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September blues

By Ramadan A. Kader

Having yet to rally from successive hikes in prices of different goods, tens of thousands of families across the nation are bracing for the imminent start of the new school year. On Saturday, more than 20 million students go to school, an event usually associated in Egypt with financial and psychological woes.

Weeks before schools reopen their gates, many families have already recruited the service of mushrooming private tuition centres, which is ironically an unlawful business. This type of informal education has virtually become the order of the day and far influential than schools for long years.

This is particularly true for thanawya amma or the general secondary school studies, which have over the years transformed schoolsinto ghost places in favour of private tuition venues.

Rises in school and transport fees mean that families have to fork out much more money than before for their children’s education.

In the run-up to the new school year, Education Minister Tareq Shawqi has kept a high profile in the media with what he has called the “biggest educational revolution” in Egypt’s modern history.

For months, the minister has been at pains to tout his plan to “revolutionise” the national education. He promises that the new multi-layered system will make costly private lessons a matter of the past and schooling a pleasant experience.

Last week, Shawqi was quoted in the local media as saying: “The whole world is waiting for the onset of the new education in Egypt.” His statement has raised many eyebrows and generated online derision. Even though, the minister sounds optimistic about the new process.

Scepticism among parents will arguably be a major obstacle to the success of his upgrade plan. Evidence is this strong demand for private teachers ahead of the new school year.

It is not hard to know what make parents act like this and view the much-hyped education “revolution” with suspicions. Mention the term “education development” and most of the nation’s parents will feel deeply apprehensive.

The term sounds notorious. For decades, it was repeatedly evoked with results being disastrous. For example, in the 1980s, the sixthgrade was scrapped in the name of developing education. Years later, it was reinstated on the same pretext.

Likewise, the pre-university thanawya amma studies were the target of several changes. First, its final examinations were limited to one year. Later, they were stretched over two years.

According to Shawqi’s plan, they will cover three years.Plain and simple, the current situation is underlined by a long-standing trust problem that has taken root as a result of ill-conceived and baffling education decisions.

Adding to this mistrust is a strong feeling among parents that they have been kept in the dark about the controversial new system. The Education Ministry contends that the system has been at the centre of wide debate.

The trust gap is a non-starter for the promised reforms. Parents are a major success factor in the process. Their feeling of being left out is counter-productive. The large numbers of students already frequenting private tuition around the nation is a message that education authorities should not misread.

By the Gazette Editorial Board

At the close of the Thanaweya Amma (Secondary School Certificate) season, comes the application by students to various universities and the handling of complaints submitted by the students against their exam results.

According to an official source at the Ministry of Education, more than 150,000 students have filed complaints against the results of their final, secondary school exams. Some 55,000 of those students proved that there had been a mistake in marking and in adding up their marks and they managed to upgrade their final results.

This annual process of having thousands of students question their results and ask for a revision of their papers should prompt the Ministry of Education to change its system of marking the exams of this crucial certificate,which defines which college the students can apply to.

Instead, the ministry “proudly” announces the financial returns it collects from the marks revision process, since each student must pay LE100 for each subject he/she wants to be checked.

This means that if each of the 150,000 students who applied for a review of their papers this year, asked for only one subject to checked, the ministry would receive LE15 million to add to the Fund for Upgrading Education.

So, should the ministry not use some of this money to improve the correction system, so as not to expose our children to unfair marking of their exams, which prevents many of them from applying to the university of their dreams?

The least the ministry should do is to increase the time it gives to teachers to correct the Thanaweya Amma exams, which is currently short; and to offer them better working conditions, to ensure a proper and fair evaluation of the students' work.

The Minister of Education, Tarek Shawki, has promised to introduce his new education system as of the new academic year, 2018-2019.

It is to be hoped that this new system will include a better method of correcting exams, especially the Secondary School Certificate exams, so that our young people will not lose confidence in their ministry and the entire government while beginning an academic journey that will define their future.


Cairo, July 11, 2018 (MENA) -- Egypt's Ministry of Education held on Thursday a press conference to announce Thanaweya Amma top students.  During the conference, Minister Tarek Shawki read out the names of the top achievers, lauding their ability to defy challenges.

Addressing the audience, Minister Shawki stressed the ministry's success in eliminating exam leaks. He pointed out the ministry took strict measures against cheaters including depriving them of the chance to sit for the exam for at least one year.

In a related context, Head of Egypt's Education Sector Reda Hegazi said the minister referred 58 students to public prosecution on charges of leaking parts of exams via social media.


CAIRO, July 1, 2018 (MENA) - Students who leaked Thanaweya Amma philosophy and logic exam were identified, said Reda Hegazi, chairman of the General Education Sector at the Education Ministry, on Sunday.

The students, residing in Dakahlia and Cairo governorates, posted some parts of the exam on social media websites 30 minutes after the start of the exam, Hegazi added.

The students will be referred to the prosecution over the leak, which is punishable by a fine and imprisonment.

In the past few years, Thanaweya Amma exams have been repeatedly leaked and shared on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Last year, Egypt's parliament approved amendments toughening the penalties for cheating and other exam violations, including publishing exam questions and papers and having mobile phones or other wireless devices in examination rooms.

Penalties for facilitating exam leaks include hefty fines of EGP 100,000-200,000 and jail terms between two and seven years.

More than 650,000 students are taking this year's tests.

CAIRO, June 24, 2018 (MENA) - Students in four Egyptian governorates have been arrested for leaking parts of Dynamics and Psychology exams of Thanaweya Amma, said Dr. Reda Hegazy, the chairman of the Public Education sector at the Ministry of Education.

The Dynamics exam leaks occurred in Beni Suef and Kafr El Sheikh, while Assiut and Giza witnessed the Psychology exam leaks, said Hegazy.

All leaks took place 20 minutes after the start of the exams, he noted.

CAIRO, June 21, 2018 (MENA) -- A pupil from Sharqiyah was caught on Thursday after publishing part of Thanawya Amma (General Secondary school Certificatel ) pure mathematics exam on social media websites.

In press statements, chief of the general educational sector and Thanwaeya Amma exams Reda Hegazy said that the pupil published part of the exam after 30 minutes of its start.

Egypt has enacted new amendments to a law toughening penalties for cheaters and troublemakers during school exams, especially the Thanawya Amma exams which determine the future of roughly half a million students every year.

Under the new amendments offenders especially those who print, publish, broadcast or promote exam questions and answers by any means could face two to seven year jail terms and a fine of LE 100,000 to 200,000.

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