Investment in education reform to support Egypt’s long-term growth

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Egypt is seeking to expand access to quality education and boost the role of technology as part of efforts to promote sustainable, inclusive growth under Vision 2030.

In July Egypt’s House of Representatives approved a $500m loan from the World Bank Group’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to go towards the five-year Supporting Egypt Education Reform project, which aims to modernise the public school system.

Due to roll out in September 2018, the initiative aims to improve access to quality early childhood education; modernise the student assessment and exam system for public schools; enhance the capacity of teachers and administrators; and increase the role of technology in teaching and learning.

In addition to expanding access to kindergarten for some 500,000 children and providing training for 500,000 staff, the loan will be used to supply 1.5m students and educators with digital learning resources, as part of the Ministry of Education’s longer-term plans to modernise the pre-university education system.

Under the Egypt Education Reform project, expected to be launched in September, the government will replace curricula, assessment and exam tools used in public and private schools, which it says are geared towards helping students pass the national university entrance exam, with a more modern, digital system that is able to better equip students with the skills required by the labour market.

According to remarks made to local press in April by Tarek Shawky, the minister of education, the system will first be implemented for kindergarten and first-year students in primary and secondary schools. The minister also said the government could open talks with the World Bank for a larger $2bn funding package to support the reforms.

Education improvements key to 2030 development goals

The agreement with the World Bank and wider reform plans are in line with Egypt’s national development blueprint, Vision 2030, which highlights investment in human resources as key to achieving its overall goal of promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

Under the education pillar, the plan’s targets for 2030 include increasing the number of accredited schools by 60%; reducing illiteracy rates among 15- to 35-year olds to 7%, down from 28% in 2015; and improving the international competitiveness of primary education quality on the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index.

Egypt is trending positively on certain key educational indicators. Total literacy for Egyptians 15 years of age and older stands at 75.1%, according to the latest UNESCO data, while total literacy for 15- to 24-year-olds is 92%.

Net enrolment rates across public primary schools are also high, at 97% as of 2016. However, this figure drops off slightly as students reach secondary school, where enrolment rates are 81%.

In terms of primary education quality, Egypt’s position has largely remained static in recent years. In the 2017-18 iteration of the WEF report, the country ranked 133 out of 137 countries, compared to 134th out of 138 the previous year.

New universities to provide technical and vocational training

In addition to the education reforms within compulsory education, the government is also seeking to modernise the topmost tiers of the sector, approving in early June a draft law for the establishment of eight new technological universities.

The schools, which will be publicly owned, will offer two- and four-year programmes across a range of specialties, including agriculture, industry, technology and commerce. The courses will be available to students with general secondary school certificates, as well as those who attended a technical school.

On top of reducing the gap between graduates’ skills and job market needs – a key factor contributing to high levels of youth unemployment, which stood at around 34% in 2017, according to the World Bank – the introduction of more advanced technical and vocational programmes could also help improve the reputation of vocational education, which is still perceived by many Egyptians as less prestigious than traditional academic degrees.

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