Egypt’s public education system
Egypt, a North African country with more than 99 million people and a steadily increasing poverty rate, is currently suffering from an overpopulated and severely underfunded education system. However, recent news suggests that the country will be implementing new reform efforts for a better education system. On April 21, 2018, it was announced that a $500 million project aims to bring learning back to Egypt. The Supporting Egypt Education Reform Project, signed by The World Bank and Egypt, aims to bring learning back to the public school classroom and improve teaching conditions in Egypt’s public education system. The project’s intent is to improve teaching and learning conditions in Egypt’s currently poor public education infrastructure.

Egypt’s Educational Decline

Egypt has not always faced an urgency to improve the country’s quality of education. In the 1950s, Egypt was considered a popular country for young people in search of an education, and during this time President Gamal Abdel Nasser established free, national schools with instruction in Arabic. Students traveled from dozens of nearby countries to obtain a quality education at Cairo University or at al-Azhar University, the world’s second oldest surviving degree-granting institute.

However, in the 1980s, Egypt’s public education system took a turn for the worse due to a growing population and little reform, leading to extreme overcrowding and underfunding of the country’s schools and universities. In 2011, following the overthrow of Egypt’s long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak, hundreds of thousands of Egyptian youths took to the streets demanding public school and university change. However, seven years later, educational reform has been slow-moving, resulting in a still struggling education system, despite the few improvements made.

Currently, some of the main problems students in Egypt’s public schools face include:

  • Overcrowded classrooms, to the extent that students cannot find desks
  • Inability of teachers to supervise students
  • Extreme underfunding
  • Poor school maintenance (including broken windows, doors and desks)
  • Unrepaired water and sanitation systems
  • Inadequate science labs
  • A lack of technological resources for students
  • Poor understanding of the courses by teachers
  • Obsolete teaching practices, including politically-centered lessons that ignore essential school subjects

Additionally, most students in Egypt’s public schools have to take private tutoring classes after school because the education available in their school is so poor that sufficient knowledge and success are not assured.

The Need to Bring Learning Back to Egypt

In 2016, 14.3 million people, or 20.1 percent of Egypt’s population, were illiterate. Females made up 9.1 million of that number, amounting to 26 percent of Egypt’s female population, compared to only 14.4 percent of men. Illiteracy makes it harder to rise out of poverty, as a lack of education can pass down through families, reducing the chance that anyone in the family will be able to pull themselves out of poverty.

However, Egypt’s education system is planned to receive an upgrade that can help decrease the country’s illiteracy rate. In support of improving Egypt’s education system, The World Bank and Egypt’s five-year, $500 million project aims to bring learning back to Egypt and intends to widen access to quality kindergarten for around 500,000 children and train 500,000 teachers and education officials, all while equipping 1.5 million students and teachers with modern technology. Also, a new student assessment and examinations system will be utilized for more than two million Egyptian students.

This $500 million project aims to bring learning back to Egypt in several ways, including improvements in access to and the quality of early childhood education, implementation of a credible student assessment and examination system, enhancements to the size of teaching staffs and the application of digital learning resources.

The World Bank is a global partnership that helps developing countries find solutions to the toughest global and local development challenges.

– Natalie Shaw

Photo: Flickr