In the early 20th century, Kuwait's education instituions were very basic, with only a few Koranic schools, funded by the wealthy citizens, teaching reading, writing and basic mathematics.
The first step towards modern schools still came early, in 1912, when a more comprehensive school was established, teaching commerce, mathemataics and letter writing skills. The first girls' school was established in the 1920's. First in the late 1930's did the rulers of Kuwait establish a wider system of schools.
In 1965, 7 years of primary school was made compulsory for both boys and girls. The following year, the first university was opened, and it would take 36 years before the new universities opened, this time private.
Kuwait has put large funds into its educational system, and it is presently of good quality. Still, Kuwaiti authorities define programs to improve quality of education and to improve the capacity. There are also programs to improve the entry from education to work life for women.
A large part of Kuwait's schools are private, about 40% from kindergartens to secondary. Private schools are financed by foreign sponsors, tuition fee and substiantial government subsidies.
The general level of education among the population is high, and this applies to both sexes. Education is free and compulsory for all.
Expenditure on education was estimated at 3.8% of GDP in 2006, although this is low in percentage, Kuwait's high GDP makes it $2,200/capita, the second highest in the MENA region.
Kuwait's level of illiteracy is seriously addressed by the government, and there are centres for schooling of adults, attended by about 2% of the total population.
There have been established daytime literary classes for women.
There is a well-developed system for pupils with special needs, about 3 out 4 schools are public. For pupils with lesser impairments, inclusion into the general school system is the preferred strategy.
Kindergartens are available for free for children with Kuwaiti citizenship from the age of 4, lasting 2 years, but reforms are presently being launched.
Expatriates, as well as the Bidoon, can choose between a wide selection of private kindergartens, as well as primary schools with kindergarten facilities.
Primary and intermediate education is by law compulsory in Kuwait. Only children that are Kuwaiti citizens and inhabitants with background from before 1960 can go to school for free (this includes the Bidoon).
The primary stage begins at the age of 6, and lasts 4 years. Until the 1990's, primary education was 5 years; the year removed at this level is compensated at the secondary.
Enrollment rates were in 2007 about 99%.
Public schools are sex segregated, whereas many of the private are co-educational.
There are more than 100 private foreign schools in Kuwait, about 40% are non-Arabic and has curriculum predominantly similar that used in the children's home country. Kuwaiti authorities require these schools to also teach local culture and Arabic.
Many Kuwaiti parents prefer to send their children to schools where English is the teaching language, and where US or British curriculum are followed. This is an increasing trend; Kuwaitis have to pay for tuition just as much as foreigners.
The intermediate stage is a direct continuation of the primary, and lasts 4 years. Enrollment rates were in 2007 about 91%, with equality between the sexes.
In general, secondary education now takes 4 years, until the 1990's it was 3 years. Enrollment rates were in 2007 about 91%, involving that practically all those beginning at intermediate educaiton will continue to secondary. Here too, there is equal enrollment between the sexes.
There are roughly two directions here, the academic aiming at future universtiy studies, and the vocational and technical aiming to qualify for work life.
There have been more than one system before for the academic line, but this is under reform to secure that all pupils receive similar training.
Upon finishing secondary education, pupils pass a natinal examination. Interesting, perhaps, girls do far better than boys.
Vocational and technical education in Kuwait has no clear distinction in the succession of other school levels: entry is permitted after the completion of primary, intermediate or secondary school. This type of education is encourgaged in many ways by the authorities, as the Kuwaiti society faces more challenges in building a skilled work force than a community of higher education specialicts. In recent years, new courses have particularly encouraged girls to join these types of education.
Kuwait University was for long the only university in the country, it is co-educational. The other public insitution is the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training, offering 2 year courses. Only small tuition fees are paid to attend these insitututions; most of the budget is finance by the government.
As of 2006, about 26% of all women in each age group attend higher educatio, in radical contrast with only 11% of men. In total, 18% of Kuwaitis in each age class.
Only few non-citizens have been allowed into Kuwait University through many years. The emergence of private universities assures that foreigners and Bidoon have the opportunity to take higher education without going abroad. In addition to the universities, other private higher instituions include the Gulf American College; the Australian College of Kuwait; the Maastricht School for MBA; and the Box-Hill College for Girls. The largest private institution of higher education is the Arab Open University, which had 6,300 students in 2005.
Degrees of the universities are Bachelor's and Master's.
Traditionally, many Kuwaitis have studied abroad, mainly in the USA.
There are also a teachers' college and several Koranic schools.