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Monday, 23 May 2022

Project Profile- The Egyptian Knowledge Bank

PROJECT PROFILE- The Egyptian Knowledge Bank (EKB): The Education Ministry in 2016 launched the Egyptian Knowledge Bank (EKB) — its very own online portal offering access to the archives of some 50 academic publishers along with scores of other educational materials to students, researchers and curious readers of all stripes at zero cost. The project spearheaded by now-Education Minister Tarek Shawki — at the time in his capacity as chairman of the presidential advisory council for education and scientific research — is part of the government’s broader efforts to incorporate greater digitization into education and expand access to high-quality educational materials. The EKB had a hand in supporting online learning at the start of the pandemic in 2020 by offering digital content and interactive materials for students at all levels of schooling and will likely continue to grow its influence as the government’s digitization drive continues to push onwards.

So who exactly gets access to the Egyptian Knowledge Bank? Since its inception, the EKB has been billed as a resource granting Egyptian nationals access to high-quality research and educational materials. “By providing these materials [without] charge, the knowledge bank ensures that all Egyptians, no matter what their economic circumstances, will have the tools they need to excel in their education and research,” according to Education Minister Tarek Shawki. All you need to access the platform is a national ID number, which you’ll use to register a new account, and an Egypt-based IP address. Even non-Egyptians are eligible for registration, provided that they are students or faculty at an Egypt-based educational institution.

What’s available on the platform: Academic articles, e-books and videos from the likes of Nature, Elsevier, National Geographic, Scopus, Springer Ebooks and Cengage Learning e-textbooks are among the dozens of publishers and journals available on the EKB’s online portal. Just last year, the EKB reached an agreement with Springer Nature that provides access to some 2.4k journals and paves the way for Egypt-based researchers to publish their own work through Springer — which is also set to offer no-cost editing services to Egyptian researchers looking to publish their work. Earlier this year the EKB announced a partnership agreement with the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) that would open up access to some 14k videos covering STEM-related topics.

And it's not just a resource for dense academic papers: Resources on EKB are broken down into several categories: Reader, scientific research, and higher education, basic education and kids. The Encyclopedia Britannica, for example, has its own kids-focused education material that helps support learning numbers, letters, and drawing through games. On Booki, a separate downloadable application offered through the platform, users can read dozens of Arabic and English-language short stories and digitized comic books. Workshops and educational events led by these independent publications are frequently organized through the portal as well. Things like how to incorporate gamification in the classroom offered by Nagwa and a Discovery Education-led workshop on how to support project based learning and design thinking are just a few of the programs you’ll find on offer. In some instances educational institutions can even request special training tutorials be held to help students better utilize the resource.

At the height of the pandemic students came to rely on the EKB for some of their remote learning needs: As students were forced to shift to online learning during the height of the pandemic in 2020, visual teaching resources like Designmate were enlisted to support instruction while high school students were expected to rely more heavily on the EKB for keeping up with school curriculum.

But there are still some challenges facing the system: English and European-language papers remain the most prevalent in academic publishing, meaning that their reach and value remain limited to many in Egypt. Admittedly, this is a global challenge inherent to publishing and scientific research, but a hurdle nonetheless for the EKB which has most of its offering in the English language. The EKB says, according to their website, that they are working on setting up their own translation service “based on the users’ needs.”

The EKB’s role in Egypt’s education is most likely going to continue to grow: Earlier this year the Supreme Council of Universities signed a cooperation agreement with EKB to create a “management system” for remote learning in public universities. As the Education Ministry tries to lean more heavily into e-books and digital texts in the coming years to avoid the skyrocketing costs of printing physical books, the EKB could play an even larger role in supporting all levels of education in the country.

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