A Guide to Egypt's Challenges: Judiciary & Education

Bassem Sabry , Thursday 16 Aug 2012

Bassem Sabry provides a multi-pronged overview of the political, economic and social challenges facing Egypt's first post-Mubarak president, with an emphasis on the everyday problems facing average Egyptians



Keeping this one - for a change - short and simple. Egypt's judicial system is, to put it mildly, severely inefficient, slow and its estimated 15,000 judges are extremely overloaded -- legal cases can drag on for years. Reforming the entire system represents a massive challenge, while its independence from the influence of the executive branch remains a prominent long-term demand.
The appointment of a pro-reform judge as Vice President was translated, in part, as a sign of the policy priority this sector might end up experiencing from the Morsi administration. In addition, observers largely welcomed recent moves by the new Justice Minister to separate judicial inspection from the influence of the Ministry and the executive branch, until such a separation is fully codified into the highly-anticipated new judicial overhaul bill.
There are three main sides to Egypt’s educational problems. 
The first is overall literacy rates -- according to the UNDP, Egypt ranks 97th in the world in terms of illiteracy. Only 66.4 per cent of the population are able to read or write at any level. Most of Egypt's illiterate are women.
Despite efforts to increase the overall number of literate Egyptians, the country's population growth have largely kept stooped the percentage from rising.
The second side is the actual number of people with any level of formal education. 
School dropout rates are high, especially for females, despite free and subsidised tuition. Many choose to avoid the costs for transportation, private tutoring (which is becoming customary) and other study accessories.
Some families keep their children out of school to have them work and help support the household. Others keep their girls from attending for cultural reasons. 
Eventually, an estimated 30 per cent of Egyptians in the normal student-age group make it to further education, with a smaller percentage -- one hard-to-verify source suggests around half -- actually graduating.
The third element is the quality of education Egyptian institutions offer.
As a whole they are in dire need of modernisation, with current curricula focusing on extensive robotic learning of information rather than modern analytical skills.
If an Egyptian student disagrees with the official views expressed in the curriculum for a subject like history, which elsewhere might accept various valid viewpoints, then the student may fail the subject.
Public expenditure on education is 3.8 per cent of Egypt's GDP according to the UNDP. Classes are crowded, schools are under-equipped, and teachers often lack real training. 
And despite handling nearly a combined 300,000 new students a year, only Cairo University out of all Egyptian Universities had managed to make it in and out of the bottom quintile in rankings of the world's top 500 univeristies. 
A 2010 UNDP report also showed that 40 per cent of Egyptian employers found the professional skills of new graduates to be "poor". The same report said that at least 90 per cent of Egypt’s unemployed were under 30 years of age.
Note: this article has been edited since its initial publication to reflect the consideration of additional global university ranking reports. 
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