New York Times, the well known American newspaper, published on April 9 a long report on its front page about the problem of accepting outstanding students in prestigious American universities, to a point that made the famed Stanford University reject outstanding students who scored up to 95 percent, as the university accepted only 5 percent of the outstanding students who attempted to enter this university, as 42,167 applied for admission and 2,138 were accepted, but at the end only 1,700 registered.
The question: Why do American universities become strict in the policy of students’ admission, while our universities are the only ones who take it easy in accepting students with low academic scores? The difference between them and us is that Western universities brag about thousands of outstanding students applying for admission, be them Americans or foreigners, because strictness in academic admission elevates the university’s standards, and the more strict universities are in the policy of admission, the academic level of the university goes higher.
Fierce competition among American and foreign students from all over the globe gives prestigious American universities uniqueness, because they do not differentiate between hardworking and outstanding students, be them citizens or foreigners, because the grades of the students qualify them for admittance to the university. The American government is not involved in admission policies, even if the university is a government one. What American universities do is different from what we follow in our universities. Minister Al-Mulaifi insisted last year on accepting 11,000 students despite the fact that our university has the capacity of 6,500 students only, and this year the minister is insisting on accepting all passing students, not only the outstanding ones.
The question: Why do American universities and others in advanced and industrial countries are strict in their admission policies, although most of them are private, and do not pay attention to profits, while we, the backward in the Third World countries, take it easy in the admission policy, to a point where Mulaifi called for admitting all students who passed the secondary school exams. Why does their thinking differ from ours? The answer to this question is not easy. Western countries are advanced in the field of science and technology because of the strength of education there. Honest competition between students is the essence, as they are keen on attracting the best of “brains” around the world to benefit from their knowledge and specialty in working in the private sector, while keeping in mind the international competition in the economic, scientific, cultural and other fields.
The days of Kuwaiti pride and prosperity were in the fifties until the middle of sixties, during the reign of late Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah. Kuwait was the country of Arabs, with the full meaning of the word – it was an open country for all Arab and foreign competent people to work. Schools and education in Kuwait were outstanding because Palestinian, Egyptian and Iraqi teachers were outstanding, and competition between Kuwaiti, Arab and foreign students was very strong. The students who were being sent on scholarships abroad were competing with Americans, Britons and the French. Kuwaiti and Arab students were the main reasons for our students’ outstanding performances in the past.
Now education is politicized, and political Islam is involved in the curricula. The learning by rote policy continues instead of creativity and innovation and search for new things. Whoever thinks that the advancement of Western students is because of their governments and ruling parties is wrong. The bitter truth that citizens do not want to admit is that people in the West are the initiators in opening schools and attracting competencies. Kuwaiti merchants and reformists played a major role before the oil era, but their role stopped as the principle of the welfare country emerged. In the West, people alone establish outstanding schools of all stages, and the state does not interfere in the educational process, and all what it does is set the foundations, principles and special instructions for outstanding education.
We are fully aware that neither the citizens nor the government are keen on education independence at all stages, as MPs, citizens and failed state employees interfere in the education process and all have become educational experts, believing that the government schools’ mission is to pass students even if they are weak. What is most important is to get a university degree, even through cheating, forgery and buying certificates. All that those students are looking forward to is to become state employees in the welfare country – then we wonder why the West advances and Arabs go backwards!
— Translated by Kuwait Times from Al-Watan
By Dr Shamlan Y Al-Essa