Wanted: Life Skills

In the last few years we’ve noticed a growing trend of adult education-type courses and workshops being offered in Kuwait. The idea of adult education (also known as continuing education) isn’t a new one here and there are plenty of institutes and continuing ed programs that have been around for decades. What is new that the slate of offered courses has broadened significantly and that regular members of society – not only established universities and private institutes – are doing the teaching.

Young local entrepreneurs have created specialized programs aimed specifically at encouraging the transfer of knowledge and the development of professional skills. Organizations like Nuqat, for instance, offer a range of courses for entrepreneurs, designers, creatives, photographers and others interested in professional development. Community groups like the Secret Garden offer workshops on acting, cooking, gardening and other pursuits. Local entrepreneurs like Fakhri Arts and LB o Jzazz provide workshops and classes in beadmaking, crochet, knitting, calligraphy and more.

The desire to learn seems to have blossomed in Kuwait. While some of this might be attributable to habba (a trend), there are a growing number of people from all walks of life here who want to know more, do more and to explore new ideas and new ways of doing things. Almost all these new workshops and courses are not academic in nature but instead focus on very important life skills. Want to learn to sew? There’s a program for you. Want to learn to poach an egg, yep, get your chef hat on. Children can learn to code and adults can take classes in piano, figure sculpting or textile design. If you are interested in learning how to make beaded necklaces or the basic principles of interior design, someone somewhere in Kuwait is now offering a workshop or course on it.

To those not paying attention this may seem like no big deal. But to a dedicated lifelong learner like myself this is a revolution in social and community activity. I think it also addresses an often unexplored and under recognized truth about the educational system in Kuwait. Very little of what kids learn could actually be classified as life skills. Most go from KG to 12th grade and then graduate knowing very little about how to do basic every day things like cook a meal or grow an herb garden or sew on a button.

Add to this the ubiquitous presence of maids and nannies. Kids don’t learn about school how to do to much beyond reading books and taking tests. And they often learn very little at home. Even fewer will take up internships during their high school or college years and as a consequence a growing number of adults in Kuwait enter adulthood with very few life skills.

That’s where these workshops and classes come in. They may have arisen in part due to the pervasive copy cat syndrome but also in part due to very real demand. Whether it’s to learn a new professional technique, a weekend hobby or a basic life skill, these programs are adding a depth and breadth to Kuwait society’s collective body of knowledge and skills and that is an awesome thing to witness.

By Jamie Etheridge
[email protected]

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