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Description of the educational system in Egypt

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 4562 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The purpose of this chapter is to give the reader a general view of the context in which the study is conducted. The chapter will move, from global to specific, by giving a general description of the educational system in Egypt ranging from its philosophy, structuring and finance to curriculum planning, design and development. Emphasis will be given to English language education; its aims, and way of development. A further point about higher education: current situation and national reform is highlighted. Finally, EFL teacher training programme, the role of CDELT in achieving national goals are brought into focus for its importance to the whole purpose of the investigation.

2.1 Country profile

The Arab Republic of Egypt lies in the north eastern part of Africa and Sinai Peninsula in the western part of Asia. It is approximately one million square kilometres in size. The population of Egypt was estimated in 2008 as 75,175,062 according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics in Egypt. (Said & Mourad, 2008).

2.2 The nature and philosophy of education in Egypt

Egypt’s education system is the largest in the Mena region and among the largest systems in the world. As of 1999-2000, the system reported an enrolment of approximately 16 million, of which 7 million are in primary education, 4 million in preparatory education, 3 million in secondary education, and over 1.8 million in tertiary education. The system also employs the largest number of civil servants in Egypt about 3.8 million employees (The World Bank, 2007).

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Some negative characteristics of the Egyptian educational system include what Hargreaves (1997) termed “a linear unifying fusion”; teachers with low levels both in the knowledge of the subject matter and in pedagogy; a mismatch between syllabuses and curricula drawn at the central national level and the actual teaching learning situation; ritualisation, and mechanistic learning and teaching methods. Other negative features include: examination-driven instruction, politicisation, bureaucracy that hinders the achievement of essential targets behind schooling, limited resources, centralisation, and mal-distribution of educational services amongst the state regions (Jarrar & Massialas, 1992).

Many of the shortcomings of the educational system, and indeed its failure to bring about effective long-term reform, have been due to its being highly centralised, in spite of attempts at decentralisation. The system is very hierarchical, with the Ministry of Higher Education (MOE) at the top of the pyramid. The system is based on seniority rather than merit. Due to its highly centralised and bureaucratic nature, the educational system defines and predetermines what is to be taught, how it is to be taught, the roles of teachers and learners, as well as the intended outcomes of the educational process. Given this character, the Egyptian educational system is almost impervious to influences and initiatives from teachers, parents and learners (Gahin, 2001).

Egyptian education has been portrayed. according to (Hargreaves, 1997) as “undemocratic”, “teacher-centred’, “authoritarian”’ and “highly competitive”. Students’ greatest concern is to store and maintain information so that when it is needed, they pour it out in the exam which is held to test their evidence of learning. Their exam scores are the sole criteria for students’ success.

2.3 Higher Education System in Egypt

Egypt has a very extensive higher education system. About 30% of all Egyptians in the relevant age group go to university. However, only half of them graduate. The Ministry of Higher Education supervises the tertiary level of education. There are a number of universities catering to students in diverse fields. In the current education system, there are 17 public universities, 51 public non-university institutions, 16 private universities and 89 private higher institutions. The higher education cohort is expected to increase by close to 6 percent (60,000) students per annum through 2009.(Higher Education in Egypt: Reviews of National Policies for Education, 2010)

In 1990, a legislation was passed to provide greater autonomy to the universities . But still the education infrastructure, equipment and human resources are not in place to cater to the rising higher education students. But there has not been a similar increase in spending on improving the higher education system in terms of introduction of new programs and technologies. Both at national level (inspection systems, examinations) and at local level (school level student assessments) measures of the success of education strategies and the performance of the system are weak. (Ginsburb & Megahed, 2009)

Although higher education was founded much earlier in Egypt before it appeared in Europe (Metcalfe, 2008), The Government of Egypt recognizes that there are still real challenges to be faced in the sector, foremost amongst which are the need to significantly improve sector governance and efficiency, increase institutional autonomy, significantly improve the quality and relevance of higher education programs, and maintain coverage at existing levels. Recent Government actions to build political consensus on issues critical to reform have created a climate that is ripe for change.

The Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) acts as a champion for reform. The Minister, appointed in 1997, quickly established a committee for the reform of higher education known as the Higher Education Enhancement Programme (HEEP) Committee which drew in a wide range of stakeholders including industrialists and parliamentarians. A National Conference on higher education reform was held in February 2000, and a Declaration for action emanating from the Conference was endorsed by the President and the Prime Minister. The Declaration identified 25 specific reform initiatives.

Due to the dynamic nature of the reform strategy, which entails reconsidering priorities for each period, a Strategic Planning Unit (SPU) was established for the MOHE to ensure the sustainability of planning and project monitoring during the three phases and for future ones. A Students’ Activity Project (SAP) was also initiated as part of program accreditation similar to scientific research and post graduate studies.

2.3.1 Egyptian universities:

Universities in Egypt are generally either state-funded or privately funded. Education in Egypt is free by law, however there are very small fees paid for enrollment. Public institutions, with few exceptions are generally overcrowded with a student body of several thousands. Private universities are either Egyptian or foreign, and usually have a much smaller student body and with a much higher tuition rates. Public Universities

Public universities are under government administration. Public Higher education is free in Egypt, and Egyptian students only pay registration fees. International students pay full tuition with fees that reach up to £ 1,500 a year.

In 2004, the Egyptian government announced its plan to create new public universities from splitting multi-branch universities (Cairo University, Menoufia HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanta_University”University). This should allow the expansion of these much neglected smaller rural branches and provide space for the increasing number of students. There is also al Azhar University, considered the best university for the study of religion and science. Private Universities

Before 1993, only two private foreign institutions were established decades ago. The American University in Cairo, founded in 1919 and the Arab Academy for Science and Technology (AAST). Under a new law in 1993, Egyptian private universities were established starting from 1996. These new universities are accredited from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Universities every 3 years, in addition to accreditation from foreign educational bodies in Europe. (Herrera, 2007)

2.3.2 Admission

Admission to public universities and institutions operates through a centralized office, Admission Office of Egyptian Universities. This office receives applications after the results from the General Secondary Education Certificate are announced in any of its offices or online. The application dates are announced every year but usually take place every August.

The application is both discipline-based and university-based. Students are asked to fill the admissions application that listing their choices of their desired discipline and university in a descending order of priority. Students with higher scores have a better chance of securing a place for themselves in their school of choice. While lower-scoring student may “get stuck” in a school or discipline different from that they desired, which might lead them to seek admission in private universities where competition for places is less fierce.

Admission to private universities is different and is similar to world wide enrollment procedures.

2.3.3 Curriculum

In universities, general or private, curricula are left to lecturers and professors to decide the philosophy, guidelines, and even materials that they think students should learn.

Generally speaking, the curriculum is centralised enough to embody political and egalitarian principles presented in free education and ensuring that all pupils have access to the same programme of study. It aims to raise standards, ensure that all students attain the objectives at each level, and to create the conditions for increased school and teacher accountability.

2.4 English language education in Egypt

English has long been given a special status in Egypt, whether “a necessary evil during the British occupation” or “a practical vehicle for educational, economic and… social mobility (Schaub, 2000, p. 235)”. the main objectives set for ELT are to develop the ability to use English for communication; to foster favourable attitudes towards learning in general and towards appropriate foreign cultures in particular; to develop an awareness of the nature of language and language learning and hence, achieve cross-cultural awareness; to help students’ lifelong learning as well as develop self-independence and to promote collaborative as a step towards bringing up citizens who appreciate teamwork (Schaub, 2000).

