Egypt's sinking schools

Solid, interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor about Egypt's sinking school system. I knew things were bad, but we are talking Titanic:

According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2012-13, Egypt ranked 139th out of 144 countries in the quality of its educational system and 129th in staff training.

Of the 15 countries considered to be in the same development stage as Egypt, only Libya ranked lower for the educational system's quality. Mongolia and Honduras were a few spots ahead at Nos. 136 and 135, respectively.

The Ministry of Education has a budget of £50 billion (Egyptian; US$7.8 billion) to educate some 18 million students, according to Nesr Eldin Shahad, an education professor at Helwan University on the outskirts of Cairo and an adviser to the education committee of the ruling Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Some 85 percent of that goes to salaries – the education sector is the largest government employer in Egypt – leaving only a fraction of the funds available for other student needs.

According to Mr. Abou Serie, the budget needs to at least double to deal with all the problems facing the system.

Even just focusing on what Mr. Shahad views as the most critical problem – bringing class sizes down from as large as 100 students to under 40 – will require somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 new schools, as well as more teachers to staff them, at a cost of more than £10 billion ($1.6 billion) by Shahad's estimate.

The article also discusses the greater openness of teachers and students after the revolution, but I wish they had also touched on the ongoing problem of rampant corporal punishment, and on instances of teachers abusing their powers. 

Update: Here is the full WEF report.


Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.