Sunday,24 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1372, (7 - 13 December 2017)
Sunday,24 February, 2019
Issue 1372, (7 - 13 December 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Engaging tech girls

More is needed to attract and keep girls in technical education, reports Mai Samih

Archived photo
More is needed to attract and keep girls in technical education

Girls enrolled in technical education do not choose their field of specialty. Society chooses for them, a recent study has revealed. 

Conducted by the Population Council in co-operation with UN Women, the Embassy of Japan in Egypt, and the National Council for Women (NCW), the aim of the study about the status of young women in Technical Secondary Education in Egypt (TSE) was to help the government find opportunities needed and challenges faced by girls in the job market. 

“One of the recommendations of the study was to work on improving the image of TSE female graduates through the media. It is very important to have society understand the importance of this type of education and its graduates,” said President of the National Council for Women Maya Morsi at a recent conference announcing the study’s results. 

“TSE graduates are not second degree graduates, but come from a very important branch of education that Egypt needs at this time and in the future,” Morsi said. 

The study showed that the cultural and social backgrounds of the girls are the main reasons behind their enrolment in TSE even if they have high enough grades to enroll in Thanaweya Amma (last year of high school). “Our financial circumstances at home are not very good, so I enrolled in a commerce school to get a certificate and finish quickly,” said a female commerce school student in urban Sohag. 

More than 700,000 female students were enrolled in TSE in the academic year 2015/2016, according to the study. That is almost half of the total number of female secondary students enrolled in Egyptian public schools.  

After obtaining their certificates, keeping the girls in the labour market is another problem. Only 22 per cent of TSE graduates are in the labour force because they are discouraged by family members, including fathers and husbands, the study showed.

A male factory owner in Sharkiya complained that female TSE graduates work for only a limited time. “They work before they get married, approximately four to five years. Sometimes a girl joins the work force while she is engaged and works for just a year until she prepares herself for marriage and then quits.” 

To avoid such a situation Morsi said factories should encourage these girls to stay in the job market by providing them with a suitable work environment. This is needed to make sure that investment in educating all these girls does not end without a positive outcome, she added.

Another problem with technical education in Egypt is the readiness of the schools. One female industry school student in a slum area in Cairo complained of the lack of modern equipment in her school. “They should bring more modern machines and equipment because we are studying machines that we do not have at school.” 

The ministries concerned and NGOs have taken steps to improve technical secondary education. The Ministry of Education has drawn up a national strategy to upgrade 2,000 TSE schools in Egypt over the next five years. The NCW also called for more relevant specialities to be included in TSE to suit the needs of the Egyptian job market and which will also develop the abilities of the girls. 

“The philosophy of the ministry is clear. We will start training all TSE students on entrepreneurship and life skills,” Deputy Minister of Education for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), Ahmed Al-Geyoushi said, pointing to a joint training entrepreneurship project with UNESCO. So far, 500,000 people have been trained and more are targeted, he said. 

“If TSE students feel they are in second grade, it is because society makes them feel so. We now have 50 TSE schools in factories and seeking to train three million students in them.”

The study recommends that young women should be helped to make informed decisions about their future through academic guidance starting at grade nine. The distribution of male and female students in TSE should be reconsidered and new avenues should be opened to meet the needs of the job market as well as recognise their capabilities and interests. Ensuring that TSE is not the only educational stream available for young women from poor socio-economic backgrounds and updating TSE curricula to include more practical elements along with entrepreneurship and life skills are also important, as is expanding the number of TSE teachers, the study said.  

Furthermore, the scope of the dual vocational system should be expanded to include more commerce and agriculture schools and have a larger percentage of female students. Employment opportunities should also be made more attractive to young women by offering flexible hours, work from home options, transportation and day care benefits.

“When society sees for itself that these girls have jobs and that they occupy respectable, not low-level jobs, it will change its way of thinking,” Country Director of the Population Council Nahla Abdel-Tawwab said. “A society must see change for itself to change how it thinks.”

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