Wednesday,21 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1391, (26 April - 2 May 2018)
Wednesday,21 November, 2018
Issue 1391, (26 April - 2 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Big school changes

An overhaul to the existing school system promises to upgrade the quality of the curricula and the performance of teachers, reports Reem Leila

Big school changes

Egypt and the World Bank have signed a $500 million agreement to implement a comprehensive national strategy for the development of pre-university education in Egypt.

The agreement will expand the availability of education by applying quality standards in kindergarten for over 500,000 children and training 500,000 teachers and officials from the Ministry of Education. This is in addition to providing financial resources for digital learning for 1.5 million students and teachers.

The overhaul in pre-university education was revealed by Minister of Education and Technical Education Tarek Shawki last week. Shawki said next September marks the debut of the new system. 

The project seeks to achieve its objectives by expanding the availability of early childhood education and improve its quality; developing a reliable system to assess student performance; improving educational administrators and mentors and using modern techniques in teaching, student assessment and data collection. 

The system will be applied to all schools except those offering international certificates. It will start with kindergarten adopting completely new curricula in KG1, KG2 and Grade 1. The curriculum depends on values ​​and respect for diversity and the ability to solve problems, thinking and creativity.

The most significant change is that passing the final year in secondary education, grade 12, known as thanaweya amma, will be based on accumulated scores over three years. According to the system, students will sit for exams in each subject 12 times spread over the three years of secondary school. The best grades in six exams will be added up after which students will be able to apply for university at the end of the three years. 

The new thanaweya amma will be applied to those currently in the third preparatory stage and in grade 10 next year. 

Students will be given computer ipads which will gradually substitute books which cost the government over LE1.5 billion a year. As mandated by the prime minister to the minister of communications, Egypt’s 2,000 secondary schools will be connected to the Internet before the beginning of the school year in September. As part of the programme, around one million tablets will be distributed to 10th grade students (first secondary), teachers and school directors. Tablets will be given for free and need not be returned. 

Educational expert Abdel-Hafiz Tayel, president of the Egyptian Centre for the Right to Education, said that all educational systems can succeed anywhere and can also fail, depending on the environment in which the system is applied. “The integration of technology in the educational system does not fit the reality of Egyptian public schools and students. It addresses only a very small segment of society which enters private schools,” Tayel said.

Tayel said the poorest villages in Egypt are not covered by the Internet or 4G mobile networks. “It would have been better for the government to teach students with the appropriate curricula in high density classrooms, or define suitable education systems for poor environments,” Tayel added.

According to Tayel, there are more than 2,000 villages which are deprived of normal education. “The ministry must take them into consideration before applying the new system,” he argued.


Shawki

Thanaweya amma will not be a nationwide exam. Each school will have its own exam to be taken from a questions bank. All questions have the same degree of difficulty. Through the bank, questions will be sent to the student electronically. The bank is secured against any breach or piracy. Teachers will participate in the drawing up of question banks.

Examinations will be corrected electronically and confidentially by teachers. The system will begin to be applied to existing curricula, and gradually modified. 

“I am not sure that annulling the thanaweya amma is a correct decision. This will put an end to the principle of equal opportunity for students,” said Mahabat Abu Emera, professor of educational curricula at Ain Shams University. 

Abu Emera said since education is a national security issue, the new system should have been submitted to education experts and specialists to discuss it and increase people’s awareness about it before handing it to the cabinet. 

Knowledge Bank is a key partner in the development and the availability of electronic curricula; there will be no book or specific curriculum. Through Knowledge Bank the ministry will provide all new curricula. This is in addition to the educational, cultural and research resources which will be available for students through the bank free of charge. Information available in the bank is from major international publishing houses. The new system depends on self-learning based on students acquiring information on their own. 

The role of teachers will be limited to only guidance and not indoctrination, as is the case now. Therefore, the teacher will not be able to control grades since it will put an end to private lessons.

The system stipulates that teachers would record the absence of students electronically and will be responsible for any forgery. Students who exceed the percentage of absences, 25 per cent, will not sit for the exam.

The system was co-authored by international experts. Its chances of success are very high, according to Mohamed Omar, director of the Fund for Supporting and Financing Educational Projects.  

“The ministry has developed solutions to all the problems of the new system, including technological infrastructure,” Omar said. 

Mohamed Al-Tayeb, a professor of education at the University of Tanta, said the vision officials in Egypt have in education is not clear. “There is no objection to implementing a new educational system but this should first deal with persistent problems such as the scarcity in the number of schools compared with the number of students and the huge difference in the quality of school education as we have public, private and international, dropouts and only a small number of qualified school teachers,” Al-Tayeb said.

While having high hopes in the new system, parents have fears stemming from their lack of knowledge about its details.

“The new system is not yet clear,” said Ratiba Ahmed, mother of a pupil in his ninth year. “It has to be applied first to understand it properly and to know its pros and cons. In general it could be good. Let’s hope for the best.”

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