For many developing nations the years that followed the two major world meetings namely the Dakar World Forum on Education and the meeting that elaborated the Millennium Development Goals, much has been done to reform education (King 2009). Following these meetings world leaders established that education was important for development and was a key ingredient to national financial stability.
In line with the efforts numerous changes have been witnessed all over the world with regards to education and business. Among the changes has been an increased enrolment in institutions of learning. This has been accomplished by upgrading of various institutes of learning into comprehensive centers offering vocational training to students. The result is almost half the number of high school graduates now enrolls in various community colleges in pursuit of specialized education (Person & Rosenbaum 2006).
These graduates of such institutions have provided the labor market within their countries a huge pool of middle level skilled personnel which is of grate benefit to the economy. This point has been stressed repeatedly by economists during the 90’s. Several economists have reported the essential role of human capital in economic growth and development (Seetanah 2009). As a result of these calls the governments of many nations have made earnest efforts to improve the educational services in their borders.
Also of interest in recent years is the change in business processes caused by new technologies such as the internet. The internet has emerged to be a powerful tool for education and the changing face of business in today’s world has led to calls to redefine accounting education (Baker & White 1999).
Kuwait is a country in the Middle East and has not escaped the changes that have been experienced in other parts of the world. The country has a large amount of oil reserves and its economy is mainly dependent on this natural resource (Haywood 1989). However, the country has made efforts to streamline its education sector to meet the needs of its local labor market and reduce reliance on oil revenues (Burney & Mohammed 2002). It is in keeping with these sentiments that this paper seeks to discuss education in Kuwait. The discussion that will follow will provide information on selected issues within the Kuwait education sector and attempt to bring the reader to understand the journey the nation has travelled to reach its current state in education.
Historical Background of Education in Kuwait
Kuwait is located in Southwest Asia, at the Northwestern tip of the region known as the Persian Gulf. Its immediate neighbors include Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The national language is Arabic. However, English is used in the country frequently as well. Kuwait currency is known as the Kuwaiti Dinar. Its capital city is called Kuwait city and the country has a population of approximately 2.69 million only Forty-Five percent of the population is Kuwaiti with the rest of them come from different countries based on statistics from 2009. Kuwait’s population is also rapidly growing one, expected to double to four million by 2025, and to six million by 2050 (Encarta 2009).
Its territory covers approximately 17, 818 Sq Km which is divided into six governorates; Al-Asma (the capita), Al-Ahmadi, AlJahra, Al-Farwaniyah, Mobarak al kabeer, and Hawalli (Encarta 2009). Kuwait was originally settled by Arab tribes in 1672. It has been ruled by al-Sabah dynasty, whose leadership continues to this day. In 1897 Kuwait become a British protectorate, winning its independence in 1961. Petroleum is the main economic product, which is discovered in 1938, and it has made Kuwait one of the richest countries per capital in the world. Oil profits have allowed Kuwait to build a broad-based educational system, resulting in 93% literacy rate (Encarta 2007).
Before the 19th century education Kuwait was limited to instruction the Holy Quran most schooling was in the home. The increase in trade within the gulf region led to the establishment of the Al-Mubarkiya school in 1911 and soon after another school in 1921. These schools mainly taught material focusing on correspondence and arithmetic (Visit Kuwait 2007). In 1936 the Council of Education was set up and the current system of education was established by the council in 1956 (Visit Kuwait 2007). The Kuwait Ministry of Education was established in 1962. Today it is one of the largest ministries in the country and employs almost 50,000 employees (Kuwait info 2010). The Ministry is charged with the responsibility of updating and development of teaching methods to ensure education for all its nationals.
According to the constitution of 1962 education is a fundamental right for all nationals all citizens and must be promoted by the state (Visit Kuwait 2007). Therefore, all levels of public school are free, including higher education, and education is compulsory for age 6-18. Since Kuwait is an Islamic country, students (males and females) are educated separately.
In accordance with the Education Ministry (1976), the objective of education within Kuwait is creation of opportunity for nationals that will help develop them spiritually, morally, intellectually, socially and physically as far as their individual characteristics permit. The content is related to the nature, philosophy and aspirations of Kuwaiti society and in compliance with Islamic values, Arabic culture and contemporary culture. This is meant to strike a balance between individual and social interests. The ultimate goal is the positive participation in national, regional, Islamic and global progress (MOE 2007).
The Kuwaiti educational system is a K-12 System that covers a 12 year period. It is divided in to Kindergarten which covers two years. Primary education covers five years, intermediate education covers four years and finally secondary education also completed after three years. The Kuwaiti system of education can also be categorized as, public, private and qualitative (Kuwait info 2010).
The data available on the educational institutions in Kuwait for the period 1998-1999 indicates that of the public education institutions, 148 were kindergartens, 179 were primary schools, 164 were intermediate schools and 117 secondary schools. Alongside the public schools are private institutions which were originally established to cater for the expatriates working in the country. The private schools include the following categories; Arabic private schools, Bilingual (Arabic/English) school, foreign private schools, Indian, etc. and cultural institutes focused on vocational and career studies (Kuwait info 2010).
The Arabic, Bilingual and Foreign private schools follow curriculum that they are affiliated under the ministerial supervision. The foreign private schools in compliance with the Ministry directives must teach Arabic language, Islamic religion, history, geography and culture. All private institutions offering educational services must be registered under the Private Education Department of the Ministry (Visit Kuwait 2007).The Ministry also caters for the section of population with special needs in education through institutions for the handicapped (Kuwait info 2010).
The K-12 education system is widely in use in many regions of the world. Through research into education and provision of quality education it has been confirmed that the best aids to provision of quality education include expenditure on good quality teaching books, libraries, instructional time and teacher subject knowledge.
This in turn suggests that expenditure on these items should be of a higher priority in a system that is planning to develop and sustain high quality education. However, it has been reported that Kuwaiti spending on these essential features such as books and teaching materials is below the standards of her peers. For example, in the primary and secondary level the Kuwaiti government spent 0.6% in comparison with 1.1% in South Korea, 4.8% in Malaysia, 4.0% in Thailand and 2.3% in Singapore (Burney & Mohammed 2002).
