KUWAIT: Education Minister Dr Saud Al-Harbi attends a meeting for the National Assembly’s educational committee, in presence of Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem. National Assembly photo

By A Saleh

KUWAIT: The Ministry of Education will forward its vision regarding public and private education to the parliamentary educational and cultural committee in 10 days from Tuesday, Minister Dr Saud Al-Harbi said. Harbi, also Minister of Higher Education, said Education progress would not stop in the State of Kuwait.

He was speaking in a press statement after a meeting with the parliamentary committee, attended by Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem, during which the two sides discussed online education as an optional choice. Harbi said the parliament and government were coordinating progress of education. “Time is crucial now and the right decisions are needed without delay,” he added.

Online learning
Meanwhile, committee member MP Mohammed Al-Dallal said the meeting saw agreement to adopt online learning in private schools but confirmed that it would be optional, noting that the education ministry would hold a press conference to explain online education regulations, duration, marking and methodology, how to assess tuition fees, the reasons for not cancelling them during the suspension and why online learning was approved for kindergarten.

As far as applying online learning in public schools if the crisis goes on for the unforeseeable future, Dallal said that ministry officials reviewed various ideas, noting that they would be prepared for such possibility and would come up with full views in this regard. “We also discussed the legality of online learning, the government’s capability to provide it for all Kuwaiti students as well as whether parents are ready to implement it in terms of having enough laptops and valid internet,” Dallal noted.

Moreover, Dallal said that the Ministry of Higher Education is about to get the finance ministry’s approval to pay students abroad an extra monthly salary, as instructed by the cabinet, within ten days. Dallal added that the committee meeting also discussed the role of the education and higher education ministries’ in fighting COVID-19, its plans to provide learners in public and private schools with learning as well as its plans concerning scholarship students and those studying at their own expenses.

“Today’s meeting was dedicated to discussing what is expected to happen after next August, assuming that the crisis might continue, the ministry’s plan to handle the issue and how to deal with the possible shortage of expat teachers in both public and private schools,” Dallal explained, noting that the committee urged the education ministry to set a long term clear plan in this regard.

Concerning Kuwaiti students abroad, Dallal said that minister Harbi stressed that the cabinet’s decision to pay them an extra month’s salary would be put into practice for all students, including those dispatched by the government, Kuwait University or the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training.

Al-Dallal added that the meeting discussed the ministry’s coordination with the health ministry to evacuate students stranded in distant countries such as the United States. “We gave examples on how to communicate with those students in case cultural attaches in any of those countries fail to do so and stressed that the National Assembly fully supports our students abroad,” he added.

A group of 23 Kuwaiti NGOs had earlier strongly criticized the education ministry’s decision to suspend school for seven months without having an alternative educational plan, noting that this will negatively affect students’ academic achievement and educational level. The group issued a statement in which it thanked HH the Amir for instructing the Cabinet to take all needed precautionary measures to fight COVID-19. The group also thanked medical staff, security bodies, Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRC) and all volunteers for their efforts in this regard.

“Despite the challenges the government faced at the beginning of the crisis, it has subsequently exercised its role more effectively, making it among the best performing countries in facing this crisis. Nevertheless, we did not see this distinction in dealing with education, in spite of HH the Amir’s emphasis on addressing the educational repercussions of the pandemic, and despite everything spent on student education in Kuwait, which is the highest compared to the rest of the world,” the statement said.

“We unfortunately see that the ministry of education opted to suspend school completely for a period of seven months, without even benefiting from other GCC states’ experiences and use all their potential to continue the education of students using modern technology,” the NGOs complained, pointing out that parents have been expressing concern about keeping their children at home without access to any educational activities.

The group urged the education ministry to be transparent and shoulder its responsibilities without jeopardizing students’ future as a result of some ministry officials’ mistakes. It also urged the ministry to utilize all possible local and regional e-learning expertise to resolve the problem.

The statement was signed by the Women’s Cultural and Social Society, Kuwait Graduates Association, Association of Social Workers, Kuwait Society for Education Quality, Abi Ataallam Society, Kuwait Transparency Society, National Association of Familial Security and many other educational, professional and literary organizations.