How will education reforms prepare Egypt's workforce?

 

In 2019 the government announced its Education 2.0 (EDU 2.0) initiative, a ambitious educational reform programme aimed at shifting the emphasis from memorisation and test taking to applied learning, and incorporating the use of technology. Investment for this transformation will come from both the government and international organisations, as a sizeable budget deficit and the Covid-19 pandemic are likely to see education spending fall below the constitution-mandated amount of 4% of GDP.

Edu 2.0

When Tarek Shawki and Khaled Abdel Ghaffar – the ministers of education, and higher education and scientific research, respectively – touted the plan at the Knowledge Summit 2018 in Dubai, they stressed the importance of catalysing a cultural shift from simple memorisation to one of valuing knowledge, critical thinking and learning outcomes. With the Egyptian population on track to reach 160m by 2050 and the World Bank reporting youth unemployment at 31% in 2019, the government is eager to educate a future workforce that will be able to successfully harness the development and economic potential of Industry 4.0.

EDU 2.0 is set to abolish the country’s traditional methods of teaching and test taking, and replace them with a system that is focused on developing character, skills and technological prowess. The plan is expected to cost $2bn by the time it is fully implemented from kindergarten through to the end of secondary school in 2030. The rollout began with grade two in September 2019 for the 2019/20 academic year following extensive teacher training on new methods and curriculum. Some secondary school students also saw changes in 2019/20: a computer-based testing system ultimately planned for all levels debuted in grade 11. The system allows students to take exams in any location and provides access to all materials at the same time. This represents a complete change of direction and is testament to the government’s effort to do away with a culture of memorisation.

Challenges

With the latest figures from the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics numbering K-12 enrolment at over 22.5m for 2018/19, Egypt has the largest education sector in MENA. Implementing such an extensive reform programme over this vast system will not be without its challenges. Key among these will be convincing parents, students and teachers of the benefits of the cultural shift in thinking about education, and disregarding the emphasis on exams and certificates. There are technological challenges as well, such as administering computer-based tests that run smoothly to thousands of students simultaneously. The spread of Covid-19 and the resulting closure of schools across the country has afforded the government the opportunity to jump-start the transition.

Extra Help

Another significant challenge the government will face in implementing EDU 2.0 is funding. A number of organisations, however, have pledged investments in several areas to ensure the success of the programme. In 2018 the World Bank committed to a five-year, $500m investment aimed at improving teaching and learning conditions in public schools, with an emphasis on kindergartens. The funds will go towards increasing access and education quality for 500,000 kindergarten students, training 500,000 teaching staff, and providing 1.5m students and teachers with digital learning resources. More recently, in February 2019 the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office pledged LE276m ($17m) in investment through an agreement with UNICEF and the government. The funds will aid in the implementation of EDU 2.0 through improvements to educational services, especially for students and facilities in marginalised areas. The financing will reach as many as 80,000 students and support up to 12,000 teachers across 550 primary schools.

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