This fact on the quality of education being heavily influenced by the availability of good books and instructional material was also corroborated in an assessment of the quality of education in the Middle East and North Africa (Heyneman 1997). IT was reported that as the level of expenditure on non salary items increased, there was a marked improvement in the quality of the student after completion of the course (Heyneman 1997).
At the lower end of the scale students learn and develop habits of memorization while at the higher end of the scale self regulated learning habits and innovation developed among the students. This is an essential constituent to learning that can not be under estimated. It has been reported that cognitive ability and intelligent use of knowledge are among essential aspects contributing to success (Cawley, Heckman & Vytlacil 2001).
In keeping with assessing the structure of the Kuwaiti educational system it is wise to also assess the efficiency of the current educational system against peers. This measurement can assist in concluding whether the education system is within the standards that are in place in other parts of the globe. This is also crucial because the current global economy is dispersed and individuals often migrate to work or are employed by multinationals within their home countries (Williams 2009).
These reports indicate education can have far reaching and lasting effects and as such an efficient system must be sought. There are several measures that can be used to measure the education system including per capita expenditure on education, private returns to education, social rate of return on investment of education, pupil-teacher ratio, length of school year, budgetary allocations and the time it takes to complete a degree program (Burney & Mohammed 2002).
For the purpose of this discussion the chosen measure will be the expenditure on education. When compared with nations such as Australia, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea and the United Kingdom (U.K.), it was noted that Kuwaiti expenditure of 5% of the GNP was less than that spent by her peers in South East Asia, Ireland, New Zealand and the U.K. Despite the reduced expenditure at the K-12 levels Kuwait spent considerably more at the tertiary level when comparing expenditure per student in the same group of countries (Burney & Mohammed 2002).
That being so it may be assumed that the education system in Kuwait is relatively efficient. When one looks at the rate of return to education in middle and high school, it was found to be much lower compared to other countries. This shows that government spending in lower education is still way below par. However, given the high ranking given to Kuwait among other Arab countries on the 2006 Human Development Index Report it may be assumed that necessary changes have been effected rectifying the situation (Shirazi, Gholami & Higon 2009). In which case the below par performance may not necessarily indicate a poor national performance but a poor comparative performance.
Education is important because of its contribution to growth of national income directly through enhancement of skills, knowledge and increased productivity of labor force. Education also makes indirect contributions to economic growth through availability of improved job opportunities, reduction in birth rates and population growth, improvements in health and nutrition, reduction of poverty and improved distribution of wealth in society (Burney & Mohammed 2002).
Given such a significant role within society improvement and maintenance high standards of education is an essential for the development of a nation. In the case of Kuwait, the increased reliance on oil, a non renewable natural resource has led to efforts to encourage the provision of good quality education to all its citizens (Burney & Mohammed 2002). The government of Kuwait has for a period of over four decades made significant investment in plans to expand the existing educational facilities. These expansion efforts have improved literacy skills within the country although the development of specialized skills still remains low when compared with other countries.
The government in an effort to make these facilities accessible to all citizens within its borders has made the education provided in all public institutions free of charge (Burney & Mohammed 2002). From 1982 to 1995 the government of Kuwait spent approximately 10% of its total income on education. The result of this expenditure is the sustained increased enrollment rate within the country (Al-Qudsi 2003). In the public schools the population is mainly Kuwaiti and only about 12% are expatriates (Burney & Mohammed 2002). The government commitment to improving education is of utmost importance given the obvious pressure from other quarters such as housing, defense and transport (King 2009). Over 55% of the population is below 20 years of age with almost 50% in the school going age group.
This position can be assumed when comparing the GNP (Gross National Product) and the percentage spent on education. The government of Kuwait spent 5% of the GNP on primary and secondary education which was relatively low when compared with other countries that earned a GNP similar to that of Kuwait. Countries such as Malaysia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand and Ireland considered to earn almost an equal GNP spent more for the same category. It was also noted that the expenditure on tertiary education far exceeded other countries within the same category (Burney & Mohammed 2002).
However, one crucial aspect that has been appropriately dealt with is the development of mechanisms to invest in sectors that create employment for the graduates of learning institutions. The creation of employment and increased emphasis on education are inseparable within a nation (Person & Rosenbaum 2006). The issue of employment of graduates has been dealt with through the establishment of a financially rewarding civil service in the country.
The civil service backed with the enormous revenues from oil has played a major role in education as is seen by the numbers of civil servants enrolling for higher learning to benefit from increased remuneration in the civil service (Al-Qudsi 1989).
The link between eventual employment and investment in education is essential in nurturing an interest in education within any society. In addition to this vital link between education and employment Kuwait offers a good return on investment in education through attractive pay packages offered in its public sector. In a study on the remuneration scales, it was found that Kuwait public sector rewards more than the private sector especially at lower education levels (Al-Qudsi 1989). These findings imply the state has a better position on welfare by increasing the pay rate at lower levels which in effect signifies a higher minimum wage.
Higher educational Institutes in Kuwait
Provision of higher education services in Kuwait falls under the Ministry of Higher education (Kuwait Info 2010). The Ministry was established following a decree in 1988. The higher education is mainly offered by public institutions. There are also a number of private institutions as well within the country. The state supported institutions include Kuwait University (KU) and Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAET).
Kuwait University (KU) has five campuses in Kuwait city to cater for its student population. The institution was established in 1966 and its enrolment has risen from 400 students to almost 19,000 men and women spread across its campuses attending 12 colleges. The colleges of the institution Business Administration Sciences, Sharia and Islamic Studies, Law, Social Sciences, Health Sciences, Arts, Education, Engineering and Petroleum, Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Graduate Studies (Kuwait Cultural Office 2006). The number of its faculty members has also grown since its establishment.
