WORLD CLASS

Kuwait 2019 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

Kuwait seeks to expand the international reach and reputation of its education sector, using grants and scholarships as catalysts.

Hamed Mohammed Al-Aazmi
BIOGRAPHY
Hamed Mohammed Al-Aazmi is the current Minister of Higher Education. Previously, he was a professor in the department of computer engineering at the College of Engineering and Petroleum. He graduated from the University of Washington, St. Louis in 1992 with a BSc in electrical engineering. He also received a master’s degree from Washington University in 1994, and a PhD in computer engineering from the University of Washington in 2000.

To what extent are the education reforms expected to raise the qualification level of professors and therefore improve the preparedness of Kuwaiti students?

The government currently allocates 15-18% of its budget to the education sector that is being focused in the undergoing reform, which is aligned with Vision 2035. Our plan is to raise the level of education in Kuwait based on a revised curriculum. Since Kuwaiti students have not performed well in international exams over the past four to five years, we have been taking an in-depth look at the curriculum. Our main objective is to have a new philosophy of education where our primary schools have to follow international standards. At the same time, we will focus on the teacher training side, which is an important aspect of education reform, as well as the management in public schools. These are the three main aspects we will be focusing on over the next five years. It is also important to link primary education with higher education in one complete and integrated paradigm that will remain unaffected by other aspects of politics. We aim to have students able to compete under international standards coming on the back of this educational reform. Foreign languages will also remain a crucial pillar of our system; the English language has always been the main secondary language in Kuwait. In some high schools, students can also choose to learn French. We also try to promote certain sectors where we have a significant shortage, such as the technology sector and some highly technical vocations. We always study the market and we set our scholarship program and university admissions based on the requirements of the market.

Around 23,000 Kuwaiti students are educated abroad at the expense of the ministry. To what extent is the country benefiting from this investment?

Kuwait has always invested in its international scholarship program. By studying abroad, our students are exposed to different environments and education systems. They eventually bring back those contrastive perspectives that we can all learn from and potentially use. We currently send our students to 96 different countries including the US, the UK, France, New Zealand, and Australia. In addition, we have 13 satellite offices around the world for these students. We support this way of teaching, and the scholarship program will remain a cornerstone of our higher education system. On the other end, we have really attractive programs for Arabic, Islamic studies, and literature and art; many foreigners come here for those programs.

To what extent are the education ministries and private companies collaborating to close any skill gaps between students' education and the requirements of the workforce?

The private sector has always been close to both Kuwait University and private universities. Good graduates from private universities go to the private sector for employment. It is part of the whole paradigm of our education system to foment the relationship between the education system and the increasingly important private sector that offers exciting opportunities and professional growth. We also try to promote certain sectors where we have a significant shortage, such as the technology sector and some highly technical vocations. We always study the market, and we set our scholarship program and university admissions based on the requirements of the market. To do so, we have established a five-year plan that will now end in 2019. The program grants scholarships in medical fields, technology, and engineering and technical disciplines. We also give scholarships in other fields, such as accounting, finance, and foreign law.