Dear Dr. Spilchuk…

July, 2007

Should I be Concerned About My Own Job Safety?

Dear Dr. Spilchuk,

I am a teacher who signed a contract before all the difficulties experienced by the female administrator from Al Bayan International School. Though I will not be working for that school, should I be deeply worried about my own job and safety? With the latest declaration that 95 contracts will not be issued for ex-pat administrators, what about regular teaching positions? What is to happen to us? Are we to experience similar things? Would teachers receive concrete support form their administrators this coming year or little if we are not Kuwaiti? Can you respond to the concerns for general teachers coming there?

Thank you,


Hello Freddie,

The questions you ask are ones ISR has considered with great concern. My short answer to this serious issue is that I suspect life in Kuwait will continue in the coming year as it has in the past at the various International Schools. Teachers will teach; students will learn; parents will consult. The key difference, I believe, may be a growing attitude of dissatisfaction with, and possibly even aggressiveness and discrimination towards Western teachers as a result of the Minister’s ban on private Western school administrators and the Katherine Phillips situation that has recently blown in the press.

I suspect this attitudinal change will become more obvious over the coming year. It will not likely be readily obvious in the fall of 2007 at the various private schools. In fact, there may be an immediate move to downplay the situation in order to have Westerners feel safe and at home in their schools. The Kuwaitis are astute business people. I believe they understand that without Western teachers, the private schools will simply disappear. However, it is clear that there will be a strong push now to begin replacement of Western administrators with Kuwaiti Administrators, and at some point, Western teachers with Arabic staff. I can assure you that this change will certainly impact how the schools are run and, therefore, the comfort level Western teachers will have in teaching within these schools.

Your question regarding staff support for Western teachers in the coming year is very critical. Again, I suspect this will depend upon each school, each administration team, each Board of Directors and each owner but certainly, notice has been served upon Western staff that common Western practices such as in-school suspension will not be tolerated in Kuwait. What other practices may come to light that also cross over accepted Kuwaiti culture remain to be seen.

Regardless, a precedence has been set. We understand now that while the Katherine Phillips situation was not the first time a Western teacher has faced charges in Kuwait, this was the first time the situation became so public. The follow-up travel ban that was placed upon Katherine after she left the country, which extended to the entire GCC, was in and of itself a strong statement to Westerners. Not only can and does the Kuwaiti government have the power to control your movements within its own borders; it also has the power to control your movement throughout the Gulf. This whole situation certainly leaves open to question and concern the status of the regular classroom teacher when a junior school administration is not safe working in this local.

As to what you should do? Consider the fact that the world is open for you to explore as an ESL teacher. There are thousands of schools in hundreds of locations waiting for you with open arms. I have to wonder why anyone would choose to explore life as an ESL teacher in a potentially unsafe location.

Take Care and Best to You,