The main objectives of KU include training and development of specialized human resources to meet the country’s specialized labor requirements. KU offers undergraduate degrees, awarded after four to seven years of study, and graduate degrees in various fields through the College of Graduate Studies (Kuwait University, 2007).
The Public Authority of Applied Education and Training (PAAE & T) was established in 1982 with an aim of bringing together various educational facilities. The purpose of the institution is to provide skilled labor to meet the nation’s labor requirements (Kuwait Cultural Office 2006).
Among the Private institutions for higher education currently in Kuwait are the following; Gulf University for Sciences and Technology, Maastricht School for MBA , Australian College of Kuwait, American University of Kuwait, Gulf American College, and Box-Hill College for Girls (Kuwait Cultural Office 2006).
Community Colleges in Kuwait
As stated earlier among the major objectives of the Ministry of Education in Kuwait is to develop a national technical labor force to meet the human resource needs of the country through education and training in various fields. This is mainly through services offered in both public and private institutions of higher learning. Examples of the private institutions include Australian College of Kuwait (ACK n.d.) and Box Hill College Kuwait for women. The majority of enrolled students in higher learning institutions are pursuing courses within state funded institutions such as PAAE & T. The institution is fully state funded and services are provided free of charge to Kuwaiti nationals.
The first private vocational training institution in Kuwait is the Australian College of Kuwait (ACK n.d.). Student enlisted for the courses offered on this institutions campus are assured a high quality education with the support of highly qualified Australian and International staff. It is hoped that graduates of the institution will receive knowledge, skills and attitudes that will aid them in their future careers. Among the programs offered at the institution are specialized 2+2 programs where the student attains a bachelor’s degree upon completion of the program. In a 2+2 program the first 2 years covers a diploma course.
Entry into the diploma course requires the prospective student to have attained a high school certificate or the certificate for foundation studies (ACK n.d.). Upon completion of the 2 year diploma the student can gain entry into a two year program where upon completion they will be awarded a bachelors degree.
These programs are often modeled to ease the transition from high school to college (Cellini 2006). It has been reported that such programs encourage the pursuit of college education among high school graduates in several countries. The increased availability of such programs has been seen to have a positive effect on the numbers graduating from high school. On addition to completion of high school a large number of these students do in fact continue to join Four-year programs to obtain Bachelors degrees. This is corroborated by another proponent of the two year programs reporting nearly one third of students enrolled in Two-year programs enroll in Four-year programs upon completion of their courses (Surete 2001).
As such it would be reasonable to assume that their proliferation within Kuwait is encouraging. Among the courses offered at the Australian College of Kuwait include Diplomas in Engineering, Aviation, Management, Marketing and Human Resource Management. It also offers Bachelor degrees in engineering and Business Management (ACK n.d.). In addition to the educational services the institution provides students access to the library via a portal and other support services through the institutions web site.
Another private community college available in Kuwait is the Box Hill College Kuwait. This college was established mainly to meet the higher education needs of the women students in the country. This institution is focused on providing high quality service to the community and its objective is to become the institution of choice for women in the country (BHCK 2010). The institution provides a low cost alternative for students who would like to receive education of international standards.
They have developed programs that meet the requirements outlined in the Australian Quality Training Framework. These institutions providing approved Australian education in foreign countries are the result of efforts of institutions in Australia and other developed countries tapping into other markets to reduce competition in their local markets and diversify the activities (Neumann & Guthrie 2002). The trend within these countries has provided additional options for students from countries outside these territories and has led to a situation where many students are opting to pursue a tertiary education after completion of high school (Cellini 2006).
In addition the students are also provided access to the institutes on line information repository via the institutional website (BHCK 2010). Among the programs offered at the institution include diploma courses in marketing, management and business (banking and finance), Information technology, Arts (Interior design and decor) and Graphic deign. Admission into the programs is generally based on year 12 certificates and certificate of proficiency in English language (BHCK 2010). The parent institution of this college has its roots in Victoria, Australia and dates as far back as 1924. In 2006, the college was awarded the prestigious Microsoft Education Award at a local awards event in Australia. In addition to this, in both 2004 and 2005 it was Victoria’s No. 1 TAFE (Technical and Further Education Colleges) institute (BHCK 2010).
Among the advantages that can be obtained from these two year programs is the increase in middle level labor force within a country. This is due to the fact that almost half of all high school graduates are attending two year programs in various community colleges in the world today. The graduates of these colleges either go on to complete their degree programs or get absorbed in to the nations workforce (Person and Rosenbaum 2006).
Some reports indicate a lower likelihood of graduates from two year colleges completing their complete degrees (Sandy, Gonzalez & Hilmer 2006). This suggests further study should be carried out on completion rates in Kuwait in relation to the enrollment rates. As opposed to a situation where there was little motivation to join four year programs upon completion of high school, the present trends has seen increases in enrollment in colleges thus increasing the number of skilled workers available in the country.
The Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAE &T)
In opening this section it is essential to have a clear understanding about the College of Business Studies (CBS) within the PAAE&T. This institution is among the prominent institutions in Kuwait that provides higher education and vocational training in Kuwait. The applied education and training program has been active within Kuwait since the 1940’s, a period that marked the beginning of oil exploration and production. During this period it was mainly carried out by foreign oil companies who saw the need to train national in programs that enable them to perform necessary activities (1982/1995 achievement, 1995/1996). The quality of these centers and the programs offered were over time found to be below required standards.
Following this period came the 1950’s which was marked by the expansion of construction activities throughout Kuwait and saw the establishment of the fundamental structure of the national education system. The Ministry of Education established several technological institutions in the country including teacher training institutions, the technical college, commercial secondary schools and a technical secondary school for girls (PAAET, 1997/1998).
Other ministries followed suit and established their own specialized training institutions some of which have continued to expand in specialization. For example, the Applied Engineering Institute, the training institute developed by the Ministry of Public Works, The telecommunication institute for the Ministry of Communication, and other similar institutes. Graduates from these institutes found employment from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor.
