Only 5%? – Letters to Badrya

Dear Ms Darwish

With regard to the letter you published in the Kuwait Times (page 1 on Thursday 28th January), I have to say that I was quite frankly amazed by your deductions and quite honestly your analysis is unworthy of a good journalist such as yourself. The objective of your letter appears to be that you are demanding that private schools provide a free education for your children. You seem to be confused about the distinction between education provided by the state and education that is private and which is available for people to choose to send their children to if they so wish and if they wish to pay for it.

Firstly you mentioned oil prices plunging to $20 a barrel. Yes, you are correct, but that hasn’t brought down salaries (either of politicians or journalists or of teachers), that hasn’t brought down the price of food, cars, rents, and so on and so forth, so what is the formula that connects oil prices uniquely with school fees? How much did one pay for a car in 1989 and how much does that car cost today?

Perhaps you are unaware or omitted to mention that the average annual salary of a British secondary teacher 25 years ago was £14,800 and that in 2007 the salary was £35,700 and that was 2007 not 2015. That is the salary of one teacher in the United Kingdom, not a British teacher who has to be attracted to come to Kuwait. Salaries in Britain go up with inflation EVERY SINGLE YEAR which means the salary scales of teachers in Kuwait must be raised annually in tandem.

Secondly, you mention the good old days, before the invasion when you paid 2000 KD for tuition fees for your son. A quarter of a century ago? Did I read something incorrectly? You’re a journalist and have access to resources. Please do check the price of everything before the invasion.

You mentioned that you sent your children to a school in England for free. As in Kuwait, the United Kingdom has state education and private education. I presume you sent your children to a state school? If you had decided to send your children to a private school in Britain then, you would, today, find yourself paying fees in the range of £15,000 to £35,000 a year. I am astonished that you are even making the comparison. We have state schools / government schools in Kuwait. Any Kuwaiti can send their children to a state school. For free! If the standard of the state schools does not meet the standards required by the Kuwaiti population, I have to say that that is not the fault of the private schools. The private schools are here to provide an education (in some cases a wonderful education) to people who WISH to or CHOOSE to send their children there. These schools do not have the support of the state. They provide a service that is paid for and what a parent pays in tuition fees goes towards paying the salaries of excellent teachers, the accommodation of the teachers, buildings, equipment, materials, non-teaching staff and so on.

Yes, the schools in Britain teach in English as Britain is an English speaking country but that doesn’t mean they can be equated to private schools in Kuwait. You managed to educate your child in Britain for free because you sent him to a government school. In Britain, if one does not have the means to pay for a private school, then one sends one’s child to a state school. If a parent here does not have the means to pay for a private school, government schools are also available for them, in Arabic of course as Kuwait is an Arabic speaking country.

You suggest reducing schools fees rather than raising them. Which of course would mean reducing teacher’s salaries? Please also campaign to reduce the cost of transport, accommodation, food, travel, medical expenses, as well as the salaries of journalists. And all the expensive cars that are so popular here.

You suggest easing the granting of licenses for schools as a solution, which might not be a bad idea but, every school, if it is to provide teaching, must employ teachers and teachers must be paid salaries, and given accommodation and so on. Unless of course you are suggesting that teachers’ salaries are held down to the levels of 1988 or 1989? Whether you have 10 private schools or a 1,000, they will still have to charge fees in accordance with the cost of living. Fees do not go down just because you have more schools. The economies of scale do not apply here.

My dear Ms Darwish, you should be campaigning the government and the National Assembly to improve the level of state education in Kuwait and not campaigning to destroy the very schools which provide the best education in the country. The reason people choose to send their children to a reputable school such as ours is because they know they are paying for the best education available in this country and that with this education the doors are opened to the best universities around the world. Universities which, incidentally, charge very high fees.

Dr Ziad Sayid Rajab
New English School

This article was published on 31/01/2016