SocietyIt is inevitable in a country like Kuwait, which has grown from relative poverty to great wealth in a very short time that clashes should occur between the old and the new. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the most important part of Kuwaiti society remains the family, and here the old values are retained and cherished. The traditional virtues of hospitality, courtesy and respect must not be lost in a head-long rush to what some may term "modernization". Nowadays in Kuwait it is generally felt that not enough attention has been paid to the country's heritage, and so a number of government projects have sought to reverse this trend.
The peopleThere are essentially five levels of Kuwaiti society: the ruling family, the old Kuwaiti merchant families, former Bedouins who settled in Kuwait, Arabs from other countries and foreigners. Arabic is the official language and 90% of the population is Muslim. In per-capita terms, Kuwait has one of the highest incomes in the world. Before the Iraqi invasion in August 1990, less than 40% of the population were Kuwaitis. Non-Kuwaitis enjoyed most of the welfare benefits of Kuwaiti citizens.
LanguageThe official language is Arabic though English is widely used -- especially in business, banking and big shopping centers. Most street signs are written in both languages.
ReligionIslam is the official religion of Kuwait and is practised throughout the country. There are also churches of varying denominations for Christian residents. Islam forbids the consumption of pork or alcohol and these items are illegal in Kuwait.
MediaThere are seven newspapers distributed in Kuwait. Five are in Arabic and two -- the Arab Times and the Kuwait Times -- are in English. Various other weekly and monthly publications are also available in addition to a number of foreign periodicals. Kuwait Television has three channels: one in Arabic, one in English and a sports channel. There is also the Kuwait Satellite Channel which began transmission on 4 July 1992. In addition, there are Arabic radio stations, an FM radio station and the U.S. Armed Forces radio. Broadcasts from the BBC World Service, Voice of America, All India Radio and Pakistan Radio are also received in Kuwait.
The government provides free education at all levels to Kuwaitis. Certain groups of non-Kuwaitis may place their children in government schools, but demand exceeds the places available. Tuition is in Arabic.
There are a large number of private schools, catering primarily for expatriates, but many Kuwaiti families choose them as a preparation for further study overseas. Most expatriates are not eligible for free education and will have to register their children at a private school. Tuition is available at all levels and covers most language groupings and national curriculums. The English and American schools are the most numerous and their students reach high standards in their exams. All private schools come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education which sets the fee level, inspects the school and also arbitrates cases of complaints.
These are available from a number of playgroups and generally focus on children between two and six years of age.
There are a number of commercial organizations offering tuition to adults, generally in the
sphere of languages or computing. The university also offers courses for adults. Course
details are generally given in the local press.
The population of Kuwait has always been so small that the country has had to rely on foreign workers. Prior to the Iraqi invasion in 1990, nationals of virtually every country could be found working in Kuwait. In retrospect, however, it is now felt by the government that in 1990 the foreign workforce was too large, outnumbering as it did the Kuwaiti nationals themselves. Present plans therefore seek to ensure that, for both cultural and economic reasons, Kuwaitis remain a majority in their own country. By 1992 the population of Kuwait had fallen to less than half its number on 2 August 1990. Most of the hundreds of thousands of foreign workers who fled the country during and after the invasion were not expected to return.