Listening to students’ voices: Putting students at the heart of education reform

Bringing the GCC’s education system in line with the needs of the employment market requires governments to engage numerous stakeholders including local authorities, schools, and the private sector. However, governments must also include students themselves, a group often overlooked in the reform process.

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Listening to students’ voices Putting students at the heart of education reform in the GCC

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About Strategy&

Abu Dhabi Richard Shediac Senior Partner +971-2-699-2400 richard.shediac @strategyand.pwc.com Beirut Chucrallah Haddad Partner +961-1-985-655 chucrallah.haddad @strategyand.pwc.com Antoine Nasr Principal +961-1-985-655 antoine.nasr @strategyand.pwc.com

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This report was originally published by Booz & Company in 2013.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Governments in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)1 have spent significantly more funds on education over the past two decades, yet student performance continues to lag behind global peers, and unemployment among graduates continues to grow. A large part of the problem is the mismatch between the skills being taught in schools and the skills needed in the workplace. Reforms are necessary to harness the potential of this large generation of young people. Changes in the education system in the GCC involve a range of stakeholders such as governments, local authorities, schools, academia, and the private sector. But they also must include the students themselves, a group too often overlooked in the reform process.
To help bridge this gap, Booz & Company recently commissioned a survey that gathered the views of over 1,300 students from Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). By and large, students trust education leaders, and believe education is fundamental to a secure future and that the type of school they attend is critical to future success (private versus public versus international). They also assert that reforms are necessary on a number of fronts. They want more challenging and relevant coursework, improved teaching methods that are more engaging and that utilize technology, access to more extracurricular activities, and better academic and career counseling. Unsurprisingly, students want to play a role in reform efforts and mention student councils, online platforms, and social media as avenues of engagement. The survey results also include a country-bycountry assessment of education competency, dependability, relational trust (between stakeholders), and infrastructure in the GCC.

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KEY HIGHLIGHTS • Student engagement is the missing element in GCC education reform. Bringing the education system in line with the needs of the employment market and economic development requires governments to engage numerous stakeholders including official agencies, local authorities, academia, schools, the private sector, and the students themselves. • Experience around the world demonstrates that engaging students is an effective policy tool. Engagement requires continuous dialogue and feedback mechanisms, from national surveys to school-level student councils and student leadership programs. • Booz & Company commissioned YouGov to conduct a survey of over 1,300 students in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, along with nearly two dozen in-person interviews to begin this process of engagement, during October and November 2012. • The survey and interviews showed that GCC students have a strong grasp of the weaknesses and strengths of their education. They value their education, understand its impact on their future, and want content and the teaching approach to be more inspiring, enjoyable, and creative. Students also expressed a clear desire to be involved in shaping changes to the system. • Students in the GCC lack critical information about preparing for university and their careers. Developing career guidance is vital if labor markets and education systems are to become more efficient. • The differences among the four countries were marked. Students in Saudi Arabia have a very positive attitude to education. Students in Kuwait were noticeably very satisfied with English-language education, while those in Saudi Arabia were not. In Qatar, students want more choice over schooling options. There is also a need to build trust between students and education leaders. UAE students believe their teachers are well-trained and that their education system is better than those in Western countries. • Importantly, students expressed dissatisfaction with extracurricular activities, athletic facilities, and in some cases even technological facilities in current education institutions.

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THE NEED FOR EDUCATION REFORM

There is a palpable sense of urgency in the Middle East to improve employment levels and job options for the region’s young, growing populations. Half of the Middle East’s population is under the age of 25, and a quarter of those between 15 and 24 are unemployed—one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. One major reason for this widespread unemployment is a mismatch between the skills businesses need and the skills being taught in schools. A lack of well-trained teachers, outdated teaching methods, curricula that are neither relevant nor innovative, limited use of technology in the classroom, and little in the way of academic advice or career counseling are contributing to this mismatch. To their credit, most GCC governments are aware of the problem and have made “human capital development”

core to their policy agendas. For example, Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030 says the country “will use its resources to invest for the future, improving its human capital through education and training particularly in the field of applied sciences.” Similarly, human capital development is one of the four pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030. Moreover, governments have steadily increased spending to improve education. From 1985 to 2008 the UAE increased spending from 10.4 percent of the national budget to 27 percent; in Saudi Arabia education grew from 10.1 percent to 19.3 percent of the budget during the same years. Many governments have also created institutions to monitor the quality of schools and education. They have set up supporting institutions such as the Abu Dhabi Education Council; the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development; the King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Public Education Development Project (generally known as Tatweer, the Arabic word for development); and organizations such as the Knowledge Human Development Authority in Dubai.

Yet problems persist with the quality and relevance of GCC education despite these spending, regulatory, and governance reforms. The underlying difficulty remains—a mismatch between the skills that businesses need and what young people learn in schools. Recent research by the Economist Intelligence Unit on the role of education provides a partial explanation. It found that making correlations between education inputs and outputs is very difficult. Put otherwise, simply pouring resources into the education system is not enough to guarantee results. Hidden cultural factors about the role of education often have a powerful influence over education outcomes. Understanding these cultural forces is critical to implementing reforms in time to absorb the swelling ranks of students. The number of GCC students is expected to grow from 9.5 million in 2010 to an estimated 11.3 million in 2020 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.8 percent, with tertiary students witnessing the highest growth during this period at a CAGR of 5.5 percent.

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THE FORGOTTEN STAKEHOLDER

In addition to cultural forces at play in GCC education, a vital ingredient is missing from education reform to date: the participation of students. Changes in the education system in the GCC involve a range of stakeholders such as governments, local authorities, schools, academia, and the private sector. Too often they overlook the most important stakeholders, the students. Bringing students into the process of improving education is good policy

and effective practice. Research shows that student engagement improves student–teacher relationships, practices and procedures, policies, laws, and culture. In addition, more student “buy in” and trust in the reform process is critical for reforms to succeed (see “Trust Is Vital to Reform,” page 7). Indeed, students’ enthusiastic participation in these reforms is at least as critical as that of teachers and school leaders. For instance, many policymakers want to introduce constructivist learning into the classroom (i.e., hands-on, collaborative, projectbased lessons), which they believe is vital to improving school standards. However, this teaching method requires robust student participation to be effective.

As a first step to including students in the reform process, Booz & Company recently commissioned a survey of high school and university students in the GCC to help educators and policymakers understand student perceptions of the education system. The findings will allow them to engage students and anticipate changes in students’ needs and attitudes. YouGov, a research and polling firm, conducted close to two dozen in-person interviews along with a broad survey of over 1,300 students in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. The male and female students included nationals, Arab expatriates, Western and Asian expatriates who attended public, private local, and private international schools (see “Methodology”).

