It is our hope that Kuwait will be in a fantastic position to move forward from 2015 to 2035 with a new educational constitution that has solid development in curriculum, teachers, students' welfare, and moving our current highly traditional mode of teaching into the 21st century with the introduction of smart schools and playgrounds across Kuwait.