Mohamed Ramadan
Cairo – June 1, 2019

 

For several days, crowds of grade 10 students have demonstrated against the reform plans of the Egyptian education minister Tarek Shawky. Police forces brutally cracked down their demonstrations and captured some of them on the 22th of May before releasing them the next day. Brutal pictures and videos of the arrest of a young female student caused rage and escalated the  recurrent discussions about the education reform plan. These demonstrations came after the failure of the online exams which the ministry of education have put into operation for the first time in Egypt. This was not the first time of such failure whereas the first semester had witnessed such malfunctions of the online testing system.

In February 2017, Tarek Shawky took office and since then the minster has been one of the most controversial in the history of the Egyptian education. This is primarily due to his reform plan of education which focuses on easing more technological tools for students.

The former system remained in place for 22 years under many former ministers. So in order to get his reformation controversial plan into action, Tarek Shawky has chosen his pilot to be the 10th grade that is being applied from the beginning of this academic year. Grade 10 has 600,000 students who study 10 subjects so this demands more than 24 million online tests according to Shawky. Next year, the system will be introduced to other grades increasing the number to 50 or 75 million tests.

The failure of the online pilot test for Grade 10 puts more pressure on Tarek Shawky in a country where the popular view of educational system is negative. According to a poll conducted by CAPMAS in 2014, 70% of parents were not satisfied by the education materials that their kids receives at primary schools. This led to more dissatisfaction with the reform plan due to its early failures.

Comprehensive or Not?

The minster had repeatedly said that he has a comprehensive plan for reform but he refused discussing this plan with parents. The technocratic attitude of the minster led to the failure of the tablet testing due to the lack of necessary technological infrastructure in most of the Egypt schools.

In 2016, only 19.6 % of schools had internet access and only 32.4 % of schools had computer labs. This demanded more funds for providing this technological infrastructure. last year the ministry negotiated a $500 million loan from the world bank. More than 700 schools hadn’t got the infrastructure for using the new tablet. This caused the online system to break down many times.

Although the minister claims that the reform plan is not about only the tablet but also to change the mentality of the Egyptian students relieving them from the burden of old methods of learning to a new more comprehensive learning method, the application of reform started with grade 10. This means that after 10 years of old methods, the student has to adapt to a whole new method.

The Core of Education’s Dilemma in Egypt

Many experts have regarded that the main problems in Egypt educational system is the lack of public funds and the old curriculum. Lack of funds is still a current problem despite the reform discourse and reform plan that th

On the Edge of Failure: Why “Tablet” Won’t Solve Education Crisis in Egypt

e government confirms on.

On May 12th, Tarek Shawky said that “the ministry of education has major disagreements with both the parliament and the ministry of finance due to the new budget.” According to Shawky press releases, he demanded 138 billion EGP but the ministry of finance slashed this to only 99 billion EGP. At least, 79% of this budget is for the wages of the public servants working in the ministry of education.

The allocation of resources in the ministry has its own problems whereas only 60% of these public servants are teachers. This caused lower wage for the teachers and  spread of the private schooling centers; the latter being one of the most problematic phenomena in Egypt.

The lack of public fund is unconstitutional, whereas the Egyptian constitution stresses on allocating 4% of national GDP for education. This percentage has never been implemented in any budget since 2014. This lack of funds for the development and installment of new schools left 22 million students suffering.

The other major problem with the education system is the old curriculum and teaching methods. The current curriculum focuses on memorizing not comprehension, so it leads to a whole generation that is not capable of critical thinking. It also created many macro-economic distortions in Egyptian labor market. Although the reform plan addressed this issue, it hasn’t given us the solution yet.

The quality of education and its improvement is inextricably linked to the development of the school infrastructure and resources available. Class members, teacher to student ratios, the development of curricula, teaching methodology and school equipment are also very important. Without a combined reform plan, the education system will suffer and 22 million student will have to deal with that failure.