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SOME STRONG, SURPRISING OPINIONS

Methodology Booz & Company commissioned YouGov, a research and polling firm, to conduct the Booz & Company—Student Voice in the GCC Survey in two phases. During the qualitative phase, YouGov conducted 11 “Friendship Paired Interviews” for two age groups (16–17 year olds in secondary school and 18–19 year olds attending their first year in university) in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The students included locals, Arab expatriates, Western and South Asian expatriates. Both males and females were included from public, private local, and private international schools. Friendship Paired in-depth interviews were seen as the best method. They are more engaging for students because being with a friend allows them to feel comfortable and express their opinion. Friends are usually open to challenging each other or may agree on similar topics. This is in contrast to focus groups, which can generate fewer insights as respondents’ opinions can be influenced by others in the same age group. For the quantitative phase, the sample comprised 1,343 students from four countries: Saudi Arabia (511), the UAE (409), Qatar (215), and Kuwait (208). The respondents were fairly evenly spread across age groups: 19 percent were 16 years old; 30 percent were 17 years old; 24 percent were 18 years old; 27 percent were 19 years old. The sample was also evenly divided by gender: 51 percent male and 49 percent female. The theoretical “maximum sampling errors,” assuming that half of those surveyed chose a particular response, came in at a 95 percent confidence level for the various samples in the study with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent. Throughout this report, “net scores” show results in a single figure, enabling us to quickly summarize results and compare them across countries, curricula, and nationalities. Percentages in the exhibits may not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

Trust in the motives, effectiveness, and transparency of education services is essential to gain stakeholder buy-in and is central to the process of reform. Gallup, for example, conducts a yearly survey to measure trust in public institutions including schooling.2 With this in mind, we began our survey by asking students to what extent they trust and/or have confidence in their education leaders and education institutions. Students Trust Their Leaders The good news for reform-minded educators and policymakers is that nearly two-thirds of interviewees trust leaders to provide good secondary schooling and are confident they are currently receiving a quality education: 26 percent completely trust education leaders while another 37 percent somewhat trust these leaders. This is a strong base to work from. Respondents in Saudi Arabia and the UAE often said they have “complete trust” in the leaders of the country’s education system.

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Although Qatar had a large proportion of respondents (21 percent) who indicated distrust in the education leaders, surprisingly the proportion of respondents in Saudi Arabia expressing distrust was equally high (21 percent), revealing a somewhat polarized attitude toward education leaders in

Saudi Arabia (see Exhibit 1). Sharp differences in perceptions between those in public schools and those in international schools may account for this polarization. Across all countries, students in international schools expressed more trust in their education leaders, while those in public schools expressed the least

trust. Generally speaking, respondents in the GCC believed that they were receiving a decent quality education (see Exhibit 2). There were, however, differences between countries. Kuwaiti students had the most confidence in the quality of their current education, while Saudi Arabian students were the least confident.

Exhibit 1 Students Trust Their Education Leaders

TRUST IN EDUCATION SECTOR LEADERSHIP

Total Kuwait Qatar Saudi Arabia UAE 7% 16%

26%

37% 53% 36% 35% 26% 41% 19%

24% 25%

10% 5% 19% 12% 23% 9% 4%

4% 1% 2% Do not trust at all Do not trust much Neutral Trust somewhat 2% Trust completely

34% 31%

Source: Booz & Company Student Voice in the GCC Survey

Exhibit 2 Many GCC Students Are Unsure They Are Receiving the Best Education

CONFIDENCE IN QUALITY OF EDUCATION PROVIDED (ALL COUNTRIES) Very confident Somewhat confident 4% 11% 21% 44% 20% Neutral Not very confident Not at all confident

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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Trust Is Vital for Reform To understand how relational trust between administrators, teachers, parents, and students enables reform, University of Chicago professors conducted an almost decade-long intensive research involving more than 400 Chicago primary schools. They analyzed surveys of teachers, principals, and students collected by the Consortium on Chicago School Research to examine the changing quality of relational dynamics in all Chicago elementary schools over a six-year period. They also analyzed trends in individual student reading and mathematics achievement during this same period. By linking evidence of the schools’ changing academic productivity with survey results on school trust over a long period of time, they documented the powerful influence that trust exerts on reform efforts. They found that collective decision making with broad teacher buy-in, a crucial ingredient for reform, occurs more readily in schools with strong relational trust. In contrast, the absence of trust provoked sustained controversy around resolving even such relatively simple issues as the arrangements for a kindergarten graduation ceremony. Strong relational trust also makes it more likely that reform initiatives will diffuse broadly across the school because trust reduces the sense of risk associated with change. When school professionals trust one another and sense support from parents, they feel safe to experiment with new practices. Similarly, relational trust fosters the necessary social exchanges among school professionals as they learn from one another. Talking honestly with colleagues about what is working and what is not means exposing your own ignorance and making yourself vulnerable. Without trust, genuine conversations of this sort remain unlikely. The researchers found that elementary schools with high relational trust were much more likely to demonstrate marked improvements in student learning. A school with a low score on relational trust at the end of the study had only a onein-seven chance of demonstrating improved academic productivity. In contrast, half of the schools that scored high on relational trust were in the improved group. On average, these improving schools recorded increases in student learning of 8 percent in reading and 20 percent in mathematics in a five-year period. The schools in the nonimproving group lost ground in reading and stayed about the same in mathematics.

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GCC Students Believe Education Is Fundamental to Their Success Another encouraging survey finding is that students place a very high value on education: 45 percent say their primary ambition in life is to complete their education, and 65 percent want to live in an educated, intellectual society. The major-

ity of respondents from our study believe that education is fundamental to leading a successful life (see Exhibit 3). Those in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were most likely to hold this opinion, while those in the UAE were least likely, because the state is is the first choice for employment (see Exhibit 4). Also, given the country’s

high per capita income, even the less educated are well off. Very few respondents (4 percent on average) consider education an “unnecessary burden”— this response was most common among Qatari students (10 percent) and very rare among Saudi students (1 percent; see Exhibit 5).

Exhibit 3 Students Value a Good Education

WHICH BEST DESCRIBES THE ROLE OF EDUCATION IN THE LIVES OF INDIVIDUALS?

