Technical and Vocational Education in Kuwait

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1 The Vocational Aspect of Education ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: Technical and Vocational Education in Kuwait Salahaldeen Al Ali To cite this article: Salahaldeen Al Ali (1993) Technical and Vocational Education in Kuwait, The Vocational Aspect of Education, 45:1, 15-23, DOI: / To link to this article: Published online: 11 Aug Submit your article to this journal Article views: 213 View related articles Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Download by: [ ] Date: 01 July 2016, At: 11:33

2 The Vocational Aspect of Education, Volume 45, Number 1, 1993 Technical and Vocational Education in Kuwait SALAHALDEEN AL-ALI School of Business Management, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. University of Kuwait, Kuwait City, Kuwait ABSTRACT One of the prerequisites for the development and modernisation of a country is technical-vocational education and training. If carefully planned and appropriately financed, an efficient and effective capability may be produced. Kuwait, despite having vast economic resources, has been suffering from an obvious lack of skilled and semi-skilled manpower in almost all the sectors of the economy. In order to fulfil this deficiency, technical-vocational education and training was initiated to meet the urgent needs of the country. However, despite the realisation of the need for such institutions, their role has not lived up to their full potential. In most cases, low student aptitude, lack of managerial and academic facilities, and weak industrial linkages have thwarted the high prior expectations of such institutions. This study assesses the role of Kuwait's technical and vocational institutions in providing the country with skilled scientific and technical manpower. In addition, it examines the effect of the Gulf Crisis on such institutions and the challenge confronting them in providing the country with the manpower required, since manyof the country's nationals, who previously occupied managerial scientific positions, have left the country. Finally, the paper argues that, unless such schemes are given serious attention, the country will be heavily dependent on expatriates for years to come. Introduction Human capital in the developing countries has received considerable treatment In the economics literature.[1,2] Today, it is a widely held view that the development of its human capital is vital to every such country. Harbinson [2,3] has written extensively on human resources development as an essential ingredient of economic development. He states that: 15

3 SALAHALDEENAI^AU If a country is unable to develop its human resources, it cannot develop much else, whether it be a modern political and social structure, a sense of social unity, or a higher standard of material welfare.[2] Technical and vocational institutions have a significant role to play in development, especially in developing countries where a shortage of qualified scientists, technologists, technicians and engineers is considered one of the most acute obstacles to the effective application of science and technology. Technical and vocational institutions are viewed as the main vehicle through which to increase the new skills and knowledge necessary to assimilate and absorb new technologies. Occupation Figure 1. Labour force (15 years and over): division by occupation and nationality. The shortage of Kuwaiti skilled and semi-skilled manpower constitutes a serious problem in almost all the sectors of the country (Figure 1). The magnitude of this problem can clearly be seen from the long-term forecast made by the Ministry of Planning, which shows that, by the year 2000, skilled manpower requirements will be 167,500, whilst supply is not expected to exceed 67,500.[4] As a result, the country without doubt will continue to depend heavily on foreign manpower for the advancement of its economy. To tackle or reduce this problem, the College of Technological Studies was established in 1976, under the umbrella of the 16

4 VOCATIONAL EDUCATION IN KUWAIT Public Authority for Applied Education and Training, which consists of four colleges (basic education, business studies, technological studies and health sciences). It encompasses six departments (mechanical, electrical, electronic, civil, chemical engineering and applied sciences). Its main objectives are: To supply the country with an appropriately qualified technical class to fulfil the goals of the socio-economic development of Kuwait. To develop the technical-vocational skills available in the Kuwait labour force. To provide consultancy services, and conduct studies and research in the industrial sectors. To help society in understanding and dealing with technology that might be useful in daily life.[5] The college was established to fulfil one of the urgent needs of the country in providing various sectors with well-trained scientific and technical manpower. Research Methodology The study comprised three main methods of data collection. These were: literature review, structured questionnaire and personal interview. In this research, the College of Technological Studies (the only technological college in Kuwait) was selected as a case study in order to evaluate its performance in supplying the country with highly skilled manpower. It is worth mentioning here that the fieldwork was conducted both before and after the Gulf Crisis so as to reflect the present situation of the college. Research Findings Characteristics of the Sample In all, 237 questionnaires were distributed to lecturers and 126 were completed. This represents a 53% response rate. Of 950 questionnaires distributed to students, 435 were completed. This represents a 46% response rate. Such a response rate is considered appropriate since "the main problem with mail surveys is that of getting an adequate response rate... Mail surveys with a response of as low as 10% are not unknown".[6] Questionnaires were returned from 38% who identified themselves as assistant professors, 26% lecturers, 17% technicians, 16% assistant lecturers and 3% associate lecturers. On the other hand, students' responses were obtained from firstand second-year students, and their distribution according to 17

