The school year is fast drawing to a close, and while many students are looking forward to three months of freedom, many parents feel dissatisfaction and distress. The most common complaint heard regarding schools in Kuwait is that they are too costly (private schools) or have woefully inadequate standards (public schools). The government now seems to be addressing the matter of skyrocketing school fees. In February, Education Minister Hamed Al-Azmi officially issued a decision freezing all school fee increases for the 2018/2019 school year. It’s unclear if that decision will stand, as in previous years, the ministry announced a freeze on fees only to reverse the decision later.
Regarding standards, it seems difficult for one parent to judge any but their own child’s education. There are significant concerns about the quality of the education children in Kuwait are receiving in both the public and private schools. But to generalize the concerns to all schools would be unfair. There are some schools – both public and private – that provide a quality education and there are tens of thousands of teachers and school staff who work assiduously to support students and to educate them in what has become a fast-changing world of educational standards and requirements.
Perhaps one of the most important elements of schooling absent in Kuwait is the PTA system. Parent-teacher associations are an invaluable resource for building a thriving school community and providing a support network to schools. They are common in most Western countries and indeed many of the ‘top tier’ schools in Kuwait enjoy the support of a PTA.
The arguments against PTAs that I’ve heard repeated often go like this: Private schools in Kuwait are for-profit businesses and we are all working parents, so why should we volunteer to support their bottom line? That may seem reasonable, but it’s a flawed argument. Yes, private schools in Kuwait are for profit and shareholders have the right and expectation that the businesses they’ve invested in give them a return. But at the same time, these schools are educating our children.
Whatever is good for the school will ultimately be good for our kids. If the library has plenty of good quality books and reading material, our children will have more to read. If schools provide more after-school activities or options for tutoring, our children will have a greater advantage in these areas as well.
Parent-teacher associations are typically voluntary and rely on parents contributing time and effort to help the school with areas like fundraising for extracurricular activities, volunteering in classes and charity events, field trips and after-school programs. Parents can also contribute by reading to students, giving lectures on their professions and even organizing field trips to their places of work.
Studies have shown that students with parents more involved and engaged with their school tend to get better grades, have fewer disciplinary problems and have greater positive relationships with peers and teachers. This is something that can only benefit all – students, parents, teachers and schools. PTAs also help keep parents actively engaged in supporting their children’s education, building relationships with school administrations and teachers and overall building a better, thriving school community to the benefit of all.
By Jamie Etheridge