A good education is the foundation on which a successful life is built

68%

Education is helpful, but not absolutely necessary to success in life

27%

Education is an unnecessary burden in the modern world; success can be achieved regardless of educational attainment

4%

None of these

1%

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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Exhibit 4 Saudi Students Believe Strongly in Education
A GOOD EDUCATION IS THE FOUNDATION ON WHICH A SUCCESSFUL LIFE IS BUILT

Kuwait

75%

Qatar

61%

Saudi Arabia

79%

UAE

54%

Source: Booz & Company student survey

Exhibit 5 Very Few Students Have a Negative Attitude toward Education

EDUCATION IS AN UNNECESSARY BURDEN

Kuwait

3%

Qatar

10%

Saudi Arabia

1%

UAE

6%

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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Consequently, given the value they place on education, most students intend to complete a bachelor’s degree or more (see Exhibit 6). The UAE had the most aspiring doctoral students (18 percent, compared to 14 percent in Kuwait, 11 percent in Qatar, and 9 percent in Saudi Arabia). Women were particularly committed to higher learning. Across all countries, more women expect to obtain a doctoral degree (15 percent) than men (11 percent). For example, when the UAE admitted the first class of students for a doctoral degree at a federal university in 2010, 28 of the 38 students were women. Indeed, women’s education has progressed significantly over the past decade. According to UNESCO’s Global Education Digest 2009, the gender gap has narrowed at both the primary and secondary school levels and in some Arab states it has begun to open up in the other direction. According to the report, in three-

quarters of states with data, girls have higher graduation ratios. As their education levels grow, more women are venturing into fields of study that are largely dominated by men.3 Despite the overall desire for higher education, the appetite for technical and vocational degrees is quite low due to a misperception that these schools teach low-value, low-paying skills. Only 9 percent of our respondents plan to obtain a technical degree. This is particularly noteworthy given that governments are spending heavily to support these schools. In Saudi Arabia the budgets for technical and vocational training were set to rise by 41.6 percent from 2010 to 2014. Today, approximately 170 technical and vocational training institutes are under construction in the country. GCC Students Say the Type of School Attended Influences Success Although GCC students believe

that education is fundamental to future success, the largest proportion of respondents indicated that a person’s success is largely driven by both school and external influences (46 percent). However, nearly twice as many respondents said the “school attended” has more impact on success than those that said success is driven by external factors such as parents and the community. This sentiment was particularly strong among those in Qatar (44 percent said “driven entirely/mostly by the school,” in comparison with 36 percent of respondents from the UAE, 33 percent of respondents from Saudi Arabia, and 32 percent of Kuwait respondents; see Exhibit 7). Across most countries, the majority of students said that international schools give students more advantages and skills for the labor market thanks to stronger curricula, better teaching methods, more modern school facilities, and more varied extracurricular activities.

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Exhibit 6 Most Students Want to Go to University

LEVEL OF EDUCATION STUDENTS EXPECT TO ATTAIN
27% 23% 21%

13% 9% 7%

Graduate secondary school

Obtain a technical degree (not a bachelor’s degree)

Complete a bachelor’s degree (i.e., BA, BSc)

Obtain a master’s degree (i.e., MS, MBA, etc.)

Obtain a doctoral degree

Don’t know/not sure

Source: Booz & Company student survey

Exhibit 7 Many Students Believe the Type of School Shapes a Person’s Future
RESPONDENTS WHO BELIEVE SCHOOL DETERMINES FUTURE SUCCESS
44%

36% 32% 33%

Kuwait

Qatar

Saudi Arabia

UAE

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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GCC Students Rate Employment Security as a Top Priority The two aspects of education that students said they most value are creating a secure future in terms of employment (53 percent) and learning interesting information (51 percent; see Exhibit 8). Interestingly, respondents from Qatar placed considerably less emphasis on the feeling of having

a “secure future” in terms of employment (34 percent; see Exhibit 9), rating it roughly on par with “learning new and interesting information” (37 percent) and a “positive learning environment” (35 percent). Employment security concerns were more pronounced among expatriates than locals, but many locals did consider security a high priority. One

Saudi girl 16 to 17 years of age said: “Education is like a weapon that will give you a guarantee for the future.” An Emirati girl, also 16 to 17 years of age, said: “If I have a university degree and I work then I will not depend on my family to spend on me and support me. I will be independent.”

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Exhibit 8 Students Want Employment Security and to Learn
MOST ENJOYED PART OF EDUCATION

Feeling like my future is secure Learning new and interesting subjects Achieving personal growth Being with other students The positive learning environment My teachers Getting involved in extracurricular activities Something else Nothing 2% 2% 23% 23% 34% 42% 46%

53% 51%

Source: Booz & Company student survey

Exhibit 9 Employment Security Is Important for Most Students

“FEELING LIKE MY FUTURE IS SECURE” AS TOP ANSWER

Kuwait

56%

Qatar

34%

Saudi Arabia

59%

UAE

53%

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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STUDENT VIEWS ON REFORM

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index most GCC countries can benefit from improvements in two areas: “health

and primary education” and “higher education and training.” For example, although Saudi Arabia has improved its global competitive standing in the past decade, health and education standards do not match other countries at similar income levels. As a result, the country continues to occupy low ranks in the health and primary education pillar (58th), and room for improvement remains on the higher education and training pillar (40th).

Expatriates offer an interesting view on education. Half said the education system in their GCC country of residence is superior to their home country. Asian expatriates are more likely to say that the system in their country of residence is better, whereas Arab expatriates are more likely to say that their home system is better than their country of residence (see Exhibit 10).

Exhibit 10 Expatriate Students Have Less Faith in the Quality of the System

COMPARISON OF EDUCATION SYSTEM IN COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE WITH THAT IN COUNTRY OF ORIGIN

Total

4%

10%

36%

33%

18%

Arab expatriate

7%

13%

34%

26%

20% It is much better

Asian expatriate

6% 2%

37%

41%

15%

It is a little better It is not worse or better It is a little worse It is much worse 3%

Western expatriate 3%

8%

38%

49%

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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However, when comparing their education systems to Western education systems more expatriates find their system lags behind its peers.

More than half of those in Saudi Arabia said their system is worse than Western countries, whereas more positive ratings come from stu-

dents in the UAE where 22 percent said their systems are much better than Western education systems (see Exhibit 11).

