Clearing the air before the new academic year starts

Reem Leila , Thursday 29 Aug 2019

The new academic year offers an opportunity for the Ministry of Education to fine-tune its educational reforms, writes Reem Leila

Egypt school students
Following the legislative changes Egypt's students will study a revamped curriculum that emphasises understanding rather than an ability to memorise and regurgitate facts (Photo: Reuters)

The new system of final school exams, in which pupils’ final assessment is based on the best marks achieved in six exams of the 12 taken each year in grades 10, 11 and 12, will not apply in the current academic year, says Minister of Education Tarek Shawki.

The so-called cumulative Thanaweya Amma will only be applied in academic year 2020/21, giving parliament a chance to ratify changes to the education law necessary to roll out the new system. In the meantime pupils will receive final grades based entirely on the results of examinations at the end of grade 12.

Following the legislative changes students will study a revamped curriculum that emphasises understanding rather than an ability to memorise and regurgitate facts.

“By the time the law is changed and approved schools will be fully equipped with servers and other essential equipment. The electronic exams will measure the outputs of education rather than the memorising of materials the students are studying,” said Shawki.

Teachers will receive regular training in the new system. Training sessions will begin on 14 September and continue until the academic year kicks off on 21 September. “Should additional training be required the ministry will continue with training sessions until all teachers have understood the new system and are able to deal with the tablet and smart board and solve simple technical problems which they and their students may face,” said Shawki.

What this means in practice, says Mahmoud Hassouna, media coordinator at the Ministry of Education, is that from the start of the new academic year in September the 1,200,000 students enrolled in grades 10 and 11 will be regularly examined electronically.

Changes in the education law are expected to be approved swiftly, “within few weeks after the parliamentarian session starts”, according to Hassouna. The new system will then be rolled out gradually until it covers all primary, preparatory and secondary education.

Heidi Ahmed, the mother of a student in grade nine, worries that the new system remains vague. “Neither parents nor children understand it. I don’t know what will happen. As parents we pray for our children, and pray that we will understand what is going on as well,” she says.

MP Magda Nasr, a member of parliament’s Education Committee, says the Ministry of Education is expected to deliver the new draft law in a matter of weeks. “Our instructions are to review it and pass it as soon as possible,” she said.

“I will see what happens this year after more details are provided,” says Ahmed. “If everything runs smoothly then fine, I’ll let my child continue. But if things remain as vague as they are now I would seriously consider shifting him to a different system. It’s my boy’s fate and I can’t risk his future.”

Doaa Wael has four children in different grades. She believes the new system must be given a chance following the latest ministerial decree.

“The minister’s decision that this year be treated as a transitional one is a big relief for parents and students. Now our kids know how to log on to the knowledge bank and to take electronic exams. Such big changes need to be taken one step at a time. Students and teachers have to be well trained in what is expected of them before the system is applied across the board.”

Teacher Ibrahim Hassan believes the new training schedule for teachers offers a great chance for them to revisit areas in which they were having difficulties.

“Last year’s training was too short for many. This time training will continue until every teacher understands how the new system operates,” he said.

 *A version of this article appears in print in the 29 August, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly newpaper under the title: Clearing the air

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