KUWAIT: The Ministry of Education (MoE) has agreed to increase tuition fees at American and British private schools in Kuwait from the next academic year, before the National Assembly suspended all fee increases until a parliamentary committee reviews the issue with the minister. Meanwhile fee increases at other private schools such as Arabic, Indian, Pakistani and others has not been decided yet. These schools are demanding to increase their fees, calling on the Kuwait Union of Private Schools to negotiate their demands with the education ministry.
After previous requests by private schools owners to increase their tuition fees were rejected many times, the ministry set rules for such increases. The ministry also closely inspects the schools demanding fee increases to evaluate the services provided against the fees charged.
Kuwait Times interviewed the head of the Kuwait Union of Private Schools (KUPS) Omar Al-Ghureir to learn more the role of the union, which was founded in 1975. “The union has about 250 members that include private American, British, bilingual, Indian, Pakistani and special needs schools and cultural institutes,” he noted. Some excerpts:
Kuwait Times: What are the purposes of founding KUPS?
Omar Al-Ghureir: To represent its members in official and non-official dealings, improve the educational and cultural situation, coordinate members’ activities and defend their rights and interests, execute necessary studies of the legislations issued by the public institutions that affect the program and services of the members, and submit suggestions to the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Affairs and other institutions that are related to education.
KT: What are the activities of the union?
Ghureir: Awarding excelling high school students, since private school students rank first amongst excelling students from all schools in Kuwait. The administration also participates in various religious, social, cultural, sports and other activities. Internationally, KUPS is a member of the Arab Union of Private Schools.
KT: What are the union’s current concerns and issues regarding private education in Kuwait?
Ghureir: There aren’t any significant problems with the ministry; rather solving some obstacles in cooperation with the Private Education Department of the ministry. We noticed that many parents transfer their children from public schools to private schools, whether Arabic or foreign language ones, which proves that these schools have a good reputation and are keen to maintain their high-quality education.
KT: What is the union’s opinion regarding the MoE’s decision to control the raising of tuition fees?
Ghureir: KUPS is completely independent in studying any proposal whether it is related to tuition fees or academic or administrative staff. Regarding increasing the fees, this issue was discussed in many committees based on field experience. For instance, we sent a letter to the undersecretary of the MoE to form a committee after submitting suggestions and studies on fee increases in all schools including Arabic and foreign ones. We hope that during our next meeting with the members of the committee, we can set the criteria and conditions for increasing the fees, as this is an important issue for parents, school owners and teachers.
KT: How does the union work with or connect with parents of students from private schools?
Ghureir: They are both connected due to the students studying in these private schools. Also, the union frequently issues periodicals and directly corresponds with the owners of private schools.
KT: What are some achievements of the union or some problems solved by the union?
Ghureir: The union has solved numerous problems with the MoE through exchanging opinions, including forming a committee to study tuition fees and reach solutions for many issues that concern school owners and the ministry.
KT: How can the union work to ensure fair and reasonable tuition fees (as many parents complain that tuition fees have really gotten out of control)?
Ghureir: We respect the opinion of the parents, and they have the right to express their views. We will be discussing this issue during the upcoming meeting with the MoE, so I would rather wait before commenting till the meeting is over. As I said previously, I hope we reach satisfying solutions for all parties including parents, school owners and academic and administrative staff.
KT: How do schools balance the need to be profitable businesses with the need to provide quality education for Kuwait’s youth?
Ghureir: The efforts spent by the school in providing a suitable educational environment will help achieve growth in various aspects of students’ lives as well affect their marks and achievements. Also, the role of private schools is to complement and support public schools. The results of high school exams is evidence of our quality. Also, the number of Kuwaiti students joining private schools is increasing, which also signifies the high standard of the private schools that provide high-quality education while respecting the rules of the MoE.