Exhibit 11 Most UAE Students Say Their Education System Is Superior to Western Systems
COMPARING THE EDUCATION SYSTEM TO WESTERN SYSTEMS

Total

12%

16%

31%

26%

14%

Kuwait

5%

29%

24%

29%

13%

Qatar

6%

21%

31%

38%

5%

Saudi Arabia

26%

17%

31%

14%

11%

It is much better It is a little better It is not worse or better It is a little worse It is much worse

UAE

6% 2%

35%

35%

22%

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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Many students—both nationals and expatriates—are inherently aware of their education systems’ shortcomings. Whereas Kuwaiti students expressed the greatest confidence in their education system with roughly one-quarter saying the system is working and not in need of reform, roughly one-third of Saudi students said the system is in need of drastic reforms. Overall, almost two-thirds of students said reforms would improve the education systems, and nearly a quarter said

drastic reforms are needed on four fronts: more choice and more relevant material; better teachers and teaching methods; treating extracurricular activities as essential to their education; and improved academic advice and career counseling (see Exhibit 12). More Choice, More Relevance GCC students told us that the range of courses is narrow and few regard available education offerings as very relevant to their career goals. The

result is students do not deeply engage with the subject matter. When comparing the type of school, students in public schools under the aegis of the Ministry of Education (MoE) were the least convinced the material was applicable to their future needs. Female respondents were significantly more likely to indicate that “education is not fun enough”—32 percent, in comparison with 24 percent of males (see Exhibits 13 and 14).

Exhibit 12 Large Majorities Want Education Reform

EDUCATION SYSTEM AND THE NEED FOR REFORM

Total

23%

64%

14%

Kuwait

15%

61%

24% The current system works very well and is not in need of reform The system is acceptable, but could be improved through reform The education system in this country needs to be reformed

Qatar

27%

60%

13%

Saudi Arabia

32%

62%

5%

UAE

13%

68%

19%

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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Exhibit 13 Students Feel Their Learning Is Not Broad Enough

LEAST ENJOYED PART OF EDUCATION

The range of courses does not allow me to study topics of interest to me Education is not fun enough The methods used are not appropriate for me to learn Students are not given enough input into what and how they learn School facilities are old School facilities are not conducive to learning The information is largely irrelevant to what I hope to achieve in life Teachers do not "invest" in their students Teachers do not respect students Education feels like a waste of time The school principal is not effective Something else No answer
Source: Booz & Company student survey

28% 28% 26% 23% 14% 14% 12% 12% 10% 7% 7% 3% 26%

Exhibit 14 Students at International Schools Feel Their Curriculum Is the Most Relevant

RELEVANCE OF CURRICULUM CHARTED AGAINST TYPE OF SCHOOL ATTENDED (NET SCORE) Local MoE Public Local MoE Private International/ American/British 47% 57% 59%

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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Students are particularly upset by the lack of choice when it comes to studying English, which many feel is crucial to their future success. Students in public schools in all countries, and in all schools in Saudi Arabia, felt at a particular disadvantage. One Saudi female student attending a public school explained: “They don’t start teaching English at elementary school! They start teaching English at middle school and it is very difficult to learn.” An Emirati boy attending a private school noted: “Only international schools are good at teaching English. All other schools are

weak.” University students also said their English options were poor (see Exhibit 15). Students also find their courses less than challenging. Nearly half said their secondary school material is easy to understand. Interestingly, international school students are less likely to feel that way. Respondents in Saudi Arabia were most likely to indicate that material was very easy to understand (14 percent in comparison to 9 percent in Kuwait, 7 percent in UAE, and 3 percent in Qatar). For courses to be more challenging and relevant, schools need to make

curriculum development an ongoing process, not a one-off event. Given the rapid changes in society and the workplace, this evolutionary approach to curriculum design is especially critical. At the same time, educators need to shed outmoded teaching methods. “Backward design” is a teaching model that focuses on essential questions and goals, thus helping to expose outmoded teaching methods that do not lead to these goals. Teachers should also be taught “differentiated learning approaches” so they can adapt their lessons to different student abilities, needs, and interests.

Exhibit 15 Kuwaiti Students Are Notably Satisfied with the Standard of English Teaching
SATISFACTION WITH ENGLISH TEACHING IN SCHOOLS
80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Kuwait Qatar Saudi Arabia UAE 17%

72% 57% 54%

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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Better Teachers and Teaching Methods When we asked students what they wanted from education reform, their two top priorities were that learning should be more fun and that methods of teaching course material should improve (see Exhibit 16). The desire to have better-trained teachers is particularly strong among GCC students, which demonstrates

how well they grasp their education problems. The importance of good teachers is underlined by a recent Harvard University study that tracked 2.5 million U.S. children over 20 years. Correcting for other factors, researchers found that students with good teachers were more likely to attend college, or went to higherranked colleges, earned larger salaries, lived in better neighborhoods, and saved more for retirement.

Unfortunately, the GCC has a shortage of skilled teachers, particularly in mathematics and science. This shortage will grow more acute as new private and international schools open to accommodate the growing student population. Between 2010 and 2020 the GCC will need an additional 163,200 teachers, according to Alpen Capital.5

Exhibit 16 Students Want to Be Inspired by Their Education
WHAT STUDENTS WOULD CHANGE IN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM

Make learning more fun and engaging Methods of teaching course material Increase technology use in the classroom Teacher quality Availability of extracurricular activities Quality of academic facilities Variety of courses available The availability of counsellors or others who can help make the most of education Greater focus on developing creativity and innovation Quality of athletic facilities More focus on preparation for higher education More focus on preparing for employment opportunities (i.e., offering technical courses of study) Depth of material covered 16% 15% 14% 11% 11% 10% 24% 23% 21% 20% 28% 36%

42%

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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Teacher quality suffers because the profession lacks prestige, teachers receive little professional development support such as apprenticeships, and there is no performance-based pay or other incentives. Poor-quality training is perhaps the greatest hindrance to good teaching. Most GCC training programs create “lecturers” who talk at students, not “facilitators” who inspire students with creative

methods, such as new technologies. Students expressed a special interest in working more in groups and giving more presentations. One of our survey’s more distressing findings was the perception that teachers often do not understand the coursework themselves. Students in Qatar and Saudi Arabia are most likely to say their teachers are not

competent, and the problem seems especially pronounced in public schools. Teachers are either unable to explain the topics or unable to address students’ questions. One Emirati boy, 16 to 17 years of age, explained: “My physics teacher usually doesn’t know how to solve the equation and then he asks you to do it as homework”(see Exhibit 17).

