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Thursday, 21 January 2021

Big ‘W’ for private sector education

SMART POLICY- Education Ministry scraps 20% cap on foreign ownership of schools: International and private schools in Egypt will no longer face limits on foreign ownership after the Education Ministry reversed (pdf) the 20% cap imposed in 2019. The decision allows schools to be fully owned by individuals, funds, or companies with foreign or dual nationalities, provided they’re registered and based in Egypt.

The caveat: All school owners — Egyptian or otherwise — will be subject to security checks, and the ministry still holds the right to refuse to issue a license on a case-by-case basis. The relevant authorities will have the right to refer individual cases to a specialized committee of education and security officials, which will have the final say on whether to grant a license. This will depend on whether the school would “enrich the education process” or pose a threat to national security, according to the decision.

Industry breathes a sigh of relief: The move is a sign that the government is serious about attracting qualified investors to the industry — and that merit will take precedence over nationality when it comes to operating a school here, CIRA CEO Mohamed El Kalla told us. GEMS Egypt CEO Ahmed Wahby said the move would drive investment into the sector while also helping current operators improve their services and meet demand.

Background: The 20% foreign ownership limits had raised serious concerns among school operators and investors, who feared the decision would deter investors and slow expansion plans in education, one of Egypt’s most promising sectors. Investors raised concerns on the damage the decision could inflict on the investment case for Egypt’s education sector in comparison to other emerging markets. They were also wary of the lack of clarity created in the regulatory climate, and the implied uncertainty in the investment climate as the move was pushed forward suddenly, raising concerns that the rules of the game could also be changed just as quickly in other sectors. This prompted the government to engineer a compromise in the form of a committee that would handle requests for exemption to the 20% cap on a case-by-case basis in January 2020.

OTHER EDUCATION NEWS-

The public education system needs some EGP 130 bn to meet its new classroom construction targets, a problem which is compounded by the influx of an estimated 800k students each year, Education Minister Tarek Shawki said in his address to the House of Representatives yesterday, according to Youm7. The minister also recapped his ministry’s revamp of elementary school curricula and ongoing cooperation with Japan to set up 41 schools teaching Japanese-designed curricula since 2018.

AND GLOBALLY: SAT subject tests have been scrapped by the US CollegeBoard as standardized subject-based tests fall out of favor as an indicator for college admissions, CNN reports. Universities will rely instead on the results of Advanced Placement courses (APs) as indicators of a student’s subject specific knowledge. The main SAT exam will still be administered, though half of colleges in the US made them optional for admissions this year because of covid-19.

SAT exams were canceled in Egypt because of the pandemic, throwing the admissions process of universities into disarray, and calling into question universities’ reliance on the tests. But in the absence of a reliable method to ensure academic integrity at schools nationwide, standardized testing remains a useful tool in evaluating education.

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