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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Egypt could ask World Bank for larger funding package for educational reform, minister says as he unveils educational reform strategy

Egypt may ask the World Bank for a bigger funding package to support its educational reform project, the total cost of which has been estimated at some USD 2 bn, Education Minister Tarek Shawky said yesterday as he fleshed out details of the reform program, Al Ahram reports. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has asked that government officials open talks with the World Bank to increase to USD 1 bn a USD 500 mn loan to fund education reform that Investment Minister Sahar Nasr is set to sign on 20 April, according to Shawky.

Background: The Ismail Cabinet signed off last week on a five-year reform plan that should abolish the Thanaweya Amma system and scrap curricula and test methods that emphasize rote memorization. The new system will be implemented as of September for kindergarten and students in the first years of primary and secondary education, Shawky said.

Thanaweya Amma Exams are going digital. The system, which is modeled in part after the education systems of Japan and Finland, will continue to divide students into two streams, one more arts-focused, the other more focused on science. Instead of a single national exam, however, public and private high school students enrolled in the national system will receive their final exams electronically on tablet devices provided to them by the ministry (and manufactured locally by the ICT and Military Production ministries), according to the minister, who said that the first batch of tablets will cost state coffers around EGP 2.5-3 bn. Students will be allowed to take their exams at home under an “open-book” style. Tests will also be corrected electronically and anonymously.

Pearson Education will provide the hardware and infrastructure for the new digital system and train ministry personnel on how to use it. Cabinet is expected to sign the contract with Pearson following their weekly meeting on Wednesday, Shawky said, without providing details on the value of the agreement. The minister explained that the system will also contain a “bank” of exam questions set by teachers, experts, and administrators from which the ministry will draw when putting final exams together. Attendance will also be managed electronically and will automatically block students from taking exams if they exceed their maximum quota of absences, he said.

Media blitz to win support for education reform: Education minister Shawky blanketed the airwaves lasts night with appearances designed to win public support for the reform drive. The new system will eliminate the need for costly private lessons, Shawky told Hona Al Asema’s Lamees Al Hadidi (watch, runtime: 56:38) and Masaa DMC’s Eman El Hosary, as he explained that most of these lessons rely on having students memorize answers to standard exam questions, which will no longer be the case (watch, runtime: 17:02).

The House of Representatives is nodding along in agreement. Education Committee head Gamal Sheeha told Lamees that MPs have been waiting for the strategy for over 15 months. He pointed out though that the amount earmarked for education in the budget is lower than what is constitutionally acceptable (watch, runtime: 5:07).

Parents, however, are still finding the whole thing too vague. While the Association of Thanaweya Amma Parents are not against reforms in premise, the fact that the new system counts into the final grade marks from all three years of high school is a bit concerning, given that the current system counts only two years’ worth of grades, association head Alia El Gemaili told El Hosary on Masaa DMC (watch, runtime: 4:50).

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