Recognizing Egypt’s cumulative problems in education, a change in the mindset of educators and youth is key to better education, stressed the professors of the American University in Cairo (AUC) in yesterday’s media roundtable discussion series "Behind the Headlines," titled “Education for Life: Enhancing Knowledge, Skills and Competencies of Egyptian Youth.” Speakers were AUC professors Tarek Shawki, dean of the School of Sciences and Engineering, secretary general of the Specialized Councils affiliated to the presidency and chair of the Specialized Council on Education and Scientific Research; Deena Boraie, dean and professor of practice of the School of Continuing Education and the assessment advisor for the Presidential Leadership Program and Ted Purinton, dean of the Graduate School of Education (GSE).The discussion was moderated by AUC alumna Doha Al Zohairy, TV presenter at Al Arabyia Al Hadath.Shawki explained that the plans currently in action by the Specialized Council of Education aim at supplying the youth with different skills, critical thinking, the ability to solve problems and the skills to understand and analyze. “The Educational system is currently not testing the skills of the youth but their ability to memorize. The ability to learn is a skill on its own and we are currently working on many projects in a non-linear way.” As Shawki stressed identifying the problems of education in Egypt is the easy part of reform, yet finding the solutions and implementing them always remains the difficult part. “What we really need is a change of mindset to ensure that we have quality education. For the past 50 years, the educational system has been negatively affecting the creativity of the Egyptian child and through many projects that we are currently working on, a change is expected in the coming years.”
Shawki said that the Specialized Council on Education is currently working on four projects in conjunction with the presidency, the Presidential Leadership Program (PLP), educators’ development, license to practice and the Egyptian Knowledge Bank. “We are working on parallel projects at the same time to get better results. For example, we are working with 10,000 educators on new skills and new ideas. Also with The Egyptian Knowledge Bank, a nationwide project initiated by the Specialized Council on Education and Scientific Research, all Egyptian citizens will have access to quality research and education materials, whether they are professionals or not,” he said.
According to Shawki, the Egyptian Knowledge Bank will grant anyone with an Egyptian IP address free access to publications, journals, audio/video/image libraries, software and books from around the world.
Boraie, who heads the School of Continuing Education at AUC, that caters for around 20, 000 students, said that youth are striving for knowledge. “Seeing that many high school and university students are keen on taking courses to enhance their education is reflective of their eagerness for expanding their knowledge.” Breaking the conventional style of learning from just a book and expanding the sources of information from other material, online or in the libraries are requirements for the needed change in the mindset.”
Through the PLP program, Boraie as an assessment advisor of the project, explained that young graduates need more than their university degree, “many fresh graduates get shocked when they start working because they aren’t familiar with the real working experience and how the system works in the government for example. So, we are aiming, through the PLP program, to provide the youth from 20 to 30 years old with courses on administration skills, public opinion, national security, human resources, sciences that provide them with the necessary skills to be able to perform and excel in their work.” The PLP has received 52,000 applications and through computerized assessment the number has been filtered to 5,000 applicants. In the pilot program 500 will be accepted and will take an 8-month government funded program, making sure that governorates are represented fairly using a quota system and a gender equality system.
Purinton stressed on the need of educational reform through programs that aim at improving educators who are the core of the learning process. “As the old Egyptian saying goes, you can’t give what you don’t have,” he said emphasizing the roles of the educators in the educational reform of Egypt. “Learners are different, youth think differently and that is why our teachers should go through preparation programs. The most effective teachers are the ones who will understand where the students are and what is their learning style. So improvement programs are not just for the teachers but for the children and the youth as well,” he said.