These are what is stated as the theoretical aims of education. However, As far as the EFL classroom is concerned, it is not different from any other school subject, since it is a part of the whole system. The situation might conceivably be worse, due to the special nature of the English language teaching in Egypt. The dominant pattern in the majority of classrooms is that of an active teachers and passive learners. The teacher is the sole authority to decide “what” and “haw” in the teaching and learning process, based on the knowledge spelled out by the stakeholders.

In terms of quality, the teaching and learning of EFL is characterised by teachers’ low proficiency in the target language. Teachers’ main interest and aim is to get their students to pass their exams. Students’ marks in such exams are the evidence of teachers’ success along with their authorities in achieving the aims of the MOE. That is why it is not surprising to find a parallel system of education called “private tuition” aiming at enabling students to pass the exams and get high marks. This private and marks oriented tuition has long been fought by the government, which tries hard to take serious and severe measures against it. However, these efforts have been in vain up to now. Besides, a large percentage of primary and preparatory school teachers are non-specialists (41%) (Ibrahim, 2008). In addition, evaluation techniques do not cope with the development in learning and teaching methodology techniques, and are quite far from the actual assessment of students’ performance.

2.5 Teacher training Reform Programme:

Egypt has no shortage of teachers, indeed if anything Egypt has a surplus of teachers, with some of 800,000 teachers currently believed to be in the country. (Abdel-WAHAB, January 2008)

(Crookes, 2003) concludes that indigenous Egyptian teachers, though not necessarily using activities or classroom interaction patterns thought most desirable by Second Language Acquistion theorists, probably get better than foreign instructors; but that the large class contexts that were new to the Egyptian education system( through not unusual around the world) were a challenge met by the visitors. However the techniques used by visitors to manage theses challenges, Holliday suggests, would be unlikely to have positive long-term effects because they did not build on indigenous patterns and preferences.

(Holliday, 1996) concludes that” only a new, rationalized-yet traditional- approach, could be fully effective in the….culture of Egyptian university large classes….. Exceptions apart, only local lecturers would be able fully to achieve this, because it would require a rationalized building and re-allocation[ of ideas and resources] on an existing traditional basis(p.100)

Well aware of the challenges, the government is now looking for new ways of doing things and has emarked on a large scale reform programme of public education to give individual instituttions greater autonomy and participation to the private sector to help increase capacity and improve standards.

(The Report: Egypt 2009, 2009) The major achievements of the Higher Education Enhancement Programme (HEEP) have been integrated into the national Education strategic plan for the period 2008-2012, which aims to decentralize the national the national school structure, introduce school-based reform and improve human resources through professional development programmes. The increased emphasis on teacher training within the framework of the National Education Strategic Plan is considered one of the most important aspects of the reform programme.

2.6 EFL prospective teachers preparation programme at Menoufia University:

Since the focus in this study is centred on prospective EFL teachers’ perceptions of microteaching, it will be useful to provide an overview of Menoufia university, Faculty of education and their preparation programme in the school of education.

2.6.1 Menoufia University: Historical background

An Egyptian Public University founded in 1976, is located principally in Shibin el Kom, a city in Delta and the capital of the Monufia Governorate. There is also a branch in 1″Sadat City, founded in 2006. It contains faculties: of Education, Agriculture , Arts, Computers and Information, Commerce, Law, and Medicine. Both undergraduate and post-graduate education is offered.

2.6.2 Menoufia university mission, general purposes and strategic objectives

Menoufia university’s mission is contributing to build the academic and moral structure of people, and developing both the local and national societies by providing the specialized knowledge and skills particularly those that are related to the rural and new industrial communities through high quality educational, research, and societal services that can help the university to achieve a competitive advantage at the national, regional, and international levels. The general purposes of the University represent the key indicators of success of the accomplishment of the University’s mission. Seven general purposes are identified for Menoufiya University. Each of the previous general purposes has a number of strategic objectives that reflect them.(see appendix 1)

2.6.3 Faculty of Education, Menoufia University

The faculty of Education was first established in 1971 , affiliated to Ain Shams University. In 1975, it became affiliated to Tanta University. The faculty then became affiliated to Minoufiya University at its founding in 1976. It contains departments of Educational Psychology. Curricula and Teaching Methods, and Education Fundamentals. Its Bachelors degrees are offered in combination with one of the departments in the faculty of Arts or the Faculty of Science.

