Interview: Mahmoud Abo El Nasr
What are the first steps for rolling out the government’s education strategy for the 2014-30 period?
MAHMOUD ABO EL NASR: The Strategic Plan for Pre-University Education 2014-30 aims at ensuring universal access to education for all Egyptian children, with a specific focus on poorer areas. The strategy will start by covering the 18.5m students who are enrolled for the academic year 2014/15. It consists of 15 programmes for different levels and conditions of pre-university education. Each of these programmes aims at improving education along three main lines: the availability of education, the quality of education, and the organisational structure and efficiency of the education system. Each of the programmes will focus on short-term (2014-17), medium-term (2017-22) and long-term (2022-30) objectives.
The efficiency of the programmes will be monitored constantly by dedicated specialist roundtables. In the 2014-17 stage of the strategic plan we intend to build over 10,000 schools across all governorates with the object of bringing the average number of students per class to 40. Ideally, we aim to build 20,000 new schools and reduce the number of students to 25 per class, but this is conditional on the availability of additional resources. More than 1175 schools have already been built in the early initiatives phase through the year 2013/14. Besides these, 600 one-classroom community schools will provide an education facility to the villages – we have calculated them to be around 1000 – that are currently being underserved because the nearest school is usually located 5 km away. The availability of a community school at walking distance, together with the provision of a nutrition plan to young students for 150 days per year, will be integral to increased enrolment rates.
How are school curricula being modernised?
NASR: About 30% of the general education curriculum has already been reviewed, and we count on completing the modernisation process within the next two years. We aim to raise the quality of teaching for subjects like mathematics and science, taking Singapore, Finland and the US as our benchmarks. As for vocational education, we are looking to China in order to promote a model that will bring “more school into the factories and more factories into the school”.
Students from technical schools will be gaining both compensation and hands-on training on the production line, as well as a competitive job market position once they have graduated. As the latter programme will not be able to cover all 2.5m students enrolled in vocational education, technical schools will increasingly be engaged in production activities themselves. After assessing the needs of the market and the school system, we have identified LED lighting, solar panels, and paper and wood recycling as the most suitable production activities for the programme. Half of the resulting output will be re-used internally in the schools, especially paper, desks and chairs, while the other half will be sold in order to sustain production costs.
What initiatives are under way to improve teacher training in ICT and languages?
NASR: The strategic plan includes the improvement of e-learning facilities by 2017. So far, 13 governorates have launched interactive learning methods for the first year of secondary school. Each student will be provided with a tablet to improve the one-to-one interaction with the teacher. Most textbooks have now been transformed into e-books. We must now make sure that teachers can adjust their methods to the new facilities and keep pace with their more technologically adept students. One of our objectives is to train all 1.5m teachers in Egypt to use ICT both inside and outside the classroom. Thanks to the excellent relations we maintain with internationally recognised academic institutions in France, the UK and the US, we are able to send many teachers to receive training outside of Egypt. Teachers trained abroad are then expected to engage in training-of-trainers programmes back in Egypt to enhance their colleagues’ skills and benefit the whole system.
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