5 SALAHALDEEN AL-ALI departments was as follows: 25% electronic engineering, 22% mechanical engineering, 17% electrical engineering, 15% applied sciences, 13% chemical engineering and 8% civil engineering. Number of Registered Students Figure 2 shows the distribution of registered students at applied educational colleges for the lst/2nd semester 1988/89 from a total of 17,187. The non-kuwaiti students represent only 15.7% of the total students. The number of Kuwaiti students is found to be highest in the College of Basic Education, followed by the College of Business Studies, then the College of Technological Studies, and lastly the College of Health Science. [7] Business studies 28.7% Basic education 44.7% Technical studies 21.3% Health science 5.3% Figure 2. Registered Kuwaiti students at applied education by colleges, 1988/89. It was not until 1986/87 that women started to enrol at the College of Technological Studies. The number of women enrolled for the year 1988/89 was 10,020, out of whom 86.8% are Kuwaitis. Their distribution at the colleges was as follows: College of Basic Education, 57.9%; College of Business Studies, 28.8%; College of Health Sciences, 6.7%, College of Technological Studies, 6.6%.[7] Reasons for Low Enrolment Various factors are responsible for the low number of students attending technical and vocational institutions. Firstly, the study revealed that 51% of the total students sampled did not choose the College of Technological Studies as a first priority. As manual labour is considered to be of low status, students prefer to attend university in order to achieve higher 18

6 VOCATIONAL EDUCATION IN KUWAIT status; this was supported by 51% of the total students' response. Thus they favour the general education system. Secondly, there was a lack of information on the various courses offered at the college since 60% of the students' responses indicated not having any information regarding the various courses offered at the college before enrolling. At present schools try to prepare students for higher education but are handicapped by the lack of skilled tuition in important subjects such as science, technology and industrial development. Consequently, students attending industrial colleges are insufficiently prepared and unable to evaluate their courses. When asked how aware they were about courses available at the time of their applications, 59% of the total selected students reported that they had no information about the range available. Thirdly, there is a lack of career guidance which would enable students to choose appropriate courses. It is just recently that the Public Authority of Applied Education and Training adopted the method of visiting selected secondary schools informing them about the activities offered by the various colleges, including the College of Technological Studies. However, it is worth noting that creating public awareness of the various courses offered to attract more students is one thing, and furnishing the college with up-to-date equipment, continuing curriculum development, linkage with industry and government incentives, and obtaining social esteem is another thing altogether. However, they are complementary to each other and their effect in attracting students and providing them with the required skills is significant. Fourthly, few female students attend the college courses. In fact female students prefer courses that do not involve their working with men. Thus, they tend to avoid engineering courses and are also reluctant to study abroad because they realise that they will not have parental and family support. Lastly, but not least, there is a lack of government incentives. Graduates from university or college are seen to command higher salaries than graduates from technical colleges. Regrettably, some students who register for courses at technical and vocational institutions do not complete their courses, owing to their desire to enter paid employment. Others may prefer not to work in the fields they have been trained for (10% of the total students from the sample selected), and may wish to work in a different career (20% of the total students' response). Teaching Aids When lecturers were questioned whether they required the use of educational aids (e.g. overhead projector, computer services, books and visual aids) in their courses, 69% said yes. However, when they were asked if such facilities were available, 89% said no. The lack of the right number of up-to-date books at the college library, for instance, was 19

7 SA1AHALDEENAL-ALI perceived by lecturers to be an obstacle to their performance; quality of references was rated 'excellent' by only 17% of the total lecturers responding and 28% by the total students responding. It was also described as 'poor' by 43% of the total lecturers and 25% by the total students. In addition, the availability of up-to-date workshops and laboratories was rated 'excellent' by only 2% of the total lecturers, 5% of the total students and 55% of both respondents rated this factor 'poor'. Linkage with Other Institutions and Industries The importance of links between technical and vocational institutions and local industries cannot be overemphasised.[8,9] Such linkage would not only contribute to be generation of funds for technical and vocational institutions but would also enhance their staffs' competence. This, in turn, would be reflected in the improved standard of graduates. However, our study shows that collaboration between the College of Technological Studies with local counterpart institutions (e.g. College of Science at Kuwait University, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research) and local industries is not encouraging. Regrettably, 64% of the total lecturers selected indicated that they did not have any contact with the market. Of the total remainder, 30% had contact with industry for the purpose of students' industrial placement and only 6% stated establishing links with industry to conduct research projects. Quality Assurance System There is a clear lack of a 'quality assurance scheme' that ensures that departments, courses and curriculum are reviewed, evaluated and monitored annually. Such a process would help, for instance, in monitoring the performance of a department in relation to the aims, priorities and action plan set out in the previous annual departmental plan. In addition to involving industrialists in such processes, knowledge and understanding could be transferred to both parties involved in the evaluation process. Teaching Load Of the lecturers' response 54% considered the teaching load (12-14 hours a week) as 'a serious problem' that inhibited the involvement of staff in conducting other academic activities such as research, consultancy and curriculum development. This in fact was found to coincide with the findings of a similar institution (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) where 64% of the total staff response perceived the teaching load as a "serious constraint limiting their involvement in external activities" (e.g. research, consultancy). 20