2.6.4 school of Education English department preparation courses:

Theoretically, EFL teachers is prepared in the faculty of education through two complementary sets of courses. The first set of courses is mainly language proficiency courses (subject matter knowledge like English literature, translation, grammar, phonetics, and linguistics), and the second set is pedagogical courses (the teaching proficiency), including courses like foundations of education; comparative education; educational psychology; along with the teaching practicum that aims to prepare student teachers for the prospective job. The practicum is jointly carried out and supervised by the MOE inspectors and teachers along with the staff of faculties of education.

Improving Pre service teacher training programmes:

The national board for professional teaching standards (NBPTS) identified five characteristics of high-quality teacher:

Teachers are committed to students and their learning.

Teachers know the subject they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.

Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.

Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.

Teachers are members of learning communities.

Demand for teacher preparation programs at institutions of higher education and through a continuing process of development and research, the center for the development of English Language Teaching (CDELT) supported by the Integrated English Language Program (IELP- II) have integrated information about instructional principles to develop Egyptian standards for teachers graduating from pre-service English teacher education programs (STEP). Through the professional education program, candidates are expected to meet the standards at increasingly complex levels. Candidates are assessed at each level to demonstrate performance. The themes of constructing knowledge, developing practice, and fostering relationships provide the foundation for each of the standards. These standards, which are grouped into five main domains classroom management, language, instruction, assessment, and professionalism, form the backbone of our teacher education programs.

The STEPS project is a nationwide initiative under the auspices of the Center for the Development of English Language Teaching (CDELT) in collaboration with the Program Planning and Monitoring Unit (PPMU). It is sponsored by the Integrated English Language Project II (IELP-II). Its aim is to set standards for teachers of English at pre-service level. The STEPS task force consists of representatives from twelve Faculties of Education from nine universities and from the Ministry of Education of the Arab Republic of Egypt. The Task Force has drafted a set of standards in five domains describing what newly qualified teachers from our Faculties of Education should know and be able to do.

The Role of CDELT to improve Clinical supervision during Practicum:

According to (Bowers & Gaies, 1997), Five principles underline the clinical supervivsion of CDELT courses. These are:

There should be a balance between. theory and practice, between the ”educational” and the ” training” functions.

The feasibility of proposals for change in teacher performance should be judged against the real constraints of the teaching context.

The personal sensitivity essential to effective counciling and training is best developed within the security of a system or” paradigm” of counselor-teacher interaction.

Observation should be systematic and focused, with evaluation based on evidence available to the teacher.

Counseling should guide the teacher toward specific, measurable, and moderate changes in behavior.

Examination of theses principles offers an indication of the strategy of the CDELT approach to supervisor preparation. The CDELT offers a full-time course of 24 weeks. It includes 20 week course work in four blocks of 5 weeks each, and one 4-week block of practical experience, in the middle of five blocks. During the first two blocks, along with courses related to language improvement, there are lectures and seminars in introduction to linguistics, theories of English language teaching, and teaching methods. Theses satisfy the need to establish perceptions of what language is, what teaching is, and alternative approaches to the teaching of English.

Over the diploma course as a whole, we aim to incorporate into supervisor preparation the five essential aims of teacher education identified by , which among them ensure theoretical appreciation and practical application: rationale, experience, observation, trial and integration.

2.7 Conclusion

The aim of this chapter has been to provide the layout of the Egyptian educational system so as to give the reader an overview about the context in which this study is connected, elucidating why this study is important for Egyptian education in general and language education in Egypt in particular. Moreover, the chapter reveals the changes and circumstances that have been underway for almost two decades now. These changes are represented by suggesting and designing new approaches, principles and arms for the general education, and in particular, for EFL learning and teaching.

