Education is a paramount issue in Egypt today, and many of society’s problems can be traced back to one root cause: an inadequate level of education.
The lack of proper education is a catalyst for poverty, illness, violence, and terrorism. The significance of education and scientific research extends beyond shaping individual learners, as it plays a vital role in actively contributing to the establishment of societies, the cultivation of cultures, and the development of relationships between individuals and communities alike.
Most specialists in education and scientific research agree that the status of education and scientific research in Egypt no longer matches the standards of other countries in the region, and its level has fallen short of being fitting for a leading nation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Recent years have witnessed a decline in Egypt’s international rankings in key education and research indicators released by various international bodies. However, the ongoing National Dialogue, initiated by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in 2022, provides a significant opportunity to present constructive proposals for the enhancement of higher education and scientific research systems.
I believe there are three main mechanisms to elevate the standard of education and scientific research to the desired level in Egypt: first, the issuance of a new law to regulate universities; second, the development of a comprehensive public policy for higher education that aligns with future employment demands; and third, the advancement of scientific research policies by linking their outcomes to urgent national issues.
The advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, centred around information technology and the knowledge economy, presents a formidable challenge to the current educational policies in preparing graduates for the job market in Egypt. Many existing jobs are expected to become automated, and new positions related to artificial intelligence, robotics, big data, and information technology will emerge.
Therefore, it is crucial to adjust the general policy of higher education in Egypt to equip Egyptian universities with the ability to impart the required knowledge and graduate individuals qualified for future employment.
Four pillars can be considered to achieve the desired objectives:
REEVALUATION: Reports from the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) reveal that approximately 53 per cent of government universities comprise around 75 per cent of students in theoretical or purely academic faculties that are not necessarily aligned with future job market demands. A reassessment of coordination policies is necessary, and the enrollment in purely academic faculties should be reduced to match labour-market needs.
FUTURE-ORIENTED FIELDS: While some government and private Egyptian universities have initiated the creation of faculties with future-oriented specialisations, such as cybersecurity, nuclear engineering, Artificial intelligence engineering, and big data science, their number remains limited. Expanding the establishment of such faculties is recommended, while refraining from creating new purely academic faculties, as the existing number already exceeds the required demand.
INTRODUCING NEW PROGRAMMES: It is possible to develop intermediary programmes within theoretical and academic faculties that will combine disciplines to cater to future job-market needs. Programmes combining law and computer science or law and information technology would be one such example. Such initiatives would enhance the contribution of theoretical faculties in meeting future workforce demands, aligning them with global scientific and technological advancements.
ENHANCING TEACHING: The past decade, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, has witnessed many developments in teaching methods, such as utilising more technology in education and remote-learning platforms. While these advancements are significant, the most crucial transformation lies in revamping curricula and teaching methods from rote memorisation and passive learning to research-based, innovative, and critical thinking-oriented education.
Addressing these challenges and embracing these proposed mechanisms will allow Egyptian universities to better adapt to the demands of the ever-evolving job market, fostering a generation of qualified graduates capable of contributing significantly to the nation’s development.
* The writer is dean of the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 3 August, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly