Secondary Education Reform Project in Kuwait

29 November – 1 December 2004


In early 2004, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education asked the IBE-UNESCO to provide technical assistance to the education authorities of Kuwait in the framework of a comprehensive project to reform the education structure of the Kuwaiti education system, and especially the upper secondary stage.


Since the Kuwaiti education system is supposed to change its structure from a previous 4+4+4 model to a new 5+4+3 model (which implies a reduction by one year of the upper secondary stage, and the extension of compulsory education from 8 to 9 years of schooling) the education specialists in Kuwait were particularly interested in exchanging with partners from abroad on significant reforms of the upper secondary stage worldwide, that also affected the curriculum, and the evaluation and certification models in the respective education systems. The Kuwaiti Ministry of Education indicated the UK and the USA as models of particular interest and asked for experts from these two countries to join the Kuwaiti specialists for a three-day international seminar.

The plans of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education to extend the compulsory education from 8 to 9 years (also implying the extension of the primary schools from 4 to 5 years) and to reduce the duration of the upper secondary stage from 4 to 3 years are in line with important international trends in favour of introducing a 5+4+3 education structure, which is also noticeable in other countries of the region. The reform plans have yet to be adapted to the specific context of Kuwait, where – for many years already – a so-called ‘dual system’ coexisted in the context of the upper secondary stage: a ‘credit system’ inspired by the USA secondary school model, and a so called ‘general diploma system’, from where student were graduating based on a final examination (similar to the French ‘Baccalaureate’ or the German ‘Abitur’).


Based on exchanges during a joint meeting of the IBE-UNESCO and of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education held in September 2004 in Geneva, the two parties agreed on finalising the joint project proposal in regard the organisation of an international seminar in Kuwait City in late November 2004 based on which the IBE-UNESCO should issue recommendations to the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education for the improvement of the reform design and implementation.

Following the needs the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education expressed in regard the issues to be approached and exchanged upon, the main goals of the international three-day seminar were set as follows:



  • To learn about the reform intentions of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education and to jointly explore the conceptual aspects of the proposed education reform, as well as to address the issues related to implementation, and all the implications the reform measures ought to have on curriculum, evaluation and certification, class and school management, teacher education, etc.
  • To exchange on reform trends in the USA and the UK, with a special focus on the upper secondary stage and on questions related to qualifications, evaluation, and certification.
  • To explore possibilities to link general and vocational education in the Kuwaiti upper secondary stage (at present there is no vocational stream in the Kuwaiti public system).
  • To identify directions for improving the reform concept and its implementation in the Kuwaiti education system by addressing local and international good practices in education that ought to cater for quality education for all and foster increased access of students into the higher education stages.
  • Based on discussions and exchanges during the three-day workshop, to issues recommendations to the Ministry of Education of Kuwait in regard the reform of the education structure and of upper secondary stage within the Kuwait education system (see the Seminar Agenda).


Following the discussions in the plenary and the three working groups, the international team of experts issued several concrete Recommendations to the Ministry of Education that focus on three main dimensions:



  • The need to develop a comprehensive education vision based on consultation and participation;
  • The need to reinforce communication and dissemination of the reform ideas;
  • The need to address the ‘technical details’ of the intended reform carefully and find appropriate answers to all the detailed questions concerning the functioning of the education system in the context of the new reforms.


Based on the comments the participants made, the seminar outcomes and the possibilities for follow up were identified as follows:



  • The basic objectives of the seminar were to share and learn from each other’s experience in order to explore some important issues related to the design and the implementation of the intended education reforms in Kuwait. The international team, the Kuwaiti participants and the representatives of the Ministry of Education all feel that the seminar reached its goals and provided a very good opportunity for improving the Kuwaiti education reform plans and prepare implementation timely.
  • All participants think that the presentations and discussions were rich and stimulating, and that many interesting ideas were shared, based on which the Ministry of Education will be able to improve the reform concept and the reform implementation plans.
  • It is important that the main assumptions of the intended education reform are made explicit and shared with the wider public and the education stakeholders. At the same time, is would be in the benefit of the Ministry of Education, and of the students, teachers and parents in Kuwait to also tackle the practical solutions of reform implementation in the context of a participatory and inclusive processes that would increase the awareness of reform directions, and will consolidate the ownership of the reform by the education stakeholders in the country.


The seminar clearly showed that education concerns are the same all over the world, and that good local experiences should be combined with international good practices in an attempt to balance education tradition and innovation better. The challenge of any reform is to find the right balance.


The Ministry of Education representatives stated that the Ministry and the education specialists of Kuwait are looking forward to make use of the seminar learnings, and that, in order to keep the momentum and reinforce the international dialogue and sharing, future activities of the same kind will be planned for next year.


A comprehensive project Report will be issued soon that will be handed over to the Kuwaiti education authorities.