October 1, 2014, Cairo – Tarek Shawki, dean of the School of Sciences and Engineering at The American University in Cairo (AUC), has been chosen to head the first Specialized Council on Education and Scientific Research affiliated to the Egyptian Presidency. The four other AUC professors chosen as members of the council are Malak Zaalouk, professor of practice in the Graduate School of Education, Amal Esawi, professor of mechanical engineering and associate director of the Yousef Jameel Science and Technology Research Center at the School of Sciences and Engineering, Randa Abdel Kerim, adjunct professor in the School of Sciences and Engineering and Joyce Rafla, a professional educator diploma instructor at the AUC and the youngest member of the council. Dean Shawki explains that the council’s overarching vision is to focus on building the Egyptian Scientific mind, by producing a generation of Egyptian who are prepared to be life-long learners. “The idea is to create a strategic think tank that sets the strategy for the next 20 to 30 years.”According to Shawki, the council’s main aim is to study, research and to recommend courses of action on educational matters, provide practical and creative solutions to Egypt’s problems in education and scientific research, in addition to coordinating and creating synergy between the country’s various ministries and institutions on education and scientific research. The council will also set a national strategy for education and scientific research, study the successful models in other countries and build connections with various educational institutions around the world.
“We are proud at AUC that five members are on board of the council. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that four of my colleagues were also chosen,” said Shawki, who has accepted a public post for the first time in his career.
Shawki is a distinguished academic, consultant and international education executive. Holding a PhD in engineering from Brown University, Shawki served for 13 years as professor of theoretical and applied mechanics at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Afterwards, he spent more than a decade between Cairo and Paris working at UNESCO, where he was a key player in the development of several innovative programs related to education and technology. These include establishing a set of universal benchmarks for teacher competencies in the use of informational communications technologies, as well as developing a global, multilingual and digital library of high-quality e-courseware content available free of charge to students and teachers around the world.
Zaalouk, who holds a diploma in educational planning from the International Institute of Educational Planning IIEP in Paris, a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Hull UK, an MA in Sociology from the American University in Cairo and a BA in political science from the same university, has been advocating for the establishment of such a council since 2007. “Such a council allows for institutional and collective decision making around issues of education as opposed to personalized individual preferences. The council fosters continuity of educational visions and strategies that transcend changing governments and ministers hence allowing for achievements to be made over time.” Zaalouk has both research and field experience in the area of education both at pre-university and university levels.
Essawi is chosen for the scientific research subcommittee of the council which focuses on challenges related to scientific research in Egypt. “It is a huge responsibility but I am honored to have been selected since this council handles one of the most important challenges facing Egypt. Without well-educated youth and high quality scientific research Egypt will not develop into the country we are all dreaming about,” she said.
After completing her BSc in mechanical engineering (1989) and an MSc in materials engineering (1990), both from The American University in Cairo, Professor Essawi joined the University of Cambridge in the UK from which she obtained her PhD. in the field of materials and manufacturing process selection (1995). Upon completion of her PhD, she was appointed as a post-doctoral research associate at the Engineering Design Center of Cambridge University Engineering Department working under Professor M.F. Ashby until 2000. The research methodologies she developed during both her PhD and her post-doc were implemented in the Cambridge Engineering Selector – the world leading teaching resource for materials in engineering, science, processing and design used by over 600 universities worldwide.
Rafla, holds a Master of Arts in cognitive studies in education from Teachers College, Columbia University (2013) and a Bachelor of Arts in economics from AUC (2008) and has worked with governmental and nongovernmental schools, in addition to working with the Center of Learning and Teaching to provide curricular development, and course redesigns. “It is very positive to see the government expressing interest and determination to fix education in Egypt. When you look at the patterns used in the strategy of the ministry of education, you can see how tangible they are, formed without an abstract or a philosophy, so now we have that philosophy and it will guide us towards a strategy. We look forward to working on the strategy,” she notes.
Members in the council are volunteers and are expected to meet once a month yet are already effectively communicating on a regular basis. Shawki explained that, “in terms of choosing the members, diversity and competence were the main priority, in addition to maintaining a 50/50 gender balance and an average age of 40 years old.”