When was the British Council established in Kuwait and why?
We opened in 1955, to help young Kuwaitis learn English, to provide access to English language books, to advise on UK university applications, and to help Kuwaitis who return from the UK to keep in touch with the UK’s life and culture.
2.Since its inception, what are some of the noteworthy achievements?
Since 1955 hundreds of thousands of Kuwaiti students have studied at UK universities. Many of them studied English at the British Council and gained their international English certification – IELTS – with us. Our UK Alumni network helps maintain lifelong connections with the UK. We work with private schools to help them deliver a UK curriculum so that students gain UK qualifications, and we work with the Ministry of Education in specific areas such as special needs education, life skills for youth, and also promotion of sporting values via our work with sports coaches. In Higher Education, we have facilitated some excellent research, academic and joint-programme partnerships, working with Kuwait University, Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research, and also private universities, resulting in collaboration with some of the UK’s top universities. All our education work has the same purpose, which is to build friendship and connection between people in Kuwait and the UK, by making use of the UK’s educational resources.
3.Please highlight some of the top-level courses at BC and your strategy to staying relevant in today’s world?
We teach general English to children, teenagers and adults, to build their ability to speak, understand, read and write English with confidence and precision, and to support their school studies. We prepare learners to take the IELTS exam, to achieve the best possible scores. To stay relevant, we have adapted to the demands of Kuwaiti learners. Children now want to get ahead in English from an early age, so we now have a special programme for 5 – 7 year olds. And we have a brand new programme for 7 – 11 year olds called Primary Plus, which has launched in 2019. Primary Plus gets children using English very quickly, and builds their confidence. We also help parents to understand our methodology, as these days parents want to support learning at home. Also, we notice that students are more and more time pressured, so they require last minute intensive preparation courses for IELTS. We offer these, but we also advise students that it’s better to upgrade your English over time, in advance of the exam.
4.How many students do you receive in a year?
Around 6,000 a year study English with us, and 25,000 gain UK qualifications. About 2,000 new students join UK universities each year from Kuwait.
5.In line with Kuwait’s Vision 2035, what role does British Council play in the educational sector and future of Kuwait’s youth?
Kuwait wishes to develop Human Capital via reform of the education system, to enable youth to become productive members of the workforce. In addition, Kuwait wishes to integrate people with disabilities, promote social cohesion, and empower youth. All our programmes are aligned to Vision 2035. The UK is a very long-standing trusted partner of Kuwait. Our two countries share expertise and cooperate on many aspects of scientific and educational development, and the British Council is very proud to help bring specialists from our countries together in support of Kuwait’s aims. To give just one example, we are now in discussion with the Ministry of Education to enable UK experts in special needs education to visit Kuwait and assist with a programme.
6.How has the BC strengthened ties for Kuwait and the UK?
Kuwait and the UK enjoy very close ties, and education is acknowledged as being one of the most important aspects of the relationship, so as the UK’s organisation for education and cultural relations here in Kuwait, we are proud and delighted to contribute to this important relationship.
7.What differentiates your trainers from the rest?
All our teachers are specially trained in communicative English language teaching, and they have specialist areas of expertise such as teaching small children, IELTS preparation, teacher training, teaching teenagers, and other areas. Our training for teachers is very practical, and they are constantly assessed and upgraded on their ability to teach effectively. The atmosphere in our classrooms is positive and I think unique, so I invite you to come and visit us and experience it for yourselves!
8.You have diversified into new avenues – Art for instance. Can you take us through the support of this initiative?
Arts is not new, but we are doing more, first because Kuwait is developing its arts infrastructure very fast, with more and more beautiful theatres, art spaces and museum, so we are excited to be part of it, and second because 2019 is the year in which we celebrate 120 Years of Friendship between our two countries with a full programme of events in collaboration with Kuwait’s National Council for Culture Arts and Letters and the ministry of information. You can follow us on Instagram to find out what is coming!
9.Are there any new developments in the pipeline?
Yes, we are always working on new developments. Our English teaching programme for children is almost full in Mansouriya, so we are considering ways to expand in Kuwait. We are working closely with Al Rawdah Cooperative to help them to prepare more young people for IELTS examinations. We are about to start the 5th year of Taqaddam – our life skills training programme for Kuwaiti youth in ministry schools. And we have a wonderful photography exhibition coming to Dar Al Athar Islamiya, which celebrates the long tradition of British people living in Kuwait and other GCC countries, as well as the successes of Kuwaitis and others living in the UK. This, just like everything we do, promotes knowledge and friendship between the people of the UK and Kuwait.