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Taqaddam impact on education
May 19, 2018, 5:32 pm

At present, it feels like we live in an age of political and economic turmoil, our eyes fixed on the latest events in America, Europe and, of course, the Middle East. But quietly, beyond the headlines, big economic changes are happening which may well have far more impact on how Kuwaiti school pupils will grow up, spend their careers and live their lives. We call those changes globalization and to flourish in this world of flux, many societies are changing their approaches to employment and education.

Kuwait’s government understands this. It has established the Ministry of State for Youth and has committed to increased school spending. Its 2035 Vision acknowledges that education needs reform to better prepare youth to join a competitive and productive workforce. At the British Council, we too are watching and responding. With our partners HSBC, we are supporting Government policy with our core life skills programme, Taqaddam. Taqaddam doesn’t necessarily teach students how to get high grades or pass exams. But it does instill in them qualities of confidence, commitment, determination, organization and self-belief – qualities they will call upon throughout their personal and professional lives. In today’s employment market, the fastgrowing youth populations in MENA region face huge challenges.

They must compete against worldwide talent for jobs and investment in a globalised, Cloud-connected marketplace. Throughout the Gulf, there is concern about the skill levels of young people graduating from high school and university. A new British Council report has just surveyed more than 500 business leaders in Dubai, where many multi-national companies have their regional headquarters.

Their message was almost unanimous. New arrivals in the workplace need a portfolio of ‘soft’ skills to take from job to job - problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, the ability to work with others and a commitment to lifelong learning. Communication, especially in the English language, is also essential. We hope that Taqaddam, which means ‘moving forward’ in Arabic, will help address this issue.

The programme has been devised by HSBC and the British Council to bring out the best in students across the MENA region in their key formative years, between 15 and 17. Taqaddam is delivered as an extra-curricular activity in English, with two workshops and 12 weekly classes. Its gaming-style format and online access appeals to teenagers, who must complete a number of tasks within a deadline. It encourages students to cultivate five character traits – Spark, Purpose, Confidence, Mettle and Positive Emotions. Spark means being inspired and passionate.

Purpose is a strong belief that life is meaningful and worthwhile. Confidence is understanding and believing in ourselves. Mettle is resilience and determination in the face of challenges. Positive Emotions encourages reflection and managing our feelings. The course is designed by our partners the Goodall Foundation, a UK educational charity specialising in character development through selfsufficiency, collaboration and innovation.

Khalaf Alzuvy completed Taqaddam last year and has just been appointed a Student Ambassador for the programme, though he’s only in Year 11. Khalaf says Taqaddam inspired him, gave him confidence and expanded his view of the world. Something happened in his head, he says. He tells us he’s now able to super-focus all his attentions and abilities on a single problem – just like Spiderman! The number of participants – divided equally between males and females – has grown steadily during Taqaddam’s three years of operation in Kuwait. Now, in an exciting development, we’re delighted that a new group of students will be joining the programme. For the first time in the region, two Kuwaiti special needs schools will take part.

Their teachers begin training in September, with students to follow next year - another group of young people adjusting for the future world of work. April sees the culmination of Taqaddam with our annual Make It Happen competition, when 422 pupils will gather together to pitch ideas for social action and change in their own communities. It will test their organizational, presentational and creative skills, as they seek to persuade the judges that their idea is the one deserving first prize.

Last year’s winners included a sandstorm alert system and a programme to support breast cancer victims. Kuwait’s Education Ministry is a steadfast supporter. Ministers have attended Taqaddam events and officials have judged Make It Happen competitions. HSBC staff will also be present. The bank doesn’t just support the programme financially, but sends along volunteer staff with years of life and workplace experience. The CEO is a regular judge and hosted a lunch for last year’s winners.

The other heroes and heroines of Taqaddam are the Kuwaiti teachers who give up their time to deliver the programme, 38 of them this year. They proudly tell us how nervous and shy teenagers quickly blossom into confident and articulate advocates, able to think creatively and work to deadline. All that energy and passion will be on display during Make It Happen. It will be noisy, buzzing and full of vitality - just how we like it. As each year passes, we are increasingly impressed by the maturity and achievement of our Taqaddam graduates. We are proud to help them prepare for a productive and successful life serving their families, their communities, and Kuwait, for decades to come. 

Michael Gordon
British Council Country Director Kuwait

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