Following these activities, The Technical and Vocational Education Department was established in 1972. The department was charged with the responsibility of acting as a central body managing and organizing the activities of these various institutes. As a result of the number these separate specialized state run institutions officials of the government felt the necessity to establish an independent overall authority for planning and supervision.
In line with this idea, The Public Authority for Applied Education and Training came in to being on December 28, 1982. Among its central objectives was to organize all previously established institutes into a single authority and include all vocational education specializations under one umbrella. (PAAET, 1997). In addition PAAE & T also has the following major objectives; to supply various sectors in the country with local skilled labor, pay increased attention to women’s training and increase women’s role in professional circles, strengthen the collaboration between training and industry, modify admission requirements to be in tune with national needs and develop the human resource engaged in the institute and provide scholarships to Kuwaiti staff (Al-Ali 1996).
The institution is comprised of four primary colleges; College of Basic Education (CBE), College of Health Sciences (CHS), College of Business studies (CBS) and the College of Technological Studies (CTS). In addition to these it also has the following training centers. the Telecommunications and Navigation Institute ,the Electricity and Water Institute, the Industrial Training Institute, the Industrial Training Institute, Nursing Institute, Constructional Training Institute and Vocational Training Institute. Recruitment into any of the colleges or training centers is based upon results of certificate of secondary education. The majority of programs offered cover a two year period with the exception of CBE which offers only a four year diploma (Al-Ali 1996).
The main aim for PAAE & T is to develop human resources in order to build a new standard for Kuwait which is full of dignity and honor the law stated that the aim of the authority is to save and to develop the powers of business sector in order to face a lot of defect points in public and technical power, and obeying all of the development needs. And in order to achieve the authority’s targets and strategic aims, all of the next has to be implied:
- Re-construct all of the old practical and training institutes programs in a permanent way in order to achieve best and high criteria in all of the education.
- Encouraging and support all of the private sectors in order to establish a well organizes practical and training institutes among the confirmed strategic work.
- Developing a well organized and inclusive system for training and practical management in both of its government and private sectors.
- Designing a national system for Kuwaiti qualified person in to organized training and educational system.
- Directing Kuwaiti Youths people for free work and technical one and directing them to work in private sectors.
- Developing high educational programs which contain both technical and training field.
- Achieving best available results and equivalent chances to all of the people whom want to be well educated and rtrained.
- Achieving variation in governmental work field institute in both training and educational levels.
- Developing scientific researches in all of the technical fields to suit the economical and social development problems.
- Raising the capacity of training and educational institutes sources
All of these targets were reflected on the organization of the authority as all of the sectors and basic units are relevant to human resources development and preparation (http://www.paaet.edu).
The Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAE & T) continues to strive to meet its lofty goals with little government support. The institution is limited in its ability to accommodate large number of students but has been forced to grapple with increased registration since the liberalization of Kuwait. It was reported that despite a significant increase in enrollment the budgetary allocation for the institution remains the same thus stifling efforts to meets the industry needs.
Such action has been witnessed in other countries such as U. K. (United Kingdom) where several larger polytechnics were granted university status and their enrollments increased significantly as well. However, in the case of the U. K. the key to promoting the growth of these institutions was the link between the institutions and industry. The reduced government funding was replaced by reliance on industry and this is the mode that has been suggested for the Kuwaiti government to sustain quality and progress within the institution (Al-Ali 1996).
This situation was reported in findings of a study on students who graduated from PAAE & T. The findings indicate that a large number of the students did not select the institution as their first choice when they enlisting. It is reported that the majority of students enlist owing to low GPA in the secondary examinations.
This low perception of the entrants into the institution has further eroded the public perception of the institution. It may be encouraging to point out that during the ten years from 1986 to 1996 the number of female graduates has continually been larger than the males. This could be taken to mean the institution is partially meeting its objectives in luring the women back into the pursuit of vocational training. This is an effective method at trying to bridge the gap in the skilled and semi skilled sector in the country that has led to reliance on expatriates for labor.
College of Business Studies (CBS)
The college of Business studies was formed in 1975 and was initially known as The Kuwait Business Institute (KBI). This institute was formed to provide the local labor market with skilled male and female workers. The institute was aimed to provide skills to people in applied education and training that will enhance their practical and technical skills required in the commercial, administration and financial fields. Following the inauguration in 1982 of the decree that saw the establishment of PAAE & T, this Kuwait Business Institute was moved under the umbrella of PAAE & T.
The institution had its name changed The College of Business Studies at the beginning of the academic year 1986/1987. In line with this new specializations were included others were modified and sub divided into various branches following the requirements and plans of the PAAE & T and based on needs within the employment market (College of Business Studies, 1996/1997).
The accounting programs are offered within the College of Business Studies formerly known as the Business Institute. The College also offers the following programs Materials management, Co-operatives management, Postal administration, Administration, Secretarial, Medical Secretarial, Accounting, Banking and Insurance and Computer (CBE n.d.).
The College’s objectives are similar to the overall objectives and they include the training of skilled professionals to meet the business needs posed by industry within the country. During each program time is allocated for compulsory field work to allow students gain some applied knowledge and enhance the theory already learnt. There is also the option of intensive summer school for seven weeks. In addition to this it is also aimed at providing skilled personnel in these categories for the Ministry of Education. The students pursuing courses within the college are primarily required to attend for four semesters during which they should obtain passes (68) credits. A semester is basically 14 weeks excluding time allocated for guidance, registering and sitting end semester examinations (CBE n.d.).
From the discussion presented it is apparent that there is need for reform within the institution if it is to meet its goals and continue serving the industrial labor needs within Kuwait. Among the suggested review measures include a frequent and comprehensive review of the curriculum of the courses offered especially in the areas of technology. This case does not escape the case of curriculum for courses in accounting especially since there has been a flood of changes in technology in recent years.