Exhibit 17 UAE Students Believe Their Teachers Are Well-Trained

61% 43%

67%

51% 78% 37% Kuwait Qatar

52%

75%

My teachers are very well trained My teachers fully understand the course material

Saudi Arabia

UAE

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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In terms of innovation, the UAE far outpaces Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia (see Exhibit 18). However, research on education methods across the GCC reveals a lack of digital technologies in use at education institutions. Students feel that teachers use outdated teaching methods, relying too much on textbooks, the black board, and lecturing. Three quarters of them (76 percent) want to use more technology to facilitate learning. Yet only 2 percent of students claimed they

took advantage of the Internet in a classroom setting. This is in line with our previous study on the Arab Digital Generation that found that education ranks second behind healthcare among sectors in greatest need of improvement through information and communications technologies (ICT).6 Adding to student dissatisfaction in the classroom is the perception that teachers do not respect them and furthermore treat them in a demeaning

manner. Students mentioned shouting, physical abuse in some public and private schools (though not in international schools), and impatience with students’ learning needs. This came through in the interviews, and was supported by the quantitative data, for Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. UAE students, according to the interviews and the polling, seemed to have a better rapport with their teachers.

Exhibit 18 UAE Teachers Lead in Terms of Innovation

65%

34% 16% 16% 46% 39% 49%

31% 38% 39%

65%

My teachers make learning fun My teachers are innovative

67%

My teachers are good with technology

Kuwait

Qatar

Saudi Arabia

UAE

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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Interestingly, when we looked at teacherstudent relationships by school type we found that teachers at international

schools rate poorly when it comes to caring about a student’s success. This could be because expatriate teachers are

often transient, or because students have unrealistically higher expectations of them (see Exhibits 19 and 20).

Exhibit 19 Students Are Divided as to Whether Their Teachers Provide Sufficient Leadership

68% 50% 39% 38% 55% Kuwait
Source: Booz & Company student survey

I look to my teachers as role models My teachers give me the attention I require to succeed My teachers show genuine Interest in my advancement My teachers respect students

36% 57% 49% 53% Qatar

47% 45% 44% 49% Saudi Arabia

68% 67% 66% UAE

Exhibit 20 Teachers in International Schools Are Not Providing Strong Examples
COMPARISON OF STUDENT VIEWS OF PUBLIC MoE, PRIVATE MoE, AND INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS
59% 59% 58% 61% Private MoE 37% 46% 38% 47% International I look to my teachers as role models My teachers give me the attention I require to succeed My teachers show genuine Interest in my advancement My teachers respect students

55% 51% 54% 57% Public MoE

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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Historically, only public universities have supplied teachers to the region’s schools. However, as private schools become more common in the GCC, they should play a larger role in training teachers. One way to improve teaching methods in the GCC is for governments to encourage private colleges to collaborate with the public sector to retrain existing teachers and train new teachers in conjunction with global centers of excellence. Treat Extracurricular Activities as Essential Students also want schools to treat extracurricular activities as an essential part of their education. Rote learning

will not prepare them for the changing, knowledge-based economy in which they will compete. Hence, students need a well-rounded education that puts creativity at the heart of academia. They want more activities related to arts and literature, such as drawing, poetry, digital technologies, writing, drama, music, and dancing. In the same vein, students want more field trips for education and entertainment. Students want inspiration that broadens their horizons and stimulates their imagination. The students’ desire for more creativity fits well with the regional ambition to base the economy more on knowledge than natural resources. Education

providers should therefore consider embedding creative subjects in the classroom alongside traditional academic subjects, to inspire the next generation of creative talent and provide a boost to job creation. For example, the fusion of computer science, arts, and design, along with creative subjects (such as music, film, or photography), can develop the skills necessary for the creative and digital industries that the region needs. These activities will eventually lead to young entrepreneurs setting up small and medium-sized firms, again an area that governments want to see thrive (see Exhibits 21, 22, and 23).

Exhibit 21 Provision of Sports Facilities Is Uneven
AVAILABILITY OF SPORTS FACILITIES 48% 45% 30% 25% 14% 4% 4% Very Poor 4% 10% 13% 5% 0% Somewhat poor Neutral Somewhat good Very good 14% 25% 18% 19%

26% 19%

28% 17%

26% Kuwait Qatar Saudi Arabia UAE

3% 1% 1% Not sure

Source: Booz & Company student survey

Booz & Company

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GCC Students Need “Teacherpreneurs” The U.S.-based Center for Teaching Quality is dedicated to improving the teaching profession through leadership initiatives, research, and smart policies. Its latest publication, Teaching 2030, makes several groundbreaking proposals to adapt teaching methods and better educate the digitally savvy students of the 21st century. Among these initiatives is a new coalition of 600,000 “teacherpreneurs”—teachers who offer “SkillShare classes” while continuing to serve in government or the private sector. Old teaching models discouraged this kind of hybrid instructor, but the Center for Teaching Quality says first-hand instruction is critical to bridging the gap between the skills taught in school and the skills needed in the workforce.

Exhibit 22 Students Have a Good Sense of the State of Their Infrastructure
SATISFACTION WITH ACADEMIC FACILITIES AND INFRASTRUCTURE

86%

82%

71%

70%

67%

65%

63%

62%

61%

65%

69%

72%

61%

58%

58%

57%

49%

49%

43%

49%

40%

41%

40%

45%

51%

37%

32%

32%

31%

26%

25%

30%

8%

40% 7%

Availablity of academic facilities

Quality of academic facilities

Students’ use of academic facilities Kuwait

School infrastructure

Having advanced technology

Number of students per class UAE

Availability of transportation

Availability of athletic facilities

Quality of athletic facilities

Qatar

Saudi Arabia

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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60%

Exhibit 23 Students Want an Up-to-Date Curriculum with Choice
CHARACTERISTICS OF A “GOOD” EDUCATION SYSTEM

Curriculum: updated, high standard, choice for students Using technology Quality, supportive, and respectful teachers Overall atmosphere Infrastructure and facilities School administration and support Extracurricular/interactive activities Relevant languages Sports School system Field trips Healthcare and safety National identity Other Don’t know Nothing 2% 1% 4% 4% 3% 3% 2% 1% 0% 4% 10% 13% 19% 23% 22%

35%

Source: Booz & Company student survey

Booz & Company

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Students’ “Ideal” School Based on our student survey results, Booz & Company has developed an outline for the ideal school. It is “modern, sophisticated, and advanced, emphasizing great focus on student needs.” Curriculum • Focuses strongly on the English language and offers additional languages • Includes advanced technical subjects such as civics, calculus, and economics • Integrates ICT into the teaching and learning process • Emphasizes group work and research Teachers • Highly educated • Knowledgeable about their subjects • Use creative, flexible teaching methods • Compassionate and respectful of students • Very experienced • Good classroom managers Extracurricular • Focus on students’ interests when scheduling educational and recreational field trips • For athletics, offer swimming and tennis • For culture, offer music, art, drama, dancing, and poetry Improved Academic Advice and Career Counseling Looking beyond school to the workforce, roughly a third of students told us they want to work in the public or government sector, while another third hope to land a job at an international private company. Only 11 percent are interested in working for a local private company, with an equal number focused on starting their own business (see Exhibit 24). Men were more likely to be aspiring entrepreneurs (14 percent) compared with women (9 percent).

