Education in 2022: Putting covid-19 in the rearview mirror but facing a completely different set of challenges
With the worst of covid-19 behind us, 2022 should have been smoother for education — but there were new forces to reckon with: With rising inflation and two EGP devaluations throughout the calendar year, coupled with several sector-wide shakeups and policy shifts, the education sector’s first academic year without covid lockdowns was not exactly uneventful. Education providers and parents alike faced cost pressures, while a changing of the guard at the ministry leaves questions about the fate of policy directions. Still, the sector remains ripe for innovation and investments in new segments, and we’ve seen serious growth in alternative educational institutions, such as nonprofit universities.
The academic year got off to an eventful start when Tarek Shawki was replaced as education minister by Reda Hegazy, who was formerly the deputy education minister for teachers’ affairs, in a wide-ranging cabinet shuffle in August. Shawki ran headlong into wide opposition from teachers and parents over his bold education reforms — known as Education 2.0 — that many of us thought were very much what the doctor ordered. Shawki’s departure from the ministry left question marks on the fate of his ambitious policy program, although we haven’t seen any concrete indications
Proposed amendments to the Education Law also received heavy condemnation from MPs and were rejected by the House Education Committee on the basis that they were unconstitutional in February. The bill outlined plans to ban parents from accessing public services and awarding fines of between EGP 500-1k if their children miss a week of school without sufficient reason.
Also making an appearance this year: The perennial problem that is tutoring centers: After the Tax Authority scrapped plans to tax the centers in November 2021 (following significant backlash), Hegazy spoke to the House of Representatives of the need for licensing regulation in the industry. The centers remain part of the informal economy, ungoverned by legislation and receiving little oversight. Last month, Hegazy walked back on proposals to start licensing private tutoring centers following backlash, with many worrying that licensed private tutoring centers would replace schools as a main venue for education and teaching.
There were also policy changes in higher education: In June, the Higher Education Ministry’s Supreme Council of Private Universities scrapped the Tansik-style system for private and nonprofit university admissions, a little over a year after its introduction.
How it worked (or didn’t): The system allocated students to universities based on their final grade, superseding choices made by the students or universities, worrying universities that they might not reach their student target numbers. The trial appears to have failed, leading ministers to change the admissions process and replacing it with a system similar to that of the UK’s UCAS platform, which acts as an administrative centralized admissions system, without the additional regulatory element. You can read our in-depth explainer on the system here.
So how does the new system work? The new tech will allow students to apply to the university of their choice through the university website and the university will be responsible for registering the application on the portal. The portal will have a mirroring system, allowing the Supreme Council to see applications as they are submitted and maintain track of how they are processed — ensuring a transparent process that strikes a healthy balance between oversight and flexibility for both sides.
And then there was the growth of nonprofit universities: Amendments to the Private and Nonprofit Universities Act the government put forth towards the end of 2020 to encourage state universities to establish nonprofit universities began to bear fruit this year, after the House of Representatives signed off on them last year. We saw several new nonprofit universities in the pipeline in 2022, with 12 beginning operations this academic year, Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar previously said. Fees and tuition for the new universities would be equal to the cost of the educational service, Abdel Ghaffar reportedly said. For the NPs by partnering with public universities they would be financially supported by transfer from the public universities surplus operating budget.
Why nonprofit? The new universities are being positioned to directly compete with their fully private and nonprofit counterparts and charge competitive prices. The appearance of (additional) nonprofit universities in the education sector will expand the offering of high quality education choices and accommodate an ever growing student population.
Looking outside of Cairo: The new nonprofit universities are being set up in Alexandria, Assiut, Menoufia, and Ismailia, among other governorates, with the aim to provide quality higher education outside of typical urban hubs. Not only will the new nonprofits expand the market offering of quality and affordable higher education options outside of Cairo, there is a demand for new educational programs needed to meet the needs of the labor market that these institutions could help to address.
Your top education stories for the week:
- The Senate Education Committee wants to introduce 13-hour schooldays in public schools to tackle the problem of private tutoring.
- The UK’s Uppingham School will open a branch in New Giza in 2024 under a partnership with New Era Education.
- The Education Ministry pushed back final exams for Thanaweya Amma students from May to 10 June.
- The American University in Cairo (AUC) has been named Egypt’s most eco-friendly university, according to the GreenMetric World University ranking for 2022. AUC ranked 134th globally, followed by Cairo University and Benha University at 270 and 275 out of a total 1.05k entries.