Introduction

The Egyptian education system

Education in Egypt has evolved from the wholly inadequate (and quite discriminatory) system during Egypt’s time as a British protectorate to a diverse and comprehensive (if troubled) system.

Introduction

There are both secular and Islamic paths to education in Egypt. Most foreigners will recognize the former as a series of primary, secondary, high education and technical schools. The latter is rooted in the history of Al-Azhar mosque, which has served as both mosque and university since 972 AD.

Islamic education is most popular amongst men aiming for careers in religious life, and it emphasizes the importance of absorbing and passing on cultural heritage. The Islamic education system does not place much emphasis on developing creative thought or problem solving skills.

Secular education in Egypt

The secular education system is similar to that found in other nations. It consists of pre-schools and kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools (both academic and technical), universities and technical schools. These are supplemented by the healthy numbers of international schools found in Cairo and Alexandria that serve foreign and wealthy Egyptian families. The entire system (from school construction to curricula) is overseen by the Ministry of Education .

From the initial education reforms that occurred following the Free Officer’s Revolution in 1952 (which deposed the monarchy) until the late 1970s, Egyptian university attendance grew 1,400 percent. This partly reflected an improved system, and partly the government’s policy of welcoming students from all Arab countries to study at Egyptian universities.

Systemic issues of the Egyption education system

While on an organizational level, the Egyptian education system may seem more than adequate, in practice it is in desperate need of reform. Teachers at all levels (including professors at universities) are not paid adequate wages. A recent survey found that the average monthly wage in the education sector was an appalling LE40. In Cairo, it is not uncommon to find academics moonlighting as cab drivers (a fact that said driver will sometimes lament in perfectly-voweled Modern Standard Arabic). The low pay translates into poor teaching quality in many schools and at many levels of the system.

While children are required by law to complete both primary and secondary education, many do not. In some poor areas, children do not attend school at all. Many a street kiosk is attended by a child of nine or ten being groomed to take over the family business. There are just as many children who will begin jobs in local cafes or welding shops at age ten or eleven.

Following university, Egyptian graduates find themselves dropped into a job market that is oversaturated with qualified professionals (consider that Cairo University boasts over 200,000 students). This is partly a result of high unemployment, and partly because educational culture has not yet accepted certain academic paths. Students are encouraged to study law, medicine and engineering – degrees in literature, philosophy and political science are laughable to many Egyptian families.

There are both secular and Islamic paths to education in Egypt. Most foreigners will recognize the former as a series of primary, secondary, high education and technical schools. The latter is rooted in the history of Al-Azhar mosque, which has served as both mosque and university since 972 AD.

Islamic education is most popular amongst men aiming for careers in religious life, and it emphasizes the importance of absorbing and passing on cultural heritage. The Islamic education system does not place much emphasis on developing creative thought or problem solving skills.

Secular education in Egypt

The secular education system is similar to that found in other nations. It consists of pre-schools and kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools (both academic and technical), universities and technical schools. These are supplemented by the healthy numbers of international schools found in Cairo and Alexandria that serve foreign and wealthy Egyptian families. The entire system (from school construction to curricula) is overseen by the Ministry of Education .

From the initial education reforms that occurred following the Free Officer’s Revolution in 1952 (which deposed the monarchy) until the late 1970s, Egyptian university attendance grew 1,400 percent. This partly reflected an improved system, and partly the government’s policy of welcoming students from all Arab countries to study at Egyptian universities.

Systemic issues of the Egyption education system

While on an organizational level, the Egyptian education system may seem more than adequate, in practice it is in desperate need of reform. Teachers at all levels (including professors at universities) are not paid adequate wages. A recent survey found that the average monthly wage in the education sector was an appalling LE40. In Cairo, it is not uncommon to find academics moonlighting as cab drivers (a fact that said driver will sometimes lament in perfectly-voweled Modern Standard Arabic). The low pay translates into poor teaching quality in many schools and at many levels of the system.

While children are required by law to complete both primary and secondary education, many do not. In some poor areas, children do not attend school at all. Many a street kiosk is attended by a child of nine or ten being groomed to take over the family business. There are just as many children who will begin jobs in local cafes or welding shops at age ten or eleven.

Following university, Egyptian graduates find themselves dropped into a job market that is oversaturated with qualified professionals (consider that Cairo University boasts over 200,000 students). This is partly a result of high unemployment, and partly because educational culture has not yet accepted certain academic paths. Students are encouraged to study law, medicine and engineering – degrees in literature, philosophy and political science are laughable to many Egyptian families.

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: