Egypt Ministry of Education's plan to scrap the popular experimental school system stirs controversy
Zeinab El-Gundy, , Thursday 3 May 2018

Dozens of parents who have children enrolled in experimental public schools held a demonstration on Thursday in front of the Ministry of Education in Downtown Cairo to protest the ministry's recently announced plan to abolish the country's popular experimental school system next year.

Earlier this week, Education Minister Tarek Shawky announced that starting the 2019/2020 school year, the ministry will be abolishing experimental schools, which teach subjects including math and science in the English language, as part of a comprehensive plan to overhaul and modernize the country's ailing education system.

Shawky said that under the new plan students in all public schools will be taught science, math, geography and history in the Arabic language from kindergarten until the sixth grade.

"We will start with [the student's] mother language, which is Arabic, until [the student] perfects it. After this, we will teach them English, and then math and science will be taught in English," the minister said.

The new system will be implemented at all public schools as well as new Japanesesystem schools starting the 2018/19 academic year.

The minister added that the Arabization part of the plan will not affect private or international schools.

The minister's announcement of plans to nix experimental schools,which were launched more than a quarter century ago to develop education, has sparked anger among many parents and students.

The system has been popular among the middle classes due to its advanced English language curriculum, higher quality of education compared to regular public schools, and affordable fees.

Egypt's regular public schools teach English as a foreign language after the sixth grade, while all other classes are taught in the Arabic language.

In contrast, under the current system, experimental schools students are taught a second foreign language in preparatory education.

Moreover, the experimental schools require slightly higher fees than regular public schools but much lower than private schools.

For these reasons, the experimental schools are seen by many parents as a venue for their children to receive a good, affordable education in the hope of eventually qualifying for good jobs in a competitive market.

Ahmed Hosni, whose child is enrolled in an experimental school, told Al-Ahram Arabic news website that the experimental schools have been a good option for parents who want their children to have good language skills through proper education at an early age and for affordable fees.

"This is a shocking decision, the reason I admitted my child to an experimental school was to teach him the English language," he said.

Another parent, Mona Zidan, told Al-Ahram that "the Arabisation of science and math classes will be a problem for me and my daughter. I will have to transfer her to a private school so she can maintain her education in English and be able to speak it fluently in the future."