Educational Policy and Decision-Making in Kuwait: Learning from the case of EYL Curriculum and Assessment

  • Basemah Al-Senafi

Student thesis: Phd


This study explores the policy and decision-making processes, taking place across the government educational system in Kuwait, as explored through the case of English for Young Learners (EYL) curriculum and assessment in public primary schools. The specific focus is on the values evident on all levels of the public educational system, including the Ministry of Education (MoE), the educational districts of Kuwait, Heads of Departments (HoDs) in schools, and teachers. The focus is also on how these values shape the policy and decision-making processes across the levels of the educational system, and the ultimate aim is to identify what are the challenges facing educational policy and decision-making in Kuwait. The study makes use of interview data, documentary data and some supplementary observational data. The interview participants included two senior policy makers, three District Supervisors (DSs), three HoDs (English) and six English language teachers in three public primary schools. The documents included policy documents collected from the MoE and the educational districts. Finally, the classroom summative assessment activity of six teachers was observed. The data analysis was broadly informed by a thematic analysis approach. However, looking at values across the levels of the educational system precluded a uniform overall system of codes, and thus the thematic analysis departed somewhat from a ‘standard’ thematic analysis. The thematic analysis was shaped by literature-based insights, by the researcher’s insider knowledge, and by the data itself. The main findings were that competence-based curriculum values dominate the policy documents from the MoE - specifically the new Kuwaiti National Curriculum (KNC) that was introduced in 2014-2015 - but that the stakeholders on all levels seemed to lack a clear understanding of these competence-based values. Islam, Arab culture and nationalism were also visible and important values, held by all the participants on all levels, and affected both curriculum and assessment in the educational system. The study also shows that the Kuwaiti educational system is hierarchical, with policies emerging from the MoE, with DSs as ‘selective implementers’, and with HoDs and teachers having little voice in policy decisions. Finally, the study concludes that policy and decision-making in Kuwait is in flux, and that the new KNC, with its competence-based curriculum, may be seen as a case of ‘policy-borrowing’ that is failing. A future challenge, then, for the Kuwaiti educational system is to overcome the problems associated with policy-borrowing.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDiane Slaouti (Supervisor) & Juup Stelma (Supervisor)


  • EYL, Assessment, Policy-borrowing, Kuwait

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