Faculty Experts: Teachers, Sustainable Education Reform Policies

“We are betting on the Egyptian educator, and our plan is to help with the educator’s advancement and development; focusing on the teacher is a strategic investment,” said Malak Zaalouk, professor of practice in the Graduate School of Education and director of the Middle East Institute for Higher Education at AUC.

Zaalouk was part of a public panel held at AUC Tahrir Square discussing the challenges facing Egyptian education. The panel featured five of the 11 members of Egypt’s first Specialized Council for Education and Scientific Research. In addition to Zaalouk, these included Tarek Shawki, dean of the School of Sciences and Engineering at AUC and head of the council; Amal Esawi, professor of mechanical engineering at AUC; Joyce Rafla, pedagogy and assessment officer in AUC’s Center of Learning and Teaching; and Ashraf Shaalan, president of the National Research Center. The panel was moderated by Hafez Al Mirazi, director of the Kamal Adham Center for Television and Digital Journalism and professor of practice in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at AUC.

Focusing on the current laws and regulations governing the educational process in Egypt, Shawki noted that many of them could be amended, instead of overhauled. “We are putting down a long-term strategy for the next 15 - 20 years, yet there are short-term goals that include setting a legal framework and redistributing resources,” he said.

One area that needs special attention, Shawki added, is re-evaluation of the concept of public universities. “In order for students to receive a full scholarship to study at a public university, they have to succeed, to ensure social justice for other hard-working students,” he affirmed. “If students fail for a certain number of years, they should start paying a percentage of their college education, and the money would be pumped back into the public universities.”

Rafla, the youngest member of the council, explained that she had lost hope in the educational system, but realized after interacting with teachers through her line of work at AUC, that there is a lot of unutilized potential in Egypt. “By providing professional development to teachers, we can ensure that education offers different opportunities to students and gives them a choice,” she said.

The role of the Specialized Council for Education and Scientific Research is to study, research and recommend courses of action on educational matters, provide practical and creative solutions to Egypt’s problems in the realm of education and scientific research, in addition to coordinating and creating synergy between the country’s various ministries and institutions working in the field. The council is also in the process of setting a national strategy for education and scientific research, while studying all education models applied in Egypt’s modern history. “Previous models and strategies were focused on pilot projects, not the sustainability of such projects,” said XX.

To ensure sustainability, Shaalan highlighted the importance of increasing the country’s spending on scientific research. “Although it increased from 0.3 percent to 1 percent in the 2013 constitution, we still need to push that rate higher,” he said. “We need new legislation to support scientific research and create specialized research centers that would benefit the economy and various industries.”

Esawi pointed out to the gap between scientific research and the different industries in Egypt. “Almost 70 percent of our researchers work in universities across the country, and we have to help these researchers realize their full potential and provide the needed resources for them to succeed,” she said. “We will also be working on bridging the gap between both sides and removing administrative obstacles. Scientific research has to be tied to development priorities in Egypt, and an independent body should be created to assess the impact of such research on the country’s overall advancement and development.”

Encouraging citizen participation, Shawki noted that a portal will be open to the public to receive all ideas and opinions in the near future. “There are no quick fixes for the education [crisis] in Egypt, but there is will, hope and commitment from the council members, who are all volunteers, to provide a vision for Egypt’s future of education,” he said.