By Nawara Fattahova

KUWAIT: Twenty societies in Kuwait have released a joint statement in which they warn of the deteriorating level of education in the country. They quote an education ministry study carried out recently involving more than 250 schools that yielded "disappointing results", which they warn could lead to a "national crisis" unless the government intervenes promptly to address the problem.

Nadya Al-Sharrah, founding member of the Solidarity Group for Education Reform, one of the main signatories of the statement and an economist, said education should be a priority. "Education in Kuwait is in danger. Through this statement we are sounding the alarm, so those in charge will join the efforts of both the executive and legislative powers. We need to have an active educational committee in the parliament as well," she told Kuwait Times.

The statement was motivated by the disappointing results of a pilot study conducted in December that included 267 public and private schools. "This study showed the level of education has deteriorated in basic subjects including languages, mathematics and sciences," Sharrah said. The signatories of the statement also have reservations and objections against the evaluation by the ministry. "The evaluation included in the study should have been done by a neutral institution and not the ministry of education. In fact, the tests were conducted by the research and curriculum department of the ministry of education," said Sharrah.

"The ministry assumed the responsibility of the National Center for Education Development and did the evaluation tests. In other GCC countries, for instance, educational councils report to the council of ministers or higher authorities in the country, while here they are under the education minister, which is wrong, as this body has to evaluate the minister's performance and can take sanctions against him," she explained.

According to Sharrah, the Supreme Council for Education in Kuwait is not active. "They usually meet only once a year and make no relevant decisions. It performs the duties of educational district administrations or schools - holding award ceremonies, for example. The supreme council should be an institution for consultation and control that evaluates the performance of the ministry of education," she pointed out.

Sharrah warned serious attention should be paid to education. "People should know that well-educated individuals are those who save the country in times of danger. This should be our number one priority. Officials should realize that students are in danger, and they should think how we will work in the next 10 years," she said.

The reasons behind the deterioration of education in Kuwait, according to Sharrah, are mostly administrative. "The government is the base of everything. Ministers are not chosen according to their qualification, but rather by favoritism. Also, the budget for education should be restructured. At present, 70 percent of spending is on administrative expenses and only 30 percent is spent on the education process. The new minister should change this ratio at least a little," she urged.

"The Solidarity Group for Education Reform and other societies that signed the statement will hold further meetings to draw up a roadmap, which we will most probably submit to HH the Crown Prince. It will take some time to put the suggestions together and prepare a study on the procedures that we will follow," concluded Sharrah.