On Education

In a public address Professor Zewail the Egyptian 1999 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry has stressed that education is a matter of national security. He defined education as an investment in the future. Zewail has divided education in three levels:

  1. The school level should build character
  2. High education should build skills and competences
  3. Higher education should generate new knowledge and contribute to growth.

Zewail’s expressed views about education have also appeared in an article by Mokhtar, Zaky and El Faham (2002) they stated that the only way to survive for developing countries in today’s fiercely competitive and technological world is they should upgrade their education system to become more dynamic. Additionally the interacademy council on science and technology pin a report published in 2004 highlighted that high-quality education and training are essential in all nations the report stressed the following:

  • Each nation should establish a Science and Technology education policy that addresses  its own particular national
  • Science and Technology education policy should also instills an awareness of global responsibilities in such areas as environment, human health, and the sustainable use of the earth’s resources
  • Each government should focus resources on providing high-quality training for science / technology teachers
  • Government should providing resources to enable the best young talents to participate in the regional and international competitions

The South Korean experience is a good example of a nation who has set its priorities properly focusing on education. The strategy was built around the philosophy that wealth will be generated through investment in quality education. This meant a High investment in people to reach a critical mass of  literate, motivated citizens, equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills for survival. They have reached an enrollment in tertiary education of almost 75% while in
Egypt it is still around 34%


Learning has been defined as a change of behavior, it is also defined by Kim as the process of ‘increasing one’s capacity to take action’. Reynolds et al add that  Learning is the process by which a person acquires new knowledge, skills and capabilities Learning is not simply having a new insight or a new idea. Learning occurs when we take effective action, when we detect and correct error.


 Education in Egypt

With a population growth of 1.9% around 1.5 million children are born every year, it will take them six years to join school.This means that with a class density of 40 – 45 pupils the need for 33000 to 37500 classes at the first primary or a total of 198000 to 225000 rooms and at 4 teachers per scholar year 792000 to 900000 teachers. These numbers represent the minimum required on an input level but they reveal no effect on the output of the systemIn 2003 the education system hosted 15.5 Million students in 36,323 schools who were served by 832,392 Teacher.Unfortunately the above definition of learning specially the last two are not fully fulfilled because no new actions are really observable.  What to do in Egypt?

As such the system needs an overhaul. To create an overhaul of the education system one has to see it as a process of transformation and analyze its various elements.


The first step needed is to specify clearly what outputs do we need  from the education system.Work is required on many fronts, curriculum content, teaching methodology and assessment  of performance (exams). This also requires upgrading the teachers and reducing class density. There are three suggested parallel approaches towards education reform, that are short term, medium term and long term.For the short term the starting point will be the first year of the secondary studies and will carry over for three years Medium term applies the same approach used in the secondary but in the preparatory phaseLong term will start reforming the primary schooling system the reform will be conducted for six years.The end result will be that in three years a partial improvement will be noticed in the output of the secondary schools,  pupils will be coming out of the system better equipped and better educated. After six years the results are going to be  better as student will have taken two reformed stages. However the utmost will happen with twelve years.It is important to focus on the importance of the primary stage where the character of students is formed, this stage particularly need high caliber experienced teachers, teachers who are pedagogically fit.


5 Responses to “On Education”

  1. 1 Marwa Rakha May 5, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    When I first graduated, one of the old ladies in my family came to congratulate me, and as she gave me my present, she told me proudly that she always saw me as a school teacher and that she was now happy that I lived up to her dream.

    I was offended. I translated her words as follows:


    1) You are good for nothing – a total loser you are
    2) I wish you a life of headaches and nervous breakdowns
    3) May you always be poor and underpaid
    4) I hope you die and rot in one of those stuffed classrooms
    5) I would love to see you get married to the Azhari Arabic teacher

    Our schools, teachers, books, curriculums, assessments, and students need a miracle.

  2. 2 ]Dr. Ayman Makkawy May 6, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Dear Marwa Rakha
    Although I support ur thoughts about our education system which you summarized in these black comedian short sentences , and although I was not offended by mentioning the marriage to the Azhari Arabic teacher – inspite being the first son of one of them – as this is unfortunatly the community image about them , and I honstly find some of them realy difficult people , but truly we have to apreciate their role – at least up to the 60s or 70s – in keeping our language and teach us how to taste arabic literature and poetry.

  3. 3 Marwa Rakha May 6, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    Dear Dr. Makkawy,

    I did not mean any offence, but put yourself in my shoes. I am now 32, but I want to take you back to the year 1980 when my trauma began; I was being properly introduced to the Arabic language for the first time and the sight of a frowning gentleman with a beard and a cloak was beginning to scare me, when he began speaking; Instead of saying that he is proud to teach us – kids – our lovely language, he said that that class will be the most difficult for many years to come.

    Year after year, the mental image of my Arabic teachers – Azhari or Dar Oloum – was getting sharper, specially when compared to those who taught me English or French; the way they talked, walked, taught, dressed, and smelt. I feared Arabic classes until I finished school and almost failed Arabic classes in college.

    I am now a writer and I hate myself for not being able to put a proper sentence in Arabic. I am not blaming my Arabic teachers, I am hoping that things have changed since my school days.

  4. 4 ]Dr. Ayman Makkawy May 7, 2007 at 7:32 am

    Dear Marwa
    Realy I am not offended at all , as i told u that’s the image we have about them in our community, and the case now is worth , as we have Arabic teachers graduated from modern colleges like Arts or Al Tarbia faculties , very weak on the language level , without the talent used to be in literature and poetry ( I can refere u to the fact that most of our famous poets were graduates of Dar El Olom or Al Azhar ) and they make the pupils hate the subject and with bad level in the same time .
    but how to solve this ? as I feel we should have an opinion in the solution of problems we talk about , not just vent out steam and go.
    I will refere u again to the successful system used to be at the time of my father , the government used to pay money for Dar El Olom students to encourage them to enrole , it was 3 pounds per month at that time ( a good sum during the 30s & 40s ) plus doing a difficult screening exam for all applicants , so to choose only those with already good language level and also talented or at least like this study .
    Somebody may ask why they do all this for one school , but the answer is obvious , we are keeping our language , the language of Quran and the simbol of our identity , and we can compare this with what the German or the French people do to defend their languages in this era of globalization where the English language will prevail.

  5. 5 Marwa Rakha May 7, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    I like your analysis Dr. Makkawy … the same applies to the quality of English teachers by the way. I am a graduate of the faculty of Alsun. I was top of my class, and all the tops of the class either stayed in college or got positions in multinational companies. Those who got Bs worked as secretaries, also in well paying companies. The ones who got Cs and less are the ones who are teaching English in our schools.

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