For example, one of the changes experienced in recent years include an increased use of the Internet for business. According to Cohen, “the increased amount of business being transacted on the Internet has led to complexity in the process of auditing” (2004). Effective auditing on the Internet suggests a situation where auditing is not an occasional process but a continuous one. In a case where continuous auditing is to be implemented there is a pressing need to present financial data on the WWW (World Wide Web) in formats that are standardized as is not the case at present. In light of these compatibility issues some Accounting Professionals have sought to modify the exiting XML (Extensible Markup Language) requirements currently in use to represent financial data to a new format known as XBRL (Extensible Business Reporting Language) (Debreceny & Gray 2001).
This new requirement is meant to serve the needs of the accounting fraternity as well as the business community at large. Given changes such as these being experienced within the global accounting community it would appear that institutions that are not able to provide their students with skills to manipulate these forms of data will be largely unemployed (Boyce 2004). Given the implications of future web business it is therefore very essential to include a review of current curriculum to ensure the production of competitive and highly productive graduates. Proof of this increased reliance on computers has been witnessed in Kuwait as early as in the year 1985 (Ibrahim 1985). In addition to this increased reliance on computers it was also reported that the use of computers could be the key to providing developing nations an avenue to excel in the millennium (Ibrahim 1985). This fact and the changes already being witnessed around the globe in accounting are evidence of a need to reform the curricula of course offered within the institution to remain competitive.
The effects of globalization have led to increased levels of competition and with that technology has changed routine operations within business. Evidence that accounting needs to change with time urgently has been seen in the many buyouts, bankruptcy, forced mergers that have brought many large corporations to their knees in the recent past. This leads to a critical issue on whether organizations will continue to accord the accounting profession its esteem if it continually fails to deliver. The answer must be if the educators do not match the stride of the business community the future will be even less promising (Hastings & Solomon 2005).
Already the top organizations indicate a tendency to prefer employing graduates with international experience (AlNajjar & Peacock 1995). In addition to this dilemma technology has automated many of the tasks that required accountants and these tasks can now be performed by regular personnel (Hastings & Solomon 2005). Though most institutions have made efforts to keep abreast with the times and include Excel, Access, E-business concepts, Tax software, Business process analysis and system security there are still crucial technological aspects related to the real world that are omitted in the course content.
Among the omissions include ERP Concepts and hands on software which play a significant role in decision support in the work place (Hastings & Solomon 2005). This being the case it can be assumed that the educators within the accounting departments in Kuwait need to re-evaluate curriculum on a frequent basis to bridge the gap between the student and the future work place.
As a result of the current trends in the world the use of computers both in the work place and in institutions of higher learning has increased significantly (Cerullo, Topiol & Klein 1989). In addition to the provision of computers for instruction for students it may be wise for the institutions to adopt the use of the web for instruction. Institutions who adopt distance learning early are seen as the pace setters in an ever changing business environment (Basioudis & Lange 2009).
Apart from the increased flexibility afforded to students and instructors these web based learning sessions were noted to have a lot more interaction than traditional techniques. The web forums where students get to interact with fellow students and lecturers appear more active when compared to the rate of interaction between these groups while attending traditional lectures. It has been suggested that through increased interaction and a wide variety of learning tools it is possible to assume students learning within these environments are likely to develop higher analytical skills (Bonk & Smith 1998). It is important to keep in mind that the objective of any institution of higher learning must entail production of high quality graduates and as such any changes that can be useful in attaining this must be given due consideration.
Accounting Education in Kuwait
The accounting profession has undergone several changes that can be attributed to the trends associated with globalization. The impact of global business has led to a situation in which accounting standards require standardization to meet the needs of different regions (Carmona & Trombeta 2008). This is best achieved through harmonization of accounting procedures which is the sole purpose International Accounting Standards Board which has developed International Standards to be used by private sector entries around the globe (Al-Shamari, Brown & Tarca 2008).
This suggests that accounting education should reflect these trends in order to produce accounting professionals who are capable of dealing with the demands of global business. It is for this reason that in beginning the discussion on accounting education in Kuwait it was necessary to ascertain whether the government of Kuwait is compliant with the current international trends in accounting. To this end an assessment was made of compliance of member states within the Gulf Co-operation Council in relation to the recommended international standards. The council members assessed in this study included Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (Al-Shamari et al. 2008).
It was reported that of the countries none had achieved full compliance. However, there was a very positive compliance level across the board with an average of 75% compliance among the member states (Al-Shamari et al. 2008). This assessment reflects the importance of law, quality of audit, activities of enforcement bodies promoting compliance. It was also noted that Kuwait reported the highest compliance levels.
In line with the increased standardization of procedures the profession of accounting is also experiencing the effect of new technologies. Among the developments includes an increase in the usage of computers especially among the younger generation (Ibrahim 1985). Some researchers into this trend have argued that this increased usage may provide opportunities for developing countries such as Kuwait to catch up with the developed world (Shirazi et al. 2009).
Accounting education performance in Kuwait University has been assessed considerably in the recent past by researchers and educators. In line with discussing education in accounting this could provide some crucial insight into what is the situation of accounting education in Kuwait. Among the main factors reported was the GPA, which suggests that past performance is an effective indicator of future performance. In addition to this studies carried out on the performance across genders in university generally indicated that male students performed better in accounting courses (Al-Rasheed 1999).
However, there appears to be a decline in the numbers enrolling in accounting programs in universities when comparison is made with earlier years. This suggests that there is a need to carry out research into why this is taking place and find lasting solutions that can restore the professions status in society. Most institutions today are teaching accounting for tomorrow which in effectively involves new practices and innovations used for accounting as well as changes in the methods of instruction. Among the more commonly used methods taking root today is the use of computers as an alternative tool for instruction (Anderson 1983). However, like with all new innovations there are risks involved which need to be evaluated before implementing these tools (Jensen & Sandlin 1992).
Owing to the changes within the global economic climate with increased emphasis on fast production of essential information it appears that the accounting profession is likely to borrow from the legal profession. In the legal profession it was realized that within the 3 year period for completion of a diploma was insufficient to cover all the material required to effectively train professionals. The alternative that began to take root and eventually has become practice is the instruction on basic principles required through the use of the case method for instruction and assessment; include research in authoritative material; communication of learning material and extension of learning into a more specialized or generalized legal education (Anderson 1983).