The following chapter is mainly devoted to reviewing the literature related to EFl teacher preparation programme and the role of microteaching in improving their teaching performance.

Abdel-WAHAB, A. (January 2008). Modeling Students’ Intention to Adopt E-learning: A Case From Egypt. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE, 9, 157-167.

Bowers, R., & Gaies, S. (Eds.). (1997). Clinical supervision of language teaching: the supervision as trainer and educator Cambridge university press.

Crookes, G. (Ed.). (2003). A practicum in TESOL: Professional Development through Teaching Practice: Cambridge University Press.

Ginsburb, M., & Megahed, N. (Eds.). (2009). Comparative Perspectives on Teachers, Teaching and Professionalism Springer.

Hargreaves, E. (1997). The diploma disease in Egypt: Learning, teaching and the monster of the secondary leaving certificate. . Assessment in Education, 4, 161-167.

Herrera, L. (Ed.). (2007). Higher Education in the Arab World: Springer.

Higher Education in Egypt: Reviews of National Policies for Education. (2010).).

Holliday, A. (Ed.). (1996). Large-and small-class cultures in Egyptian university classrooms: a cultural justification for curriculum change.: Cambrigde University press.

Ibrahim, H. (2008). The strategic reading processes of Egyptian EFL learners. Exeter University.

Metcalfe, A. (Ed.). (2008). Theorizing Research Policy: A Framework for Higher Education: Springer.

The Report: Egypt 2009. (2009).): Oxford business group.

Said, M., & Mourad, M. (Eds.). (2008). Egypt. Baston: Baston College Center for International Higher Education.

Schaub, M. (2000). English in the Arab Republic of Egypt. World Englishes, 19(2), 225-238.

Appendix 1 Menoufia University mission, aims and Strategic Objectives


Strategic objectives


A graduate who is compatible with the contemporary challenges

Improving the quality of the educational process according to the both the local and international standards.

Linking the education with the  issues  of both  society  and  local  environment.

Effective leadership of students.

Improving the health and social care of the students.

Increasing the competitive capabilities of the graduates in the labor market.


An excellent staff member.

Accurate selection of the teaching and supporting staff members.

Sustainability of the integrated development of the teaching and supporting staff members.

Effective motivation of the teaching and supporting staff members.

Continuous performance appraisal of the teaching and supporting staff members.

Advanced systems for promoting the teaching and supporting  staff members.


Advanced academic research to be oriented by the purposes of the national comprehensive development plans.

Building an advanced academic base for the scientific research.

Linking the scientific research with the issues of the comprehensive development plans at the national level.


Promoting values and ideal principles.

Developing and deepening the belongingness to Egypt.

Building the positive personality.

Assuring the values and commitment.

Assuring and respecting the university’s values and traditions.


Civilized society and developing environment.

Directing and using the scientific research to serve the development needs of the environment.

Freedom of opinion and protection of intellectual property.

Improving the quality of life.

Developing awareness of the cultural heritage.

Developing the sense of beauty and encouraging creativity.

Developing the environmental awareness.

Promoting the behaviors that are compatible with the society development.


Distinguished status of the University in the development process of the education system.

Differentiating the university from others al both the local and international levels.

Improving the society’s trust and convection of the university’s role  and achievements.

Activating the university’s contributions in the local and international  academic movement.

More effective role of the university in the current development systems of the higher education and scientific research.


Effective administrative system.

Improving the organization of the university’s councils and committees.

Improving the university’s organizational and job structures.

Computerizing both the administrative and financial systems.

Improving the organizing aspects of the university’s financial and private business units.

Improving the selection process of the non-academic leaders and the administrative staff.

Continuous development of abilities and skills of administrative staff.

Effective motivation of the administrative staff.

Effective performance appraisal and controlling of the administrative system.


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