Egyptian Education Takes a Step Backwards
Egyptian officials have recently committed numerous errors during their official speeches, mistakes in both language and information. Of course, these mistakes look laughable and perhaps ironic but they reflect the existence of a serious problem in the Egyptian education system.
There are a lot of questions about what the reasons are behind such unforgivable mistakes. Is there a link between these mistakes and the education system? Is there any relationship with the latest changes decided by the governmental institutions on the educational process, especially in universities? What is the impact on the future?
My first observation is that the people who made these mistakes are from the generations that grew up in the seventies and eighties. Most of them had already graduated from scientific colleges that adopted a specialized curriculum from the early stages.
If we went back to that history we could easily note that the education system of that period adapted a complete separation between the disciplines. A student in any scientific college was never taught any subjects related to philosophy, economics, psychology or even social sciences and vice versa for humanities students—they never learned about the sciences.
The teaching method of drowning students in their specialty is no longer used, especially with the development of modern educational theories, which started in the nineties.
Most of the private and international universities in Egypt and other Arab countries are applying new theories, which combine the humanities and the sciences as a prerequisite for obtaining a degree, similar to American, French, and English universities.
Moreover, many Arabic countries have started applying this new system even at the secondary-school level. The Egyptian educational system had already adopted this trend even in the public institutions.
Many strategy and sociology experts, as well as a wide range of intellectuals, have interpreted the political uprisings in the Arab region to the change and development that happened to the education system, affected by these new generations. Those who have been educated in these universities learned the values of discussion, dialogue and acceptance of others, which are the basic elements of any democracy.
But this learning method is threatened with cancelation in favor of going back to highly specialized learning.
Last March, the Egyptian government issued a new decision to go back to the old education system. The decision canceled the required teaching of philosophy, psychology, economics, sociology and geology. Studying these subjects will not be obligatory for students to get their degrees.
Under this new policy, students will graduate from universities without any information about many important topics and without any tools of understanding the present, or finding solutions for future.
At the same time, the Egyptian society (like many other Arab ones) is suffering from intellectual chaos and the absence of the logical thinking in dealing with reality.
The intentional cancellation of teaching philosophy, which is where science, mathematics and astronomy originated, is a hidden invitation to ignore the mind. This change will keep students, who are supposed to become citizens later, far away from rational thinking. The decision means that the logic of obedience and acceptance of arguments without discussion will prevail.
Also, this way of adapting outdated learning methods will limit the students in restrictive templates that will actually reduce their chances of employment. The unemployment rate will go up and more money will be needed for retraining.
This could also cause future calls to reduce university admissions and later may affect “the soft power” or the comparative advantage possessed by Egypt–the minds of educated labor.
Egypt is already suffering in this regard. The number of university students has become an important indicator in the international rankings for countries developments. Unfortunately, Egypt has the lowest ranking even among Arab countries by getting the lowest rating only before Somalia and Sudan, in spite of being the first country in the region where higher education and universities opened before than two centuries.
This new decision will not be applied in the private educational institutions in Egypt, which means that rich people will have better education and better job opportunity although students in private universities are no more than 4 percent of the of the total number of Egyptian students.
At the end we do not have to forget that education and politics are the two sides of the same coin. Education serves politics and politics serves education, as history has taught us.