Listening to students’ voices

Putting students at the heart of education reform


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 educa-tion 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 them-selves, a group too often overlooked in the reform process.

To help bridge this gap, Booz & Company recently commis-sioned 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 interna-tional). 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 extracurricu-lar 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-by-country assessment of education competency, dependability, relational trust (between stakeholders), and infrastructure in the GCC.


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