This week Cairo hosted the 14th session of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) which carried the title “The Future in Action”.
The forum discussed the future of jobs, including the preparation of students and youths seeking employment, requirements for the local and international job market in light of the coronavirus, rapid changes in employment skills and job market demands.
There were several activities, meetings, workshops, discussions, and lectures delivered by academic and professional experts as well as representatives from international organisations, businessmen and youth in the forum. The forum also included special pavilions for participants from public, private and international universities as well as technological companies specialised in education and scientific research, international organisations as well as funding bodies.
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi noted during the conference that the quality of education in developing countries does not equal that offered in developed countries. Therefore, he said, Egypt was keen on introducing joint programmes with international universities to keep pace with the newest developments in education.
Six new technology universities will soon be accepting students, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar pointed out during the conference. He said the number of Egyptian students studying abroad had decreased by more than a half, to 2,200, due to the high quality of universities that have opened in Egypt recently. He added that new research centres in petroleum and electronics will soon open as well. “The government has allocated LE150 billion to improve the country’s public universities,” the minister added.
Meanwhile, director-general of (ISESCO) Salim Al-Malik called on the organisation’s member states to increase funds allocated to scientific research which currently do not exceed 0.5 per cent of the member of states’ GDP while developed countries dedicate around three per cent of their GDP to scientific research.
According to Al-Malik, ISESCO member states need universities that would confidently compete with the most prestigious international universities. To accomplish this, he said universities must work freely and independently, achieve sustainability in funding sources, help students in current and future job markets as well as establish sustainable partnerships with economic, industrial, and technological institutions locally and internationally.
Abdel-Ghaffar said that with a population of more than 100 million, Egypt needs at least 100 universities. At the moment, he said, there are 72 but more are being established.
Last year, President Al-Sisi revealed during the inauguration of King Salman University in Sharm El-Sheikh that Egypt intends to have 125 universities by 2032.
During the conference Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat revealed the role of international cooperation and partnerships in developing the higher education and scientific research sector. “Until September 2021, developmental funds for the higher education and scientific research sector of the ministry’s current portfolio reached about $1 billion to implement 16 projects. Fifty-three per cent of these funds are non-refundable grants,” explained Al-Mashat.
According to Al-Mashat, several multilateral and bilateral developmental partners have contributed to the provision of these funds, including the US, the Saudi Fund for Development, Japan, China, Germany, South Korea, the African Development Bank, the Kuwait Development Fund, and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.
Al-Mashat noted that these partnerships are based on three main principles: comprehensiveness, which means merging youth and women within developmental efforts and to sustain their participation in the decision-making process; digitisation, since these partnerships work on localising digital transformation in the country’s efforts in this field; and the green transformation, as new strategies stimulate plans implemented by the government to shift towards a green economy and reduce harmful emissions, especially in light of Egypt’s preparations to host the UN Conference on Climate Change next year.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 December, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.