CAIRO—Egypt has risen from 119th place to 116th place in the Global Competitiveness Report this year. Still, the country is witnessing a clear decline in the level of quality of education.
The country, commonly cited as home to a quarter of the Arab population, was next to last in the quality of schools, universities and business-education programs, with a total score for education of 2.1 out of a possible score of seven, giving it a rank of 139 out of 140 countries. The only progress was moving up from a position of 136 in math and science education to a rank of 131. “Egyptian education is in the worst era in its history,” said Kamal Mogheeth, a researcher at the National Center for Educational Research and Development, an academic independent center affiliated with the Ministry of Education. “The results reflect the failure of the current and previous government’s policies and reveal that the country has not made a single step forward.”
In the overall 2015-2016 ranking, Switzerland remained number one for the seventh year running, while Singapore and the United States remain second and third respectively. In the Middle East, there is a mixed picture. Qatar leads the region at 14th place, ahead of the United Arab Emirates at 17th place. Areas where both countries could enhance efficiency include higher education and training, as well as technological readiness, the report said.
The Global Competitiveness Report is based on the Global Competitiveness Index, which was introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2004. Defining competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine how economically competitive a country is, the report’s scores are calculated by drawing together country-level data covering 12 categories—the pillars of competitiveness—that collectively make up a comprehensive picture of a country’s competitiveness. The 12 pillars include such factors as macroeconomic environment, goods market efficiency, labor market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, and business sophistication.
The index gives a strong weight to education and its effects on economic growth. The educational component of the scores focuses on the quality of education, scientific content, the system of management for universities and schools, and the extent of vocational and practical training for students to meet labor market demands.
The Egyptian government has not issued any official comment on the report’s findings, but Johansen Eid, head of the National Authority for Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Education, in Egypt, told Al-Fanar Media that the results are “greatly exaggerated.” She said: “We don’t deny the big problems facing education in Egypt, but the evaluation criteria should be commensurate with the reality of the country, which is totally different from the reality of the rest of the foreign or Arab countries.” She said Egypt is still suffering from a large proportion of illiteracy, a huge population and a low education budget.
Hany Gohar, head of the Quality and Accreditation Center at Cairo University, agrees with Eid that the criteria used in the report do not fit all countries. “The report adopts constant standards for all countries, which is not fair,” he said.
Still, he recognizes the need to have a plan to develop education in the country.
“In Cairo University, we have a development plan based on the first two phases,” he said. “The first is for internal audit, which includes all elements of educational, research and administrative systems. The second includes performance evaluation and helps colleges to get accreditation,” he said, pointing out the importance of cooperation with European and international organizations in this field.
The deterioration of the quality of education has many causes, according to Mogheeth, such as adopting expired methods for teaching, which focus on memorization rather than criticism and practical experience.
“We have many local institutions dedicated to ensuring and controlling educational quality, which enjoy huge budgets and prepare dozens of reports every year, but we do not know anything about the results of these reports, and we have not felt any difference,” he said.