KUWAIT: Newly appointed Minister of Education Ahmad Al-Mulaifi told the press on Tuesday that a temporary campus must be allocated to contain the 8,000 freshmen set to enroll this upcoming September. Al-Mulaifi met with the Kuwait University council earlier this month and gave them a stark ultimatum: increase the number of freshmen enrolling this academic year to 8,000 or submit their [council members'] resignations.
A senior Kuwait University official announced yesterday that the minister's demand to increase the number of students has been met. Nada Al-Motlaq, the head of the university's admissions and registration department, said: "The number of students who applied online has reached 8,000 and we are awaiting the completion of their paperwork before they begin selecting courses for the first semester, which commences this September." Al-Motlaq noted that the number of applicants includes Kuwaiti nationals and non
-Kuwaiti nationals with Kuwaiti mothers.
This comes despite criticism and protests by faculty staff at Kuwait University over the numbers. In recent months, KU officials have stressed the university's urgent need for more teachers, especially given the numerous obstacles currently facing the institution. These include:
The aptitude tests and foundation courses set for students are not on a par with the content they study in their major, said one KU lecturer, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Students come to us unprepared, and they go through a year of studying foundation English and mathematics, but that is still not enough. The university should have strict criteria for admitting students in certain fields, by giving challenging aptitude tests in order to control the quality of education. In many cases we have to du
mb things down to explain to those students who have had a very low quality education in school," he said.
The KU insider added that the poor educational standards at public schools reflect negatively on the students' performance at university. "They are used to getting excellent grades for doing very little work. When we have a class of 30 full of students who don't speak proper English, how can we have classroom discussion for the course if the curriculum's in English?" he exclaimed. The lecturer added that by introducing stricter admission criteria, students would have to work harder and apply when they were
ready and their aptitude was comparable with the level of education provided.
Another insider at Kuwait University said that the university's gender segregation policy only stalls the workflow for both faculty members and students. "Let me give you an example: let's say you have a department with five professors; each one of them must give [the same] course twice every semester: once for boys and once for girls. The boys' classes are most of the time smaller in number, so you have around fifteen students. In the girls' classes you have thirty or more. Each of the professors is there
fore forced to give the same class, the same content, at three different timings," she explained.
The academic added that the timings usually delay students as they clash with other courses they have. "Because girls outnumber boys, the boys can't choose which timing they want for their classes. They are stuck with one time slot, and if it doesn't suit their schedule they come back the next semester. If Kuwait University was co-ed, students would have the freedom to time classes more conveniently, and instructors could have a balanced number of students in each of the classes," she said. By having 8,000
freshmen at Kuwait University without any increase in the number of instructors, the minister of education is only asking for the failure of the university, the insider warned.
Kuwait University's campuses are scattered across five different areas: Shuwaikh, Khaldiya, Kaifan, Jabriya and Adailiya. According to statements made by the education minister, it is necessary to provide temporary buildings soon until work on a new university at Sabah Al-Salem University City near Shedadiyyah is completed. Last week, the head of Kuwait University's construction department, Dr Rana Al-Fares, announced that missiles left over from the 1990-91 invasion and occupation had been found at the si
te of the new university and were destroyed by the relevant authorities.
The University City will take years until it is completed. It doesn't appear that the minister put any thought into the decision to increase the number of students, and the same thing goes for his decision for makeshift buildings," said another faculty member. Until the academic year begins in September, things might change for the better, he added. "The last thing Kuwait needs is more crises in the field of education," he concluded.
*The speakers requested to remain anonymous so as to protect their identity.
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