KUWAIT: The controversy over an education ministry decision requiring scholarship students to pass an English-language exam widened yesterday, with the court backing the ministry and MP Safa Al-Hashem accusing Islamic groups of dragging the country backward. MP Omar Al-Tabtabaei meanwhile submitted a proposal to upgrade public education in the country, calling for hiring highly experienced teachers from various countries.

The administrative court yesterday supported the education ministry’s decision that Kuwaiti students selected for scholarships must pass the IELTS test before being sent abroad. A number of lawmakers have criticized the decision as unfair because it favors students who study at private English-language schools over students from public schools, whose English skills are not as developed. A number of MPs have warned that the issue could snowball into a major political crisis, calling on the education minister to first upgrade the level of English language education in public schools.

But MP Hashem welcomed the court’s ruling, which she said proves that the decision is in line with the constitution and does not discriminate between students, adding that it also preserves public funds after the ministry lost around $61 million after some scholarship students failed the IELTS exam in foreign countries. She alleged that most of these students are supported by Islamic groups, whom she claimed have contributed to the country’s slide in cultural and scientific aspects. Hashem declared her total support to the education minister’s decision over the language test and curbing cheating in exams.

MP Ahmad Al-Fadhl yesterday called on lawmakers to support ministers who make reform decisions, like the education minister’s decision on IETLS. He denied that the decision targets students from Kuwaiti tribes, saying that the minister himself belongs to a tribe.

Meanwhile, MP Tabtabaei called in his proposal to set a quota for nationalities of foreign teachers recruited by the education ministry in order not to rely on a specific nationality. In his proposal, he called for recruiting teachers with at least 10 years of experience and who hold master’s degrees with a very good grade. Tabtabaei also called for recruiting English teachers from countries whose mother tongue is English, and similarly for French teachers.

By B Izzak