Despite its importance, technical education rarely receives the attention it deserves. It is more diverse than the Thanaweya Amma, the standardised tests leading to the General Secondary Education Certificate in Egypt, and comprises four disciplines, industrial, commercial, agricultural, and tourism, within which there are multiple specialisations.
Mohamed Megahed, deputy to the minister of education for technical education, explained Egypt’s efforts to develop technical education to Al-Ahram Weekly and its partnerships with international bodies.
How does the number of students currently in technical education compare to those in the Thanaweya Amma system?
The number of students and teachers in technical education high schools now stands at 770,000 and 250,000, respectively, in comparison to 660,000 students and 150,000 teachers in the Thanaweya Amma system.
Vocational and technical education students total 2.5 million, who upon graduation receive the equivalent of a diploma or a bachelor of sciences degree. They include two million students enrolled in technical education schools affiliated to the Ministry of Education and Technical Education and 150,000 students in higher technical education schools and technology universities affiliated to the Ministry of Higher Education. They also include 30,000 students in the Productivity and Vocational Training Department of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and 70,000 students in the Nursing Institute of the Ministry of Health and Population.
There are also 250,000 trainees in seasonal vocational training disciplines, which offer practical courses ranging between three and six months to improve the job opportunities available to trainees. However, these courses do not offer educational certificates.
Why is the government now focusing on technical education?
There is a need to achieve real economic development, and this can only happen if we have appropriately skilled labour. The reality on the ground requires the development of technical education. Over the past five years, Egypt has achieved high economic growth rates as a result of domestic and foreign investments that have resulted in increasing demand for technically trained labour.
There is a skilled workforce in some sectors, such as construction, but other sectors, especially those recently introduced to Egypt such as logistics, rainfed agriculture, and palm-tree cultivation, currently lack well-trained labour.
The state expressed its desire to develop technical education in the 2014 constitution, whose Article 20 states that “the state is committed to encouraging and developing technical education and professional training and expanding all types thereof in accordance with global quality criteria and in keeping with the needs of the labour market.”
What are the pillars of developing the technical education curricula?
For students to become more efficient and able to compete in the labour market, they have to have three ingredients: knowledge, skills, and appropriate attitudes.
The new technical education curricula provide the knowledge a worker needs in his area of specialty, the skills needed in the labour market, such as the ability to write an appropriate curriculum vitae and be presentable and well-spoken and able to present his skills to employers. There are also the appropriate attitudes, such as the ability to work well in a team, to respect colleagues and employers, to be prompt, and to commit to health and safety protocols in the work place.
Which programmes are run in partnership with the European Union?
Egypt has partnered with several international bodies to develop its technical education curricula and improve the skills of its workforce such that it can compete on an international level and particularly in areas where modern technologies are used.
It has been engaged with the European Union on programmes to improve technical education since 2006 within the framework of the EU Neighbourhood Policy. The Technical and Vocational Education and Training Reform Programme (TVET Egypt), a nationwide initiative co-funded by the government of Egypt and the European Union, also began in 2015.
Besides developing the curricula, this programme focuses on upgrading technical education schools with well-equipped labs, modern equipment and tools, and a generally healthy educational environment. It has helped the Ministry of Education to develop 36 out of the 100 technical education curricula, and these were introduced two years ago in 105 technical schools.
What are the terms of the Egyptian-German Partnership to improve technical education?
Germany became interested in Egypt’s ambitious plans to develop technical education following President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s visit to Germany in October 2018. The protocol of the Comprehensive Initiative to Reform Technical Education between Egypt and Germany was then signed, which in the first phase of this 10-year initiative will see Germany allocating the necessary funding to support technical education in Egypt until 2024.
The German government supports the development of technical education in Egypt without charging students additional expenses. It has established an independent body to monitor the quality of technical education in Egypt and has participated in founding the G-Teacher Academy designed to train teachers. Germany is also participating in Egypt’s solar energy generation project by providing units on the rooftops of the technical education schools that it is helping to develop.
Germany encourages integration between the technical education schools and the private sector and the latter’s participation in tailoring technical education according to its needs through sector skills councils.
What is the role of the sector skills councils?
These are part of a mechanism through which the private sector participates in developing the technical education curricula according to the needs of the labour market. The councils are to be established in each sector, with the first such council being the Electrical Industries Council.
Their role is to ensure that the needs of the labour market are appropriate integrated into the curricula taught at technical schools. They help to develop the curricula based on changes in the technologies used in each sector and the needs of the private sector as a whole. To date, there is no law that regulates the councils’ operations. But the private sector is being invited to roundtable discussions to propose its vision about the skills that future workers need to study in the technical schools.
Is there a focus on certain governorates or sectors in the government’s strategy to develop technical education?
Yes, and a new project to support technical education with participation from the US international development agency USAID will commence in October. This project focuses on supporting schools teaching curricula related to new and renewable energy in the Red Sea governorates and Aswan and schools of logistics in the Suez Canal region. The US is participating in developing the curricula and training teachers.
There is also a plan to develop commercial education because some of its specialties are no longer needed in the market, such as secretarial and medical secretarial work, while others have been more recently introduced and are in demand.
The one thing all the international bodies participating in the reform of technical education in Egypt agree on is the need to support the integration of the private sector in the development process through applied technology schools. Schools have been established by private-sector businessmen from different industries to train workers in the specific skills needed for different industries. These schools are funded and run by the private sector, with the Ministry of Education supervising the curricula and assigning teachers.
There are currently 11 such schools, including the Water and Wastewater School affiliated to the Holding Company for Water and Wastewater, the Dabaa School, and the Gold Industries School. The Ministry of Education aims to set up 10 new schools of this kind every year until 2030.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 2 July, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly