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Kuwait, or in official circles, the State of Kuwait, is a sovereign Middle East country located in the northeast portion of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. Relatively small when compared to the other Arab states in the region, the country has a total geographic area of 6,880 square miles, and is bordered by Iraq to the north at Basra, Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and lies on the northwestern shore of the Persian Gulf. In Arabic, the name Kuwait translates to “a fortress built near water.” The country’s capital and largest city is Kuwait City.
Once a colony of the United Kingdom, Kuwait gained independence in 1961. Following this declaration, the nation’s booming oil industry saw unprecedented economic growth that lasted up to, and throughout the 1980s. This did not go unnoticed by neighboring Iraq, which would invade and later annex Kuwait in 1990. After seven months of this occupation, a direct military intervention, led by United States forces, sent the Iraqis fleeing from the country, but as they did, soldiers set nearly 800 oil wells ablaze, leading to an economic and environmental disaster. During this short engagement, Kuwait’s infrastructure was badly damaged and had to be rebuilt—a process that continues to this day. Despite this, today Kuwait is eleventh wealthiest nation in the world.
As of the latest available census data, Kuwait had a population of approximately 3.5 million, a number that includes at least 2 million people that were born somewhere other than Kuwait. This means that Kuwaiti nationals are actually a minority in the country. Ethnically, approximately 57 percent of the population is Arab, with much of the remainder hailing from counties in South and East Asia. Nearly 5 percent of the population is classified as “Bidoon,” or stateless Arabs. Indian nationals in the country, which number nearly 600,000, are the largest expatriate group in Kuwait, with minority groups that include Egyptians, Syrians, Palestinians and Iranians. Kuwait’s official language is Modern Standard Arabic, although Kuwaiti Arabic, a Persian Gulf sub-dialect, is used colloquially among the Kuwaiti people. English is also very prevalent and is often used in business. Over 85 percent of the population practices Islam, and of those, 60 percent practice the Sunni branch and 40 percent practice the Shia variety of the religion. There are also smaller numbers of those who practice the Hindi, Sikh and Buddhist religions.
Education in Kuwait
Education in Kuwait is overseen by the national government, a body that seeks to provide educational opportunity to all children, despite their social class, including children with special needs. There are two ministries that administer education in the country: the Ministry of Education, overseeing the primary, intermediate and secondary levels of education; and the Ministry of Higher Education, supervising all post-secondary or tertiary programs.
The Kuwaiti school system is divided between 5 levels, including a two-year nursery or kindergarten stage, primary education (5 years), intermediate education (4 years), secondary education (3 years) and higher education.
The primary and intermediate stages of education are the only two compulsory levels, with schools that generally serve students between the ages of 6 and 14. In these schools, the Kuwaiti curriculum is very broad, beginning with reading, writing and arithmetic in the lower primary grades, with subjects such as Arabic and English language and literature, mathematics, science, history, geography, music and sport being added gradually throughout the intermediate state.
Secondary education is available to any student who successfully completes the intermediate level. Education at these schools spans three years and is divided between general or academic education—for students wishing to pursue a university degree upon graduation—and vocational-technical education—for the more career-minded students who wish to pursue employment or further vocational studies once their program has concluded.
Higher education in the country is provided by colleges and universities, where some of the brightest Kuwaiti students can earn undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degrees in a number of academic and professional fields, including advanced degrees in fields such as medicine, law and engineering.
The total adult literacy rate in Kuwait is one of the best in the region (95%) and has been steadily rising for the past ten years.