Girls' Education in Egypt
Education is key to the empowerment of women, and everyone should be able to access it. Egypt is one country that shows that it believes in that statement. There has been excellent progress towards closing the gender gap when it comes to boys’ and girls’ education in Egypt.

Egypt has the largest education system in Africa and it has grown exponentially since the 1990s. In 2012, about 95 percent of children between the ages of six and 18 were enrolled in school. This is a significant difference from another African country, South Africa. In the same year, South Africa had an enrollment rate of around 65 percent for boys and girls of the same age group.

Increased Spending Results in Increased Equality

The government of Egypt has shown more interest in the education system in the past few years and has worked to improve the system, especially for women and girls. Significantly more government funding has been used over the past decades to increase the accessibility of girls’ education in Egypt. A total of 11.1 percent was spent on education in the 2016/17 fiscal year and was projected to rise by nearly 5 percent the following year.

Over the past 20 years, girls’ enrollment in school has risen greatly. According to Egypt Demographic and Health Surveys, as of 2014, 92 percent of girls living in urban areas were attending primary school and 71 percent of girls were attending secondary school. These rates are very similar to the percentage of boys enrolled in the same age groups. This is a significant change because in the past, girls were not given nearly the same opportunity to achieve an education as boys.

While access has generally improved for girls’ education in Egypt, inequalities remain widespread. Girls’ school enrollment has risen significantly over the past few decades, but the problem that remains is the dropout rate. About 71 percent of men completed schooling up to the secondary level, while only 68 percent of girls completed the same grades. This is in part due to the rates of poverty in many areas of Egypt. Another issue with girls’ education is that families with multiple children often send only the boys to school because that is all the family can afford. Girls who stay at home have lower literacy and completion rates.

Local and International Groups Target Girls’ Education in Egypt

In 2001, the National Council on Childhood and Motherhood began a program called the Girls’ Education Initiative. The program was created to address the need for girls’ education in Egypt, especially in its poorest areas. The project urges communities to come together and buy into the project by donating land and volunteering to work in schools. This is a way to bring communities together for a cause they can all support and relate to.

The United States Agency for International Development, along with the government of Egypt, encourage access to education for girls starting at the primary level. In secondary education, USAID very much supports girls’ participation in STEM education. In addition, the government of Egypt, along with other programs and agencies, is working tirelessly to ensure that someday every child, boy or girl, will have access to the same education and the same opportunities.

Together, these groups have shown over the past several decades that they have been able to improve the quality of education for girls and will not stop until every girl can hold up her diploma with pride. There are many other countries struggling to close the education inequality gap and Egypt is a prime example that has shown that it can be done.

– Allisa Rumreich
Photo: Flickr

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