Ambiguity is part and parcel of rumours, which is certainly an active ingredient of lethal weapons of destruction, especially when rumours are based on little fact. There are well- trained teams that are very much like battalions specialised in harming and distorting the process of development.
Education and learning has thus become a target at the top of the list for those promoting rumours within the context of the government’s hectic efforts to develop such a giant sector of pre-university and college education. The two levels of education offer their services to almost 25 million students in this country, and therefore officials in the education sector should realise the importance of transparency and the flow of information to stand up to attempts to negatively veil their efforts and work hard for community out-reach to secure a positive response to their plans and decisions.
Several websites focused this week on a ministerial decree on the new rules and regulations to be imposed on international schools in Egypt. The rumours had it that the decree as issued by the ministry was behind the withdrawal of investments in this sector. Many websites claimed that a big number of foreign investors with educational expertise refrained from investing in this sector.
To get to the bottom of the issue, I went back to the decree as published by the government’s official paper. A thorough reading of the decree raised many questions. The decree has limited the ownership of foreigners in international schools and those of double nationality to 20 percent, and will be put into action once published by the official paper.
But, is the decree constitutional? Has the parliament, represented by its education committee, approved the decree or has it even discussed it since it affects foreign investments? What about the ownership of the existing international schools? And why do we have to deprive Egyptians of double nationality from establishing educational organisations if they have the needed expertise and are willing to share it with us? Furthermore, on what basis do we limit the ownership of foreigners to 20 percent of international schools without even mentioning a word about private schools?
The Ministry of Education should clarify up front all the reasons behind such a decision to put an end to the ongoing clamour and arguments. Such a move, which is part of the ministry’s efforts to modernise the whole educational process, should be clarified in a way that ensures and regains the trust of a significant number of investors.
To put an end to the current rumours, the government has two issues to address. First and foremost is transparency, where officials should bring to light their reasoning in a comprehensive and convincing manner to gain the people’s trust. If this is not forthcoming and more decisions are taken in such an ambiguous and confusing way, then the crisis of distrust will come to the fore, creating the most suitable environment for more and more rumours.
The second route is for people to shoulder their responsibilities. People should learn how to verify facts. The education ministry’s website, despite the fact that it needs to be modernized, introduces the data and information on the ministry’s decision. However, this site should be developed to ensure that people get what they are looking for, which should be the rule for all the government sites. People should know that they will get the right information through such sites with transparency and accuracy.
Moreover, committees of expertise and school owners should discuss and study thoroughly any amendments of rules or laws that affect the educational process. A community-based amendment or decision is not only significant to officials who need such support, but for the whole society to build bases of trust. Issuing new regulations that negatively affect the two sides of the equation is hard to accept and should be reconsidered to understand the positive and negative impact of such steps.
When it comes to the education sector, decisions and legislations should be part of the development process and should help reach the ministry’s targets. Moreover, I believe that the decree should have stressed the need for international schools to ensure the accreditation of its certificates. To be clear, it is rather hard to believe that the American diploma in Egypt is not accredited by an accreditation committee in the United States.
International schools should also be carefully monitored, especially when it comes to being involved in leaking exams or forging certificates, which recently took place during the SAT exams, and unfortunately the international organisation had to cancel the tests in Egyptian schools.