This position was reiterated by accounting professionals who state that there is a need to change the mode of accounting instruction to a more conceptualized basis as opposed to rules based instruction. In part the reason behind this is the increased reliance on computers and ICT in the workplace. It was reported that in the Middle East firms have managed to attain increased profitability to the tune of 5.1% from innovations based on computers and information technology within the workplace (Shirazi et al. 2009).
This trend implies the future for information and communication technology within the workplace in the Middle East will rise in the future. It would therefore be prudent for institutions offering instruction to professionals to be absorbed into the labor force reflect the needs of the employers. Ina report on the trends related to vocational training in the Arab countries it was reported that trends within higher education in the region were similar to those in Europe and the US (Al-Heeti & Brock 1997). This implies that the trend in Kuwait which is within the Arab region includes the introduction of similar measures within the accounting education.
Other changing concepts of importance within accounting education include teaching assignments. It is reported that teaching using the rules based approach is easier than using a concept based approach (Anderson 1983). In addition to this increased complexity is the fact that efficiency of the department would require the improved utilization of available resources to reach the expected goals. One approach that is useful in the accomplishment of this concept based approach is the use of the Internet. The Internet refers to the commonly used network of computers and related resources that is fast becoming an essential aspect of daily life.
This resource can be extremely useful in finding cases and as a repository of cases that can be useful in teaching concepts. In addition to acting as a repository in some regions this network is acting as a substitute to the traditional teaching techniques. The use of the Internet for instruction has become prevalent in recent years with instructors and institutions using this resource for a variety of functions. Some institutions allow students to sit for periodic examinations on the Internet thus increasing the reach and flexibility for students (Baker & White 1999).
This implies that the accounting education fraternity within Kuwait has adopted some of the Internet technologies within their curricula. It has been reported that in the 90’s professional accounting organizations i.e. American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), American Accounting Association (AAA), Federation of Schools of Accountancy (FSA), Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) have established for their membership web servers where they can access recent reports, publications and other relevant material (Baker & White 1999).
This provides evidence that the times have changed and there are new standards of assessing satisfactory instruction (Hastings & Solomon 2005) Given that international harmonization is underway within the accounting profession it is safe to assume that the effect of ICT in accounting in other regions is also being felt in Kuwait.
The main purpose behind accounting is to provide some information to decision makers within an organizational context. The accounting program in the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training was established in 1986. With the rapid changes in the computer technology and its increasing use in accounting in general and in accounting education in practical, it is the time to reconsider how adequate the accounting curricula in the College of business studies are and they related to rapidly changing technology age. Another shortcoming that may be attributable to the inefficiency within the accounting education system is poor communication skills among the graduates. Unfortunately few schools offer communication skills in accounting.
Computer and ICT in Kuwait
In Kuwait the usage of computer within the workplace has increased over the years beginning from the mid 80’s. The successful transfer of computing technologies within developing countries is a matter of major concern. In studies on the use of computers within Kuwait it was reported that based on trends related to technology the standards of hardware and software in Kuwait were reasonably high. In addition to this based on usage standards it was reported that the usage of DBMS software was comparatively lower than in the U.S., though similar to findings from Finland. It suggests the use of DBMS software is therefore not at the highest standards but is at reasonable level. Several other comparisons are reported which suggest that developing nations can acquire technology related to computers at high levels and utilize this to improve performance (Ibrahim 1985).
Many studies have been carried out on the application of computers and information technology within Kuwait. For example, Kuwait Information Technology Report (Q4) (2008), National Profile of the Information Society in Kuwait (2007) and Kuwait Central Agency for IT adopts ICDL digital literacy programs in government and society (2007) with positive results.
In the Gulf Region, Kuwait leads within the region and is the third major ICT market in the gulf. The reason behind this is the moderately sized but well-off and Computer literate population. According to King, M., it was reported that the value of the Kuwait ICT market would rise from US $ 539 million in 2008 to almost US $ 833 million in 2012. This growth is expected due to an unprecedented growth in oil revenues and government expenditure. The ICT market is fortunate to be among the sectors that receive direct funds from the government and the consumers also spend considerable amounts within the sector.
The country has been making update of the hydrocarbon ICT infrastructure using the increased funds available from the oil trade. With a view to enhancing change within the government, the Central Agency for Information Technology (CAIT) was moved to the Communications Ministry. This agency has been working to create an e-governance infrastructure in Kuwait. It aims to create an e-governance portal. This portal will be like a single site for all government services through the use of mobile platform technology. Due to high levels of bureaucracy the e-development within the country remains an incomplete challenge. The local PC market is dominated by foreign vendors who play a crucial role on local value chains.
The marketing of ICT products within the country is constantly in search of more distributors both within the country and from overseas. The enterprise system segment of the market is very competitive and as such SAP and Oracle are in competition to control the market. The Microsoft Corporation is also another competitor in this market.
Statistics for the year 2007 indicate computer sales in the region were approximately US $ 185 million. This sales figure is below the annual sales in two other regional countries and 60% of this amount was realized from sale of notebooks. The increased flexibility offered by wireless technology has also seen a huge influx of demand especially in small and medium sized businesses. Another sector that has brought a lot of sales and interest in ICT is the games and other high end amusement features. However, one problem that has not escaped the Kuwait is piracy and 62% of software used in the region was counterfeit.
The government is striving hard to make efforts to curb piracy. Already almost every home in the country is equipped with DSL or wireless internet access. The government of Kuwait is most active in the ICT sector and evidence of this is seen in the government broad access plan. The State Ministry of Communications (MOC) has in partnership with Alcatel begun efforts to develop a gigabit passive optical network (GPON) service to cover the ministries proposed plan.