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Employment aspirations varied somewhat according to the type of school the student was attending. Students in public schools were more likely to set their sights on a public-sector job. We see two possible explanations. First,

students in MoE public schools are typically from less affluent socioeconomic backgrounds and may be looking for job security in the public sector. Second, these students probably get the least amount of career

guidance and are not aware of their options in the private sector. Although local public school students may get the least direction, students across the board report that schools

Exhibit 24 Students Show Little Interest in the Local Private Sector or Enterprise

PREFERRED SECTOR TO WORK IN THE FUTURE

STUDENTS EXPECTING TO WORK IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR (BY SCHOOL TYPE)

8% 4%

11%

43%

29%

20% International school

Local MoE Public

Local MoE Private

14% 7% 12% 11%

14% 20% 9% 9%

34%

32%

29% 31% 35% 30%

36% 29% 34% 35%

10%

11% Start my own business International private company Local private company Public sector Charity work I don’t know

Start my own International business private company Kuwait

Charity work

2% 2%

Local private company

Public- or governmentsector work UAE

Qatar

Saudi Arabia

Source: Booz & Company student survey

Booz & Company

3% 4% 7% I don’t know

4%

13%

27

offer little assistance in choosing a university or career. They told us that access to career advisors, career fairs, and fora to learn about the pros and cons of public and private employment, and the chance to meet business people who might serve as role models, would all be helpful. Students lack basic information such as how to apply to schools and what courses to take to prepare for specific careers because of the absence of academic advice and career counseling. There is also a tendency to consult family members and friends on career issues, many of whom are as uninformed as the students (see Exhibit 25). The result is that they

end up choosing the most obvious, safest career paths. For example, several Emirati boys said the best career choice for a guaranteed job is to join the army or the police. Career guidance is critical to developing efficient labor markets and education systems. However, there is often a lack of provision for career education in the GCC, or it is implemented ad hoc by universities, a few progressive private-sector companies, and some programs by ministries of labor. Ideally, career education should introduce students to an array of options and possibilities and spur lifelong learning to keep young people in school (especially those from vul-

nerable social backgrounds), provide an adequate base of knowledge to face and adapt to the challenges of a knowledge-based economy, and create a strong connection between education, training, and work. Countries such as the U.K. and Canada are starting to adopt a lifelong learning approach to career guidance—departing from a traditional model of interviewing students about to leave school—to ensure broader development of career management skills. For schools, this means building career education into the curriculum and widening the focus from immediate choices to personal development and broader decision making.

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Exhibit 25 Students Receive Insufficient Professional Career Guidance

LEVEL OF INVOLVEMENT IN DECISIONS ABOUT EDUCATION

INVOLVEMENT IN EDUCATION DECISIONS

I made most of the decisions about how and what I currently study I had some input, with guidance from parents/family I had some input, with guidance from school counsellors 60% I had some input, within a framework set by the school system I had almost no input, all decisions about what I study were made by my parents/family I had almost no input, all decisions about what I study were made by the leaders of my country's educational system

13% 11% 36% 25% 9% 11% 19% 22% 14% 17% 9% 15% Graduates Students

Made most decisions alone

12%

Some input from others

Almost all input from others

28%

Source: Booz & Company student survey

Booz & Company

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ENGAGING STUDENTS IN REFORM

Students have a vested interest in the rapid and successful implementation of education reforms. It is not enough for educators and policymakers simply to ask students to voice concerns. They need to create mechanisms to establish an ongoing dialogue. For example, the government should conduct national student surveys and undertake more research that includes student input. Schools should set up student councils and student leadership programs. Other education authorities in very different contexts have successfully engaged their student populations. For instance, in Alberta province of Canada, Alberta Education has moved progressively from a government-led, top-down, policymaking approach to a more inclusive model with “meaningful student engagement.” In 2008, the system launched an online platform called “Speak Out,” giving students ages 14 to 19 a greater voice in the education system through blogs, podcasts, and

real-time surveys. Additionally, the Alberta Education Act created a student advisory panel with 24 students from different regions, ages, and levels of achievement. The panel meets regularly with the education minister. Alberta Education provides the students with training in leadership, media, and public speaking to prepare for this role. In the U.S., the Pearson Foundation’s Million Voice Project grant program analyzes the perceptions of young people to provide educators with detailed student data for use to improve teaching and learning. A grant from the Pearson Foundation provides participating schools, school districts, and organizations worldwide with access to the My Voice™ Aspirations Survey for grades 6 through 12 (U.S.) and years 7 through 13 (U.K.), as well as resources including implementation support, school-level reporting, and the tools necessary to interpret the report data.

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China Strengthens Student Engagement Policies Despite glowing portraits of Chinese education by the international community following Shanghai’s results from the 2009 survey by the Programme for International Student Assessment (best known by its acronym PISA), Chinese education leaders have consistently expressed dissatisfaction with several facets of the education system. They are concerned about an excess of standardized testing, along with a lack of research assessing the quality of student, faculty, and institutional outcomes. In this context, education leaders decided to strengthen quality assessments by introducing two surveys adapted from research on student engagement at Indiana University: the National Survey of Student EngagementChina (NSSE-C) and the High School Survey of Student Engagement-China (HSSSE-C). Both instruments have drawn significant attention from policymakers, researchers, and student services personnel at both national and institutional levels, and have catalyzed a broader definition of education quality. For example, findings from NSSE-C highlighted that undergraduates generally report low levels of student–faculty interaction when compared to other countries. These findings provided a solid foundation for policy recommendations on improving the student–faculty relationship at universities in China.

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Like their counterparts in Alberta, Canada, Shanghai, China, and the U.S., GCC students want to play a role in reforms. They see an opportunity to do so through school student councils and social media such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. Indeed, 60 percent told us that social media have already made it easier for them to personally influence education reform. This view is especially

prevalent among UAE residents (25 percent), compared with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (19 percent each) and Qatar (8 percent). Unfortunately, students’ voices are not welcome everywhere. Students in all survey countries gave low scores to their interactions with school administrators, who they said are not inclined to listen to them. Indeed, 26 percent of those from Saudi Arabia and 22

percent of those from UAE complained that they have no influence at all over school reform. However, there is a growing awareness among government officials and school administrators that student engagement is important. With this in mind, the UAE and Kuwait have both appointed youth ministers (see Exhibits 26 to 30).