8 VOCATIONAL EDUCATION IN KUWAIT Lack of Appraisal Scheme The study showed that there was no unified, tested and approved appraisal scheme at the faculty. The head of each department would depend entirely on his own criteria for evaluating his staff, and this differed from one department to another. Concern was expressed by selected heads of department about the necessity of establishing and applying a unified appraisal scheme to all the departments. Academic Facilities The availability of an appropriately designed building and its attendant up-to-date facilities is essential for the success of the faculty's objectives. Unfortunately, shortages of private offices (87%), lack of maintenance (85%), unsuitable workshops and laboratories (83%), lack of safety precautions (81%), and lack of proper lecture theatres (75%) constitute a barrier to both staff and students in the learning process. The Implications of the Gulf Crisis The Gulf Crisis has indeed left the country in a devastated condition. Almost all sectors, including human resources, shared in suffering various degrees of damage. This was aggravated by the destruction of the oil sector, the backbone of the Kuwait economy. Many of the non-kuwaiti nationals, who previously provided such services, have left the country as a result of the Gulf Crisis. Those who left, particularly those holding so-called 'un-preferred' nationality, owing to their government's attitude towards the Gulf Crisis, are unlikely to return. Such situations pose a barrier to Kuwaiti decision-making in setting plans to rebuild the country and regain the situation it enjoyed before the crisis. At present, following the Gulf War of 1991 the rebuilding of Kuwait's infrastructure is the main challenge confronting the Kuwaiti government. Realisation of the necessity to re-adjust the population ratio seems to be absorbed in theory and hopeful in practice. However, such an objective is not easy to accomplish since historical evidence indicates the country's extreme dependence on expatriates. Attention is now being focussed on rebuilding the country's economy as it was enjoyed before the crisis and, it is hoped at least, to reduce the dependence on expatriates (1) by offering well-equipped scientific and technological institutions and, (2) by encouraging Kuwaiti Students to undertake technological training to overcome or reduce the shortage of skilled Kuwaitis. 21

9 SALAHALDEEN ALALI Conclusions The Gulf War has resulted in Kuwait's facing increased problems in the access to, and adoption of, technology, particularly owing to the exodus of qualified overseas manpower from Kuwait which took place during the crisis. A review of the technical and vocational institutions in Kuwait reveals a number of drawbacks. For example, the main objective of vocational schools - that of providing middle-level manpower - is yet to be met. This demands urgent action by the government. New ideas should be sought not only from local experts but also from overseas. It is often claimed locally that "technical and vocational education is socially unacceptable and economically unrewarding". Consequently, some people are inhibited from undertaking technical and vocational training. To eradicate this unorthodox ideology, co-operative effort is imperative. Public awareness must be created throughout the country of the benefits that technical and vocational education can bring to Kuwait. The government should also help by giving financial incentives to graduates of technical colleges in order to attract them and to prevent them feeling inferior to their university counterparts. Secondary school education should be designed to prepare students not only for work at university level but also for entry into scientific and technical colleges. The government should provide incentives for students to encourage the selection of science subjects. This article has revealed that the curriculum for vocational training is not integrated with other aspects of the Kuwaiti educational system. To this end, it is suggested that the curriculum be revised to build in necessary elements to ensure the development of local capabilities. Efforts should also be made to encourage more females to enrol in technical preparation institutes and to develop their skills. There is a need to link vocational and technical schools with industry, and with research and development centres. In this way, their practical and analytical skills, all things being equal, will be fully developed to meet the demand for much needed local skills. Unless such institutions are improved, the country will continue to depend extensively on foreign manpower for years ahead. Correspondence Dr Salahaldeen Al-Ali, PO Box 261, Al-Surra, 45703, Kuwait. 22

10 VOCATIONAL EDUCATION IN KUWAIT References [1] G. Jones (1971) the Role of Science and Technology in Developing Countries, p. 31. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [2] F. Harbinson (1962) Human resources development policy in modernising economics, International Labour Review, 85, p [3] F. Harbinson (1976) Approaches to human resources development, cited in C. Meier (Ed.) Leading Issues in Economic Development. New York: Oxford University Press. [4] Ministry of Planning (1987) Five Year Plan 1985/90, p. 26. Kuwait Government Press. [5] The Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (1987) Annual Catalogue for the Year , p. 31. Kuwait Government Press. [6] C. Moser & G. Kalton (1971) Survey Methods in Social Investigation, p London: Heinemann. [7] Ministry of Planning, Central Statistical Office (1989) Annual Statistical Abstract, p Kuwait Government Press. [8] A. Carsurd & B. Ellison (1990) Turning Research into Enterprise: an analysis of the transfer of university technology to entrepreneurial ventures in the United Kingdom. Durham: Durham University Business School. [9] Department of Trade and Industry and the Council for Industry and Higher Education (1990) Collaboration between Business and Higher Education. London: HMSO. 23

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