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Tuesday, 04 August 2020

Egypt: ‘What does a research project mean?’

Students from grade three to nine are required to work on research papers instead of taking final exams. Al Ahram Weekly looks into the difficulties of moving to the new system

Reem Leila , Thursday 16 Apr 2020
‘What does a research project mean?’
A student takes class online photo: Reuters
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Views: 1449

Minister of Education and Technical Education Tarek Shawki announced the names of subjects of research projects that school students from grade three to grade nine will be required to do instead of finals. Reem Leila reports

Students are being asked to prepare one multi-discipline research paper for the whole year, not for every subject, to pass this academic year and graduate to the next year, all in the wake of the coronavirus that has shut schools down nationwide.

To make it easier for the students the ministry released a tutorial video on its official website to explain in detail what was needed to be done, starting with choosing the topic itself, all the way to submitting it.

Students in grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 have to choose one of four topics suggested by the Ministry of Education. Students can either do the project individually or in a group, with a maximum of five students.

Students from grade seven to nine must choose one project from among three that can either be done individually or with a group of students, also a maximum of five.

The submitted projects should include a title, introduction, summary, subject, results or notes and references, in addition to the code number of students who participated in the project, according to Reda Hegazi, deputy to the minister of education.

“On the website there are general guidelines and suggested formats for each topic suggested by the ministry in order to facilitate matters for students,” Hegazi said.

All topics are based on the learning outcomes of each academic stage and have a reference in textbooks as well as an e-library

“Students are to submit research projects by 15 May,” said Hegazi, adding that papers are to be delivered either online by uploading them onto the platform, or bring a hard copy of the project to the school which will in turn send it to the ministry online.

Mahmoud Hassouna, the spokesman of the Ministry of Education, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the projects’ evaluation criteria will be based on several elements: attractive headline, organised presentation of the research, the resources used, whether the textbook or the e-library, meeting the required number of words as well as addressing different angles of the subjects, correct punctuation, spelling and grammar.

“Identical and plagiarised research projects will be rejected. If so, the student will have to sit for an exam at the beginning of the next academic year as a substitute,” Hassouna said.

Several parents and students have complained that the instructions are vague concerning the research project. But there is a much more serious complaint. Marwa Al-Sayed, a school bus attendant and a mother of two in grade three and nine, claims that teachers are asking for money in order to help students in the research. “I have to pay for each of my children at least LE300 for each research. Neither I nor my children know how to do it. They do not even understand what a research project means,” Al-Sayed said.

Lotfi Gamal, a restaurant manager who has a grade seven daughter, said he tried to help her with the research but could not understand how she should do it. “I will ask the help of my daughter’s teachers, and of course I will have to pay, but I do not know how much,” Gamal said.

Shaden Mohamed, a bank manager, believes that the research project is the best solution for her children to solve this year’s dilemma. “I logged onto the ministry’s website. I surfed the research project topics, and selected one for my grade nine child and another one for my grade five girl. I googled the topics, wrote them myself and submitted them to the school administration,” Mohamed said.

According to Mohamed, “the ministry should have taught our children how to choose a topic, search for information, compile and write them. It is very difficult for young students to understand what a research project means. Parents are doing the research for their children or asking teachers to do them in return for money. This has created a very rich atmosphere for teachers to exploit parents,” she added.

“We are exerting our utmost efforts to reach the simplest ways to educate students,” Shawki, who held a video conference on 9 April, said. “Therefore, the ministry will adopt very strict measures against those who exploit students in research projects.”

Hegazi said the students will be asked to hold a presentation on their research during the first two weeks of the upcoming academic year in order to teach them how to interact with others and to see whether the students actually did the research on their own or with the help of others.

“Students who worked on their research on their own will find it easy to present and explain it, while those who fail will need to take exams to guarantee that they have studied the previous year’s curriculum,” Hegazi said, adding the ministry will not “easily” allow students who did not do their assignments to move on to the following year.


*A version of this article appears in print in the  16 April, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly


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