Exhibit 26 Students Believe They Have Some Influence on Education Reform
STUDENT INFLUENCE ON EDUCATION REFORM 43% 43%

19% 13%

21%

23% 17%

21%

Students in general You personally No influence at all Barely any influence Some influence A lot of influence

Source: Booz & Company student survey

Exhibit 27 Saudi Students Feel the Most Empowered With Regard to Education Reform
STUDENT INFLUENCE ON EDUCATION REFORM

26% 22%

10% 6%

Kuwait

Qatar

Saudi Arabia

UAE

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Exhibit 28 Students Believe in Engagement and Outreach to Participate in Reform
HOW COULD STUDENTS INFLUENCE EDUCATION REFORM?

Engage with the school administration Continue to focus and work on education Take part in activities Use technology Use social media Update and make curriculum more creative Demand modern/high-quality teachers Share opinions/ideas Participate as student representatives/in a union Have the opportunity to choose subjects Recognize different abilities among students Request better facilities Don’t know Other Nothing 2% 8% 1% 1% 15% 3% 4% 4% 4% 5% 9% 11% 13% 16%

19%

Source: Booz & Company student survey

Exhibit 29 UAE School Staff Are the Most Accessible to Students
AVAILABILITY OF SCHOOL STAFF TO ENGAGE WITH STUDENTS 71% 62%

45%

43% 37%

44%

31%

17% Members of the school administration always listen to students The school principal is available and accessible to students Kuwait Qatar Saudi Arabia UAE

Source: Booz & Company student survey

Booz & Company

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Exhibit 30 Social Media Has Assisted with Student Engagement
SOCIAL MEDIA IMPACT ON EDUCATION REFORM (ALL COUNTRIES)

19%

Has made it much easier to influence education reform

41%

Has made it somewhat easier

31%

Has not made it easier or more difficult

Has made it somewhat more difficult 2% 7% Has made it much more difficult to influence education reform

Source: Booz & Company student survey

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Student Engagement Ladder The “Ladder of Student Involvement in School” is based on the work of Roger Hart, an international expert on children’s participation. Hart mapped student interactions to rungs of a ladder, thereby allowing schools to assess student involvement in their institution. The higher the institution climbs on the ladder, the more meaningful the student involvement (see Exhibit 31).7

Exhibit 31 The Ladder of Student Involvement Assesses the Level of Student Engagement

8

Student-Led Decision Making Shared with Adults

Projects, classes, or activities are initiated by students, and decision making is shared among students and adults. These projects empower students while at the same time enabling them to access and learn from the life experience and expertise of adults Students initiate and direct a project, class, or activity focused only on student concerns. Adults are involved only in a supportive role Projects, classes, or activities are initiated by adults, but the decision making is shared with the students involved Students give advice on projects, classes, or activities designed and run by adults. The students are informed about how their input will be used and the outcomes of the decisions made by adults Students are assigned a specific role, told about how, and taught, why they are being involved Students appear to be given a voice, but in fact have little or no choice about what they do or how they participate Students are used to help or bolster a cause in a relatively indirect way; adults do not pretend that the cause is inspired by students. Causes are determined by adults, and adults make all decisions Adults use students to support causes by pretending that those causes are inspired by students

7

Student-Led, Student-Directed, Student-Centered Decision Making Adult-Led Decision Making Shared with Students

6

5

Adult-Led Decision Making Informed by Students’ Voices Adult-Led Decision Making with Students Assigned to Respond Tokenism

4

3

2

Decoration

1

Manipulation

Degrees of Non-Involvement (1 being the lowest) Increasing Amount of Involvement

Source: Adapted with kind permission of Adam Fletcher, from Adam Fletcher, Meaningful Student Involvement: Guide to Students as Partners in School Change, created for SoundOut.org in partnership with HumanLinks Foundation, 2005

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COUNTRY STUDIES

We have identified five variables with which to measure and compare student perceptions of their education across countries and school types: fixed competency, delivered competency, infrastructure, relational trust, and dependability (in terms of future preparedness). Ideally these five variables will be in balance and at their maximum, thereby generating a near perfect pentagon when expressed graphically. Fixed Competency This gauges how effectively the education system accomplishes its goals in terms of the official curriculum, or what the government and education leaders set forth as the curriculum’s material and scope. Delivered Competency The delivered competency is the curriculum that is actually taught by teachers and the quality of the teaching methods.

Infrastructure This incorporates anything related to schools’ infrastructure and school services, such as the quality of academic facilities, access to technology, and availability of extracurricular facilities such as athletic and recreation areas. School services include transportation and academic support. Relational Trust This measure incorporates the students’ level of respect for and trust of teachers and school leaders, as well as the value that students place on their interactions with them. Dependability This variable measures how well the system prepares students for a secure, prosperous future in the labor force and whether the system can dependably meet these fundamental life goals. Kuwait: Students Want Better Student–Teacher Interactions Background: Kuwait has one of the most progressive education systems in the GCC. There are various coeducational private schools, and the government is behind many initiatives to promote women’s education and participation in the workforce. The Ministry of Education is also working to

make education accessible to children of all socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as to children with special needs. Most recently, the government has approved several infrastructure projects including a national strategy to incorporate ICT into learning. However, education remains highly centralized—the Ministry of Education is the only body for both public and private schools. Survey Highlights: Students from Kuwait are the most confident in their education system: 52 percent were somewhat confident and 20 percent were very confident that they were receiving a quality education. Students also gave strong positive ratings for English language teaching: 72 percent were satisfied compared with 57 percent in Qatar, 54 percent in the UAE, and 17 percent in Saudi Arabia. However, and somewhat counterintuitively, Kuwaiti students are dissatisfied with their interactions with teachers. They were also very critical of teaching methods, citing a lack of innovation, creativity, and ICT usage. MoE private schools in Kuwait are highly regarded across all five variables. Meanwhile, international schools are poorly regarded in Kuwait (see Exhibit 32).

