An abrupt end: What school year?

Reem Leila , Tuesday 4 May 2021

An abrupt end to the school year in Egypt received mixed reactions

photo: Reuters

Mervat Eweis, a mother of two primary school students, breathed a sigh of relief when she heard of the minister of education’s decision to end the school year in April. She described the abrupt decision as “wise, the best thing the minister has done for the sake of students and parents who are suffering from the hassle of online learning.”

Minister of Education Tarek Shawki announced on 25 April that April’s monthly exams would mark the end of the current academic year. The ministerial decree excluded students of grade 12 (Thanaweya Amma), grade nine, and international schools. According to the press statement issued by the ministry, the decision was taken due to the escalating number of Covid-19 infections.

But not everyone was happy with the decision. Faten Mohamed, a mother of a grade five student, said she will continue tutoring her son at home. “I want to prepare him for next year. Students who do not continue with their studies and are thrilled by the end of the academic year are losing a lot,” Mohamed said.

Mahmoud Hassouna, the spokesman for the minister of education and technical education, said the minister saw that students of different educational stages had finished most of their curriculum and were qualified to be promoted to the following academic year.

The decision to end the current academic year came within the framework of the government’s keenness for the students’ welfare, Hassan Shehata, professor of curricula and teaching methods at Ain Shams University, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Nonetheless, Shehata stressed that students must review everything in their curriculum that may not have been covered during the school year in order to move to the following academic year. Shehata, who praised the ministerial decision, said parents should encourage their children to continue following the ministry’s different educational platforms, adding that various educational channels have plenty to offer and can compensate for the shorter school year.

But Kamal Mogheeth, educational expert and researcher at the National Centre for Educational Research, has a different outlook on the decision.

Mogheeth explained that there is an educational cognitive component which the student must finish within a specific period of time. “As long as the Ministry of Education has provided online educational platforms and television channels, then the academic year should have been completed instead of this sudden termination,” he said.

He said he believed that the one-day collective exam which included all subjects in one paper does not measure the student’s skills, abilities, and actual educational level.

That one-day exam was also a way to minimise the number of days students had to go to school. Exams should have been comprised of multiple questions in order to cover the entire curriculum, Mogheeth said. “An integrated plan should have been prepared to operate schools for more than one shift. Also, the ministry should have calculated the number of students who have access to the Internet and those who don’t. Students who do not have access to broadband should have adopted the in-schooling system while the others continued their learning online. Accordingly, a number of students in schools would have been significantly reduced,” Mogheeth said.

Students receiving their education during the pandemic are not well prepared, Mogheeth noted. “Students have missed a lot of information and the ministry was unable to teach the missing parts, therefore they should be re-educated in order to guarantee a competent generation,” he added.

In addition, psychologist Assem Hegazi who blasted the minister’s decision, noted that educational plans must be clear for all students and parents before the beginning of the academic year in order to guarantee the students’ psychological stability. “These changes can easily cause anxiety, tension, and reduce the learning abilities of students,” Hegazi said, adding that maximising the benefit of e-learning could secure the continuity of the educational process, thus maintaining the students’ psychological stability which in turn would lead to raising their educational capabilities.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 6 May, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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