Private schools admit many Kuwaiti and expat children every year, and while parents take the lead in choosing the best school for their kids, no one seems to think much about the key element in the educational process - the teacher. The foundation of a good education is a good teacher, and this has been an unresolved issue for years. Does anyone think about the foreign teachers here?
A new school year is round the corner, and of course, for all expat parents, this is an issue of concern. After all, they are the ones who pay the school fees, which are not getting cheaper. At the end of the day, no matter what school your kid goes to, school uniforms, books and stationery are things you need to buy, affecting your budget. In fact, sending kids to any school in Kuwait is becoming a financial burden on all families. The school management plays a role in facilitating this issue and should make best efforts to make it easier for all.
It is clear in Kuwait that sending kids to schools to get a good education is not easy, so some expatriates now prefer to send their children to their home countries, which means breaking up the family. The ministry of education has set a ceiling for salaries at private schools - though tuition fees continue to rise unabated.
Since life in not cheap here, there is talk about the departure of some good teachers from Kuwait to other Gulf countries. This should be taken seriously, because it relates to the quality of education.
Some claim that foreign teachers leave for neighboring countries because of low wages, which is a baseless claim. The salaries of teachers in private schools in Kuwait are no less than those of foreign teachers in other Gulf countries. The school is bound by a contract with the foreign teacher. This contract determines the rights and duties of the teacher with the school, but when the school does not abide with labor laws or the contract, it is normal for teachers to leave, because they refuse to give up their rights.
Unfortunately, new teachers become aware of the role of wasta in Kuwait and how it helps to make their stay easier, for instance for getting their civil IDs and obtaining a car and driving license. Another important thing for new teachers is the possible ignorance of laws protecting their rights if they fall victim to a school that does not respect labor laws. They find it difficult to hire lawyers, especially since all laws here are in Arabic, a language many don't speak or understand.
There are some schools in Kuwait with poor academic international recognition by international bodies, and this for many teachers is an unpleasant surprise, especially when they come to Kuwait with their children.
Many schools have crowded classrooms, although there are rules against this, but then it's all about business and not preserving the quality of education. It is very tiring for any teacher and lack of support by the management makes the teacher feel alienated and vulnerable.
The ministry of education must periodically meet with foreign teachers and discuss their issues of concern in order to protect them from possible exploitation and ensure that they do not leave the country.
I think it would also be a great idea if the ministry met with parents - both locals and expats - to know their concerns, issues and frustrations regarding the skyrocketing fees.
I know that there are some excellent schools in Kuwait that work to maintain their reputation, but it is necessary to ensure all schools abide by the laws issued by the ministry of education. The goal of education is to look after children and prepare them for the future. We have a duty to protect foreign teachers to protect the country's reputation.
By Muna Al-Fuzai