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KUWAIT - Health & Education

Jacqueline Shaw

CEO, American International University


Drawing on over 20 years of experience in the education industry in the region, Ms. Shaw leads the administration of American International University and directs all executive leadership teams. Having founded the American Baccalaureate School in Kuwait, and operating the Oxford Learning Centre franchise in various locations across the GCC, she drives the vision for AIU to be a regional hub for academic excellence. Ms. Shaw obtained her MBA from Arizona State University, her MIM from Thunderbird School of Global Management, and has a BBA from the University of Washington.

“When it comes to our degree programs, we do all we can to facilitate teaching on another level.”
TBY talks to Jacqueline Shaw, CEO of the American International University, about education in Kuwait, the labor market, and goals for the near future.
What makes American education so prominent in Kuwait, and what does AIU offer its students?

When it comes to private education preference, many parents wish their children to learn from the same source they themselves have had the chance to learn from. Since most Kuwaitis study in the US, it is common for them to choose American education for their own children. Moreover, as the majority of popular worldwide products and services come from American inventors and companies, there may be something special about American education that facilitates this. From my point of view, success in life depends on being self-sufficient, creative, and resilient. This is what we aim to teach our students. American International University, as well as our Pre-K to 12 school The American Baccalaureate School , were the vision of Dr. Faiza Al-Kharafi and her husband Mr. Ali Al-Ghanim in order to improve the quality of education provided to the students of Kuwait. They believe in the need to create a strong educational base for the students of Kuwait. Their vision is to have top private sector organizations say, “We want to hire an AIU graduate.” That should mean something, and it is something I personally take seriously. When it comes to our degree programs, we do all we can to facilitate teaching on another level. We want it to be practical and professional. For each of the majors, we bring in practicing professionals to teach and present their insights to our students. Most recently, over the past year, we have brought in a well-known British artist who set up an installation in our campus and addressed our Interior Design and Arts students. In the Fall, we brought in two NASA executives to speak with our engineering students about future career opportunities for STEM graduates. And most recently, we staged the first Film Festival in Kuwait, where we brought in many Kuwaiti entrepreneurs including an individual who is launching a Kuwaiti film streaming platform. We provide our students with insight and experience that will support them beyond education. Upon graduation, they need to be fully prepared for entry and successful participation into both the local and international job arenas, and most importantly they need to be ready to live a rewarding and successful life. Finally, I am very proud of the fact that we are the first, and only university in the GCC to offer a dual enrollment program. This means, High School students who are juniors or seniors (grades 11 and 12) can opt to go to a local college and enroll in classes which will satisfy their high school credits requirement while simultaneously earning university credits. These students in our K-12 school get the chance to fast track their university education by attending classes at our university. This exposes them to many courses that they would not have access to at the high school level. They are able to select classes in Geology, Chemistry, Film production, Graphic Design, Islamic Art, and many other courses.

How does AIU support its students in entering the job market?

Most of our degrees require students to participate in an internship with a private sector company. This is a part of their career-enhancement plan. We also have dedicated Career Center staff members who organize career fairs which allow our students to identify the different organizations and job opportunities in Kuwait and discuss potential employment opportunities. We work with many organizations to ensure our students get the chance to complete internships with the best-in-class companies on the market. Additionally, no student is permitted to graduate from our university before they participate in mock job interviews. We use a popular software called ‘Big Interview’ to facilitate this. Students get to practice interviewing and therefore know what to expect and how to respond professionally and successfully once they enter the employment market. We coach them how to write their resume, and what kind of approach should they adopt during the interview. I believe this is especially important, as without such core skills, they might not get the chance to showcase their worth. After all, you need to get the job first.

Which qualities and skills would you identify as the ones that matter the most for success?

Prioritization and self-discipline. I am a mother of three and operate three businesses, which demands an extremely high level of both skills. You must stay on top of things and have the self-discipline to keep yourself in check. All of this comes down to organization of your own time and your ability to take responsibility for your actions. You need to prioritize so you know what to focus on first, but to keep yourself going you need the self-discipline.

What is the focus of AIU for the near future?

Apart from steady growth and expansion of our program offerings and provision of a first-tier university education to our undergraduate students, we have been seeing a significant rise in the number of requests for specialized education offered by us to both the private sector and the government sector. We have already had the opportunity to work with the Ministry of Defense on a drone training project, for which we should soon receive a memorandum of understanding. We also have a new university division, the Institute for Private Training (IPT)that was recently approved by the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAET), which focuses specifically on training professionals in lifelong learning programs – whether it’s a weekend workshop, or a two-year evening diploma. We want to work more in the new year on determining the specific training needs and requirements of the private and governmental sectors in order to improve access to local relevant and quality education in the country. We also anticipate many additional courses and training programs being added to our offer. There is a great need for health sciences, language learning, and industry-focused specializations, which we will do our best to accommodate. Meanwhile, we have seen huge demand for film editing courses and have the equipment ready to cater this demand. Currently we are awaiting final approval from the Private Universities’ Council to launch a bachelor’s degree in film.



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