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How to make learning pleasant

By the Gazette Editorial Board

Schools across the nation are gearing up for a new system which the Ministry of Education will apply through a gradual process, starting this year with kindergarten and primary one pupils.


The new system, which the Minister of Education, Tarek Shawki, has advocated in recent months, has stirred up a row because it reshuffles established educational norms of the past few decades which have relied too much on rote learning.


Shawki's plan is governed by a philosophy that should make learning a pleasant process and a target in itself, rather than a means for pupils to get high scores in the final year exams regardless of cognitive skills and output.


So, the new system is bound to challenge mainstream society concepts regarding the purpose of school education. It must be said that most Egyptian families have been obsessed with the idea of their offspring finishing school to pass on to university only to get a certificate which is associated with social prestige.


Dr Shawki vowed at a press conference a few days before the start of the new school year not to allow primary school pupils to move on to the next level unless they are able to read and write properly.


This has not been the case in recent years. Many primary school leavers who had received education at government-run schools were found to have difficulty writing even their own names.


Therefore, Minister Shawki's ability to convince parents of the feasibility of the new system is bound by the approach of the teachers and school administrations.


The minister's plan has been well designed in principle. But we dare say that when it comes to practice the same description may not fit because the education system here has been stained by malpractice for many years.


For instance, study aids which explain the curricula in a detailed way with lots of exercises, have in time turned into a flourishing business for their compilers.


 And pupils gradually dispensed with school text books in favour of these aids which spoon feed pupils under an examination-oriented educational system.


According to the minister, pupils will get free tablets to help them with the research process as part of a flexible syllabus that does not expect all of the students to give similar answers.


The new system is meant to boost the children's creative abilities and analytical thinking and, according to the minister, teachers have been trained to use new teaching methods.


The point is will authors of study aids still find a way to get through to the new system?

Moreover, the ministry's new approach is meant to curb private tuition at all school levels.

This will not take place overnight because the new system will be applied gradually. However, the minister has already taken a big step towards educational reform and it is the duty of parents to help him achieve this national mission.

By the Gazette Editorial Board

PRESIDENT Sisi’s recent directives for the upgrading of public and educational hospitals directly reflect the state drive to advance the medical and health services it offers to citizens through such establishments. Given that the former facilities are affiliated to and run by the Health Ministry while the latter are either managed by faculties of medicine or used by such faculties for tutoring medical students, the timing of the directives was important, having come as they did while the two ministries of health and higher education are engaging in an intensive effort to realise President Sisi’s initiative for clearing the waiting lists of critical surgeries and also at a time when the state is readying to implement the new health and insurance law.


Needless to say, public hospitals, especially including those operated by the health insurance authority, are the main provider of state-funded and state-supervised medical services to the largest segment of the general public; hence their key role as the actual deliverers of the state-sponsored healthcare to citizens. According to Presidency spokesman Bassam Radi, as many as 47 experimental hospitals located in all governorates will undergo upgrading in the new system’s first stage the launching of which has already been instructed by President Sisi. As for the country’s 110 educational hospitals whose medical and nursing staff are highly qualified, the envisaged upgrading is expected to focus on expanding their admission capacity.


There is yet another highly-important dimension of those directives that the President gave at a meeting he called with Prime Minister Dr Moustafa Madbouli and the ministers of health and finance and other senior state officials last week. Implying considerable emphasis on promoting the capacity of public hospitals, the directives point to the keenness of the state on expanding social protection nets in such a manner as to cover the diverse needs of citizens in multiple sectors.  As a matter of fact, the relation between medical care and social protection is not difficult to recognise. For a citizen actually enjoys social protection when he/she finds efficient medical care readily and easily accessible to him/her as well as to dependents – all the more so if the provider is the state.


A third valuable dimension of those directives is that they came at a time when economic reforms are in full thrust and are proceeding both exactly as scheduled and in association with the very grand objectives of the state’s overall vision for development. Such an understanding explains Finance Minister Ma’eet’s significant remarks in TV statements that with the economic reforms well in place, the state can now channel the necessary allocations for health and education – admittedly the two sectors where the gigantic developmental effort now underway can deliver its aspired output.

By the Gazette Editorial Board

"It is a cultural battle that we should fight in order to achieve the rebuilding of the Egyptian citizen,” the Chancellor of Ain-Shams University, prof. Abdel-Wahab Ezzat, said in remarks he made the other day as he attended the Higher Council for Pre-University Education’s meeting that approved a set of strategic decisions to remold the education system. In itself, the council’s endorsement of these decisions is a concrete step forward by the highest specialised body along the path for putting in place the National Project for Education with the rebuilding of the Egyptian citizen as the aim of the grand plan.

A review of the conclusions of that meeting reveals that the matter is absolutely not limited to structural modifications but rather extends to bringing about an integrated set of the multiple components that are needed for the upbringing of well-educated, caring and knowledge-loving citizens. Education Minister Dr Tarek Shawki has even noted that the national project aims inter alia to recreate the Egyptian citizen’s skills for appreciation, consequently contributing to the improvement and refinement of public tastefulness. It may look simple on the face of it, but it is in fact an essential ingredient of cultural and societal advancement, given that true appreciation of arts and literature is ultimately conducive to the assertion of the society’s approaches to and understanding of life and the importance of improving the quality of life.

Foremost among the many advantages of the new national project is the gradual approach it adopts in achieving the remolding of the entire educational system. As of the new school year 2018-2019, the national project will take effect at the two levels of kindergarten and primary school grade I. And as it moves on, the project would reach its final stage of complete coverage of the pre-university education by the year 2030. It should not go unnoticed that it will be the same year for the completion of the Egypt 2030 Vision for realising the goals of sustainable development goals as so envisaged under both the national plan and the United Nations agenda for sustainable development.

Another equally valuable component of the national project is the introduction of a three-year evaluation system to replace the current reliance on third year examination results for granting the General Certificate of Secondary Education – the prerequisite for admission to universities and higher education institutes. By spreading the certificate’s qualification over three years instead of just one year, the national project is in fact lifting the heavy financial and psychological burdens that parents shoulder in trying to ensure the largest possible access by their sons and daughters to higher General Certificate marks. Abolishing what has for decades been called ‘the monster of parents’ is indeed a highly appreciable merit of the national project.

It will take twelve consecutive years for the national project to cover all stages of the education system, but it is worth it, and it is certainly plausible to let the new system mature gradually particularly given that education is an area of human development where natural growth is the most potent course and also given that many of the components of the present system of education have remained almost unchanged for quite a long time.