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Exhibit 32 Kuwait Variable Analysis

Delivered Competency 4.0

3.0 Dependability Fixed Competency

2.0

Total MoE Public MoE Private Other Private Relational Trust Infrastructure

Source: Booz & Company student survey

Booz & Company

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Qatar: Students Want More Trust, More Choice Background: In the past two decades the government has introduced several initiatives to modernize the education system and provide more choice to parents. The government created the Supreme Education Council to oversee the reform process and in 2001 introduced the Academic Bridge Program to improve English standards for public school students. Perhaps the most important reform has been the Independent School model, which has four principles: • Autonomy: Independent schools operate autonomously, subject to certain conditions specified in a time-limited contract granted by the state.

• Variety: Interested parties may apply to operate an independent school, and diverse schooling options are encouraged. • Accountability: Independent schools are held accountable to the government through regular audits and reporting, stakeholder feedback, and national student assessments, which are compared to international standards. • Choice: Parents can select the school that best fits their child’s needs. Survey Highlights: Although the government has worked to create more school choice, it has not sought student input. A significantly higher proportion of students from Qatar

said they have almost no input regarding their education decisions (40 percent compared to 29 percent overall). This lack of influence may be disenfranchising students, who distrust education leaders (21 percent)—more than students in other countries in the survey. An analysis of the five variables for Qatar shows no great difference between types of schools for “dependability.” However, there is a large gap in both the “infrastructure” and “relational trust” variables. MoE public schools, which operate on the Independent School model, are more highly regarded than international private schools (see Exhibit 33).

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Exhibit 33 Qatar Variable Analysis

Delivered Competency 4.0

3.0 Dependability Fixed Competency

2.0

Total MoE Public MoE Private Other Private Relational Trust Infrastructure

Source: Booz & Company student survey

Booz & Company

39

Saudi Arabia: Students Want Better Infrastructure, Facilities, and Teachers Background: Starting in the 1950s Saudi Arabia began building schools across the country to provide all children with access to a basic education. Unfortunately, the rush to build came at the cost of quality. Today, many schools suffer from a poor infrastructure that is in need of renewal. Survey Results: Students in Saudi Arabia gave the lowest ratings to school infrastructure including toilets, cafeteria, etc. They also cited a general lack of academic and recreational facilities. One Saudi girl attending a public school said: “I wish there was an area to eat with

tables and chairs and a cafeteria that sells everything. They sell juice, chips, and croissants—that’s it.” A mere 7 percent of Saudi students said they have access to quality athletic facilities, which may reflect the fact that athletics and sports education is still forbidden for girls in public schools. Another area of concern for Saudi Arabia is teacher competence. Only 43 percent said their teachers are “very well trained,” compared to 67 percent in the UAE, 61 percent in Kuwait, and 51 percent in Qatar. Saudi students also gave their teachers the lowest rating in technological skills. Only 39 percent said their teachers are good with technology, compared with 67 percent in the

UAE, 49 percent in Qatar, and 46 percent in Kuwait. To address these teacher quality issues, in 2006 the government established Tatweer, an education initiative to improve the quality of K–12 education for boys and girls. An analysis of the variables for Saudi Arabia shows that international schools are highly regarded by students—with four of the five variables scoring 4.0 or better (see Exhibit 34). Scores for the MoE schools in Saudi are comparatively mediocre, particularly in terms of competency of the delivered curriculum (i.e., teachers and teaching methods).

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Exhibit 34 Saudi Arabia Variable Analysis

Delivered Competency 4.0

3.0 Dependability Fixed Competency

2.0

Total MoE Public MoE Private Other Private Relational Trust Infrastructure

Source: Booz & Company student survey

Booz & Company

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UAE: Students Say Their Education Is Superior to the West’s Background: The UAE benefits from having many private local and international schools. In addition, the government recently established a National Research Foundation to undertake research on improving education. The government is also introducing laws that ensure equal access to education for all students. For example, a new law makes it illegal for private schools to refuse to admit children with special needs.

Survey Highlights: Students in the UAE were generally positive about their education system. Indeed, an impressive 57 percent said their education system is a little better or much better than that available in Western countries. UAE students were also most likely to trust their education leaders: 72 percent somewhat or completely trust their leaders. Of the sample, 51 percent were from Dubai, 25 percent from Abu Dhabi, and the remainder from the five northern emirates.

In a sharp contrast with other countries, MoE public schools in the UAE are viewed more positively than local or international private school types, especially on relational trust, competency of fixed curriculum, and infrastructure. Unsurprisingly, the UAE variables come close to generating a near perfect pentagon when expressed graphically (see Exhibit 35).

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Exhibit 35 UAE Variable Analysis

Delivered Competency 4.0

3.0 Dependability Fixed Competency

2.0

Total MoE Public MoE Private Other Private Relational Trust Infrastructure

Source: Booz & Company student survey

Booz & Company

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CONCLUSION

GCC education reforms are critical to ensure that the skills taught in schools match those needed in the workplace, to reduce youth unemployment, and to position graduates to succeed in tomorrow’s more open and competitive economic environment. These reforms are long overdue; they must begin now if the region is to position itself for a more diversified economic future in which knowledge and creativity will play central roles. Although government policymakers and educators have enacted some reforms, students have not played a role as their voices have not been heard. This is a major oversight

that must be corrected. Bringing students into the process of improving education is good policy and effective practice. They are, after all, the ones who will be seeking gainful, satisfying employment in just a few years. Moreover, as a practical matter, reforms are less likely to succeed without student “buy in” and enthusiastic participation. With students interested in their education futures, and technologically adept at self-expression, educators and policymakers should respond with systematic and regular engagement. To get education right, they will need to listen to those being educated.

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Endnotes
The Gulf Cooperation Council consists of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
1

Klaus Schwab, “The Global Competitiveness Report 2012– 2013,” The World Economic Forum, 2013 (http://www3.weforum. org/docs/WEF_GlobalCompetitivenessReport_2012-13.pdf).
4

For the latest results, see Jeffrey M. Jones, “Confidence in U.S. Public Schools at New Low,” Gallup Politics, June 20, 2012 (http://www.gallup.com/poll/155258/confidence-public-schoolsnew-low.aspx).
2

Alpen Capital, “GCC Education Industry,” September 19, 2010 (http://tinyurl.com/nxsvb8h).
5 6

“Understanding the Arab Digital Generation,” Strategy&, 2012.

UNESCO, “Global Education Digest 2009: Comparing Education Statistics Across the World,” 2009 (http://www.uis.unesco. org/Education/GED%20Documents%20C/ged-2009-final-4-erren.pdf).
3

Adam Fletcher, Meaningful Student Involvement: Guide to Students as Partners in School Change, created for SoundOut.org in partnership with HumanLinks Foundation, 2005 (http://www. soundout.org/MSIGuide.pdf).
7

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