Thursday,14 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)
Thursday,14 December, 2017
Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Controlling the costs of education

The Ministry of Education has taken action to control the fees charged by private and international schools as well as private universities operating in Egypt, writes Reem Leila

#Controlling the costs of education #Controlling the costs of education
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Not everyone who sends their children to a private or international school or a private university is rich. Yet, the depreciation of the Egyptian pound and the correspondingly inflationary impact on the tuition fees charged by many private schools and universities has meant that many middle-class Egyptian parents sending their children to private schools and universities are feeling the pinch of higher tuition fees.
“We are a middle-class family, and the education of our children is a main priority for us, almost more important than food,” said Nada Ibrahim, the mother of two children attending a German school in Cairo. “We could even stop buying new clothes as long as we were providing the children with a decent education. We see it as an investment.”
Ibrahim said that she and her husband, whose incomes are in Egyptian pounds, do not want to take their children out of school, and they do not have any alternative to paying their tuition fees at high rates expressed in the local equivalent of euros or dollars.
“There has to be more cooperation from the school. Not everyone who enrols their kids in an international school is a millionaire. We are a normal middle-class family, and we are having difficulties coping with the increasing fees,” she said.
 “My husband is considering the option of another job so we can continue sending our children to the school. Many of my friends have pulled their children out as they have found themselves unable to pay the high fees.”
Parents like Ibrahim have good reason to be upset. Deputy head of the Private Schools Society in Egypt Badawi Allam pointed out that private schools have asked permission from the Education Ministry to increase their tuition fees by 20 to 35 per cent to accommodate rising costs. Allam said the schools had also demanded increases in bus fees, after oil prices were recently increased.
The increases are seen as inevitable as the schools want to mitigate the negative consequences of last year’s floatation of the pound. International schools with foreign staff have been especially hard hit by the effects of the floatation, and parents fear that the higher costs will be passed on in disproportionately high increases in tuition fees.
However, the ministry has decided that increases in private and international school fees starting this year will be limited. Minister of Education Tarek Shawki has announced that he has already placed a limit on the increases that international and private schools can make to their tuition fees.
Shawki announced that international school fees will increase by 14 per cent maximum for the 2017-2018 school year and that they will be allowed to increase by seven per cent on a yearly basis starting this year. He also announced that fees for private Arabic and languages schools will increase by seven to 11 per cent for each stage segment.
Abeer Hani, director of the Private and International Education Department at the ministry, said that Shawki had issued Decree 173/2017 amending Article 5 of Decree 422/2014. She explained that this meant that the increase would be 11 per cent for schools with fees of less than LE2,000 and eight per cent for schools with fees of between LE2,000 and LE3,000. There would be a five per cent increase for schools with fees starting from LE7,000.
There are 6,664 private schools in Egypt, she said, including 217 international schools and 6,447 language schools.
Hani said that international schools could be closed down if they refused the proposed increases in fees. Moreover, if a school decided to close, it would need to wait until all students had graduated, she said. If it did not, it could be subject to takeover by the ministry’s financial and administrative supervisory bodies.
She said that rules for collecting fees were being developed, with the base year being the 2015-2016 school year before the floatation of the pound. There was also a proposal to deduct application and registration fees from tuition fees, she said.
“The minister has refused to allow a 20 or 30 per cent increase, stressing that the rate should not exceed 14 per cent for all stages at international schools,” Hani said. Increases in fees for private schools for the next five years and from the 2017-2018 academic year had already been set, she said, at between seven and 11 per cent depending on the size of the fees.
Shawki announced at a press conference in August that fees should not be collected in US dollars or other foreign currencies. “Violations could render the school subject to takeover by the ministry’s financial and administrative supervisory bodies,” he said.

EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND: According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2015-2016, Egypt’s state-provided primary level education, which spans a period of six years, was ranked second-to-last worldwide.
According to the Ministry of Education, about 20 million students were enrolled in schools across Egypt in 2015-2016. Fewer than two million go to private schools. In addition to some 52,000 state schools across Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country is estimated to have over 100 private American or international schools.
Annual tuition fees in private schools range from less than LE5,000 (approximately $280) to a whopping $15,000 for American and international schools.
Private and international schools that violate the ministry’s measures on tuition fees will now be warned to halt the violations. Further penalties will be imposed on schools that continue to violate ministry instructions, with these including being placed under the ministry’s financial and administrative supervision, preventing them from registering new students, withdrawing their licences or even closing them down.
Parents with complaints or questions on the new private and international school fees can call the ministry’s WhatsApp hotline on 0127 2584 864.
Some parents of students enrolled in private universities in Egypt such as the American University in Cairo (AUC), the German University in Cairo (GUC), and others may suffer similar problems. AUC increased its tuition fees last year for all students, whether newcomers or already enrolled, to range from LE117,000 to LE147,000 per semester depending on the number of credit hours.
Students demonstrated against the hikes last year. “I’m not American. I won’t pay tuition in dollars,” AUC students have chanted last year at the university’s President Francis Ricciardone, a former US ambassador to Egypt.
AUC students used to pay half their tuition fees in pounds and half in dollars. However, this has changed this semester as student fees are now only paid in pounds.
Last year, the students had gathered outside the administration building and demanded the university to abandon its decision to calculate tuition fees in dollars. The AUC president then sent out a university-wide e-mail in response saying the administration would have a “better sense of the appropriate measures to take” in the light of the pound’s floatation and its impact by the middle of last December.
According to state statistics body CAPMAS, 2.3 million students were enrolled in private and public universities in Egypt in the 2013-2014 academic year. Of these, 22,000 are enrolled in more than 20 private universities.
The annual fees in private universities range from LE20,000 to over LE100,000, depending on the university’s ranking and the student’s major. The fees of some of the universities are defined in dollars or euros and therefore will likely be affected by the pound’s loss of value.
In 2015, the Global Wealth Report of the Credit Suisse Research Institute, a department of the Swiss bank, estimated the size of the Egyptian middle class at five per cent of the population, indicating that it had dropped by 48.2 per cent between 2000 and 2015. A similar study by the World Bank published in 2016 similarly estimated that the middle class in Egypt had shrunk by 14.3 per cent in the first half of the 2000s, falling to 9.8 per cent in 2010.
The World Bank study described the middle class as those who are “reasonably secure from falling into poverty” and included individuals who earned $4.9 per day in 2005. The study described Egypt as a country with “stronger downward than upward mobility”.
Some parents of students at AUC have filed a legal case against AUC president and Minister of Higher Education Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar, saying that the recent increases in tuition fees may be illegal. The case is currently being discussed, and a court session is due on 1 October. In the meantime, AUC has provided parents with financial aid at percentages ranging between 10 to 65 per cent, according to documents proving a parent’s need for such aid.
The minister of higher education has also announced that there will be no increases in tuition fees for public and private universities. Abdel-Ghaffar said public universities would not be allowed to increase their tuition fees for new students, while private universities would be bound by a ministry mandated “code of honour” to maintain a cap on tuition fees for returning students.
Lawyer Wael Zekri who filed the legal case for parents against AUC said there was every hope of winning the case. “About 60 parents filed a similar legal case in the past and won,” he said.
However, private universities would be allowed to increase their fees by five to 10 per cent maximum for new students. The minister also said that private universities could not require students to pay in foreign currencies, the costs of which have soared since the pound’s floatation last November.

 

 

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