Kuwaiti Central Agency for Information Technology (CAIT) and ICDL
The Gulf Cooperation Council has recently agreed on a plan that will see the actualization of e-Citizen programs throughout government bodies and societies within its member countries. Furthermore it has begun to make efforts that can be used to gauge the government performance and teach citizens to take advantage of the new technology and other online services to perform routine tasks.
The Kuwait Central Agency for ICT has been given power to take responsibility for mounting the country’s e-government infrastructure. This infrastructure will take advantage of the already prevalent ICT enabled services within government. It is hoped that these new technologies will reduce expenses, reduce losses from inaccurate use of technology and ease access to essential services.
The Ministry has also worked on developing education and training systems for advancing ICT within the country. This is mainly accomplished through Eservices and endorsement of the eCitizenship program. Among the goals of this project include attempts to offer citizens ICT skills which will permit them to fully utilize eServices. Examples of these services include utility bill payments, various bookings, electronic trade or e-commerce, visa issuance and employment.
The institutions of the government have been arranging annual programs for training to adopt ICT benefits. This training is designed either to realize benefits of software and ICT technology or increase overall employee productivity. Due to the competitive nature of business, the private sector has made more efforts to incorporate ICT within its ranks also for increased productivity. However within Government, the use of electronic media for transactions is still limited though almost all government institutions have a website. A few of these government institutions have begun to offer government to citizen (G2C transactions) via their websites, for example, data revitalization.
The sector of government to Business has yet to include transactions (G2B transactions) within the existing infrastructure. ICT security is widely enjoyed within Kuwait by both government and telecommunication companies.
The Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) within the country are also making efforts to educate the nationals on the benefits of using ICT innovations. There are no programs in place to reduce the abuse of ICT and related technologies. Moreover, there are no regulatory measures within government to deter the practices of abuse of ICT. In the private sector there have been increased efforts that have been aimed at improving security of data within the organization through use of new technology. Security of both information and networks is also frequently updated.
In addition to this the region needs to develop legislation that will be used directly in governing the sector. In 2007, a draft law was presented that would be used in governance of electronic transactions. This follows a similar law that was passed in 1999 known as the intellectual property law. This legislation was aimed to protect the integrity and ownership of software, IS and electronic content. As a result of the legislation passed in 2006, Kuwait saw a reduction in software piracy from 95% to 64%.
Another aspect that requires attention is the issue of online storage. It has been found that on a daily basis there is an ever increasing amount of data been stored or archived both within government and outside government. This issue has been overlooked mainly due to excessive emphasis on standardization and provision of e-services. The Ministry of Education has taken several realistic steps to enlarge the reimbursement on ICT to include more than just computer training. In addition the Ministry set up the e-learning project to initiate new education techniques that can be put into use thus causing expansion of the classroom.
The project provides a number of services over the infrastructure such as school books, CD’s, unique learning software, and the like into the educational program. Remote learning and distance learning are also on the verge of beginning growth due to adoption within some universities and colleges. Further examples of the integration of ICT within Kuwait government is evident form other governmental institutions such as the Civil Service Board (CSB) which developed a site dedicated to e-training of its workforce.
Among the more notable trends in relation recent technological advances is the Internet which has its roots in developments within telecommunication and computer technology. This concept has caused several reforms in the way things are done globally. With regards to education this vital resource has provided populations around the world an opportunity to access education and educational resources that were otherwise out of reach.
The implications of this increased access to education can be explained in the statement stating “Education is the hand maiden of Industrialization” (Robison & Crenshaw 2002). This statement implies that if nations such as Kuwait were to take advantage of the situation brought about by the internet, industrial development within these nations would be more easily achieved.
The rate of diffusion of internet technology is growing at phenomenal rates. The growth of this resource reached the 10 million customer mark in only three years (Palmer 2000). This growth has also been reported within the gulf region. In 1994 the Persian Gulf had no internet hosts although internet activity had began to be felt in many spheres. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a group within the Persian Gulf that is aimed at fostering economic development within the region. Statistics from nations within the GCC in 1997 indicated that, Bahrain had 841 hosts, Kuwait 2920, UAE 1802, and Qatar 21 while Oman and Saudi Arabia still had none.
The main reasons behind this rapid growth within the Middle East can be attributed to the removal of restrictions on telecommunications. The various agencies in the region realized the link and importance of telecommunication and economic growth. The trend is fueled by economic needs as opposed to ideological conviction (Palmer 2000).
Kuwait was the first country in the GCC to obtain internet access in 1992 and since that Internet use in Kuwait has grown to reach 900,000, 37.1% of the Kuwait population, as of March, 2008 (IWS, 2010). Among the main uses of the internet based on reports include retrieval of information, collaboration between workers and family, research on competitors, provision of customer support, publishing, buying and selling products and selling services (Palmer 2000).
During its initial development, Internet use was under censorship by the government of Kuwait, blocking access to sites and content that was deemed inappropriate ort dangerous by the authorities. The Kuwait Government allows religion to play an important role in monitoring new technology such as the internet with a view to preservation of society’s cultural values. In line with this the Kuwait authority made efforts to regulate Internet use with the intention of reducing possible cases of delinquency that result from access of adult material by minors or any other material deemed inappropriate according to teachings of Islam and Arab culture. There have been many efforts to upgrade the technological infrastructure in Kuwait from dial-up to broad band internet connections with higher speeds (IWS, 2010).
Educational Technology in Kuwait
Efforts to integrate computers and internet in the Kuwait educational system were prompted by the wide availability of computers and internet use in Kuwait. When the computer hard ware began to become commercially available education institutions began to place them within the classrooms (Newhouse 2002). Some educators even went a step further to suggest the use of computers in support of traditional teaching and learning techniques (Keengwe, Onchwari & Wachira 2008).
Today, computers and internet have become an integral component of the school system and there is almost no school without these devices. Many private schools are now connected to the internet and allow both students and teachers internet access for learning and support. Also developed as a component of the Kuwait educational policy, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has created a textbook for eighth grade students and beyond enable students enrolled in public schools to learn how to use the internet (Wheller 1998).
There have also been a number of studies on internet usage in Arab countries of which a few have been conducted in Kuwait. Among them is a study conducted by Al-Najran, to explore the adoption and use of internet by Kuwait University students (1998). The study was designed to understand the student’s attitudes toward the internet. The findings of this survey indicated that more than 50% of the Kuwait University students used the internet on a regular basis.
According to the demographic findings of the study the characteristics of the sample group included male engineering students with above average GPA’s, above average computing skills and high level of technical proficiency. The group that adopted internet use was found to be innovative, motivated, and proficient in English and had greater technical skills and access to the internet. Among the reasons provided for their choice to adopt internet usage included educational advantages, culture and religious beliefs.
Another of the studies was conducted by Alkhezzi (2002) was aimed at identification of both general and educational uses of the internet among Kuwait College of Education students. In addition to this, it also was meant to establish whether they felt the internet was an important tool. Based on the findings of the study, Kuwait University students from the College of Education use the internet in a variety of ways for different purposes.
The non academic uses include browsing, searching, communication and entertainment. The academic uses include locating research material, completion of assignments, discussions, collaboration, academic communication and access to online courses. It was also indicated that the internet was a relatively new medium and most students lacked proper internet education. However, despite of obstacles and hurdles such as inadequate training and poor quality and unavailability of the internet, there was a strong belief among the students that the internet was a valuable learning tool. They further felt that the internet could enhance the quality of education in all major aspects including learning, teaching, research and communication.
The most recent study was carried out by Alrasheedi to investigate the effects of gender and the attitude of Kuwait High school teacher’s attitude towards the integration of computers and ICT in the institutions and the classroom. The findings of this study indicated that high school teachers in Kuwait (male and female) have mostly positive attitudes with regards to ICT. In that study, it was also indicated that the use of ICT by female teachers was greater than that of males. However, the attitude of male teachers towards ICT was still greater than that of women. It also was found that a high percentage of both male and female teachers used the internet at home.
Also indicated in the findings was the fact that teachers in Kuwait high schools were provided with up to date knowledge on technology and skills that enable them to use technology properly within the classroom. However, despite of this it was unfortunate to notice that technological education tools used in their classrooms were out dated. Among the outdated equipment available include audio players/recorders, televisions, video players/recorders, overhead projectors and basic computer knowledge.
The inclusion of Computer education in the curriculum of educational institutions within the developing world is mainly concerned with computer literacy (Oliveira 1988). Computer literacy in some contexts is closely tied with the world of work such that it entails the acquisition of skills that will be useful during work and reflects current trends within the job market. Some of the uses of computers and information technology within education include the following: Computers have been successfully used as tools for providing students with tutorials; Computers have been used to assist in the retrieval of information; Computers have been used to provide useful tools that assist both teachers and students such as Spreadsheets, Word processors, etc.
These applications and tools have changed the face of education and brought with them vast tangible benefits (Oliveira 1988). Despite evidence of introduction of computer education in developing countries financial constraints are a serious limiting factor in some countries. In countries with poor networking infrastructure the potential of the pooled resources may not be fully attained. Thus limiting Computer education to Micro Computer based applications (Goonatilake 1989).
Though Kuwait has made efforts to reform her education system to keep abreast with times there is still much that needs to be done. A study on public libraries in the country indicated almost 50% had no computers or information technology integrations. Of the remaining 50% with some computers and information technology integration, 2 had an internet connection with access points. However, it was also reported that almost 80% of all the Libraries were in the process of acquiring an internet connection (Al-Qallaf & Al-Azmi 2002).
In addition to this information the study provides some useful recommendations such as; development of a clear cut IT strategy, improving staff technological literacy levels and the improvement of communication infrastructure. The data from this study suggests that the future for information technology within the Kuwait education system promises to grow so long as the Ministry of Education is prepared to take actions that will facilitate change.
The introduction of computers within the classroom at various levels has brought with it changes to the traditional methods of instruction. Among the advantages that are attributable to the trend include ease of the task of teaching for the teacher, introduction of new and alternative teaching methods such as video conferences, increased interaction between staff, students and peers through bulletin boards, web forums and chat rooms (Makela, Huovinen & Nummelin 1990). All these advantages are useful to the process of instruction and there is a need to carry out research to identify what benefits they bring into the classroom. A lot of the opponents of computers in education use this fact in arguments against the trend. It would be wise therefore for the government of Kuwait to assess the benefits that can be attributed to these new techniques to ease the transition within the organs of the government.
This paper discusses education in Kuwait under a variety of sub topics. In the beginning the paper presents the reader with a historical look at the education system in Kuwait. The paper briefly provides details on the role of education in Kuwait in the past and how trends in the world have led to changes in education in Kuwait. For example, it is indicated that due to trade and economic activity the initial institutions were established in the region. The efficiency and current education structure is assessed and information is provided in comparison.
The paper moves on to discuss the higher education institutions in Kuwait. It is reported that education in Kuwait is provided by state run and funded institutions as well as private institutions. The paper provides some information on the private institutions and the government role in these institutions. Some information is also provided with reference to their parent institutions. The paper also discusses the public institutions in the country and provides the history that led to the establishment of these institutions as they exist today. In line with this there is a section discussing the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training and the College of business studies.
In the next section the paper discusses accounting education in Kuwait and other parts of the world. The global economic climate has experienced vast changes attributable to globalization and the internet. Due to these there have been serious changes witnessed both in the practice and education of accounting. The profession of accounting is reported to be facing difficulty in light of the changes and suggestions have been forwarded on areas that require revision. These areas are briefly discussed. In line with this the paper presents information in relation to trends in computers and Information technology in the gulf region.
The paper mentions the changes and reasons behind the changes in the ICT industry in Kuwait. In line with this the paper also discusses the potential role of ICT in education in Kuwait. It would appear that owing to trend in ICT and Globalization it is important for the education system in Kuwait to make amends that will allow it to meet the goals it set out to achieve. The Kuwait education Ministry aims to provide education for its nationals with a view to meet its local labor demands.
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