For 11 years prior to joining Search Associates in 2016, Bill Turner held leadership positions in schools in Middle East. Now as Senior Associate, he is in a position to tour our member schools in the region for the benefit of those schools but us as well. Bill is in a great position to give us an overview of the teaching life there, and below is his report on Kuwait.
There are over 90 international schools in Kuwait, including 20 British and 11 American; some of these run International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, sometimes K-12/FS-13. Twenty-one schools are bilingual, with students developing fluency in both Arabic and English. Fourteen schools are registered with Search Associates.
The school market in Kuwait is mature, with few brand new school openings, unlike Qatar and the U.A.E. Consequently, many international schools have developed niche focuses, which may work well in attracting teachers who have a very clear idea of what kind of school they want to work in. For example, one IB school welcomes teachers with no prior IB experience and trains them on-site.
Another school is aimed overtly at supporting Muslim Kuwaiti culture via a strongly American curriculum; they segregate genders from the start. Two schools have built, or are building, very strong programs and buildings to meet the needs of children with mild to severe learning needs. Another employs two teachers per elementary class: one of the teachers is American; the other is a fully qualified, experienced teacher from the Philippines, sometimes with a Master of Arts degree. Many schools run bilingual programs. And so it goes on - there's something for everyone.
All schools say they are aware of the need to provide outstanding professional development programs in order both to attract teachers and develop their careers. You may be pleased to hear that there is no federal inspection system at present, with an initiative four years ago not being taken any further.
What about life outside of school? Well, of course there's the sunshine and easy access to beaches for a start. It's very safe. Teachers with young children say that Kuwaitis and other expatriates there love children. A visit to the seafront on a weekend finds hundreds of families enjoying picnics and taking a stroll along the long beachside pathways. They tell me that there is a busy entertainment calendar in the city.
Like all Gulf states, Kuwait is a country of immigrants. Of a population of 4.2 million, Kuwaitis make up just 30%. This means that it is a cosmopolitan environment with a dazzling variety of food and fashion!
Teachers say they also enjoy the fact that it is so easy to travel to so many other fascinating countries: Dubai and Jordan are each only 70 minutes away so can easily be visited for the weekend.
You will need to be aware that there are some tight government regulations on employment in Kuwait. For example, there are restrictions on some passports – the list changes with the prevailing political winds. Some schools also have restricted passport lists from which they recruit. Female teachers with trailing spouses will not be given jobs here. Minimum qualifications for teaching are, in secondary school, a degree. A Postgraduate Certificate in Education is not compulsory (apparently not even recognized) though schools may insist on this for their own minimum requirements. As in some other countries, it helps if your undergraduate degree has the same name as the subject you teach in school. University transcripts can be important to show how much of the subject you studied at university. Primary teachers must have either a B.Ed. or a major in education studied at degree level.
Kuwait is, like other Gulf states, a conservative, Islamic state with the usual protocols regarding behavior and dress in public. Alcohol is not available. The flip side of this is that public behavior is friendly and welcoming, and teachers report they feel particularly safe.
School packages tend to be good, partly because there is no personal income tax in Kuwait! Teachers are always encouraged to factor this into their view of their package, as well as the fact that their accommodation is provided. There is some variety between packages offered by schools; this data is all available on the Search Associates database.