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Egyptmarker has the largest overall education system in the Middle East and North Africa(MENA) and it has grown rapidly since the early 1990s. In recent years the Government of Egypt has accorded even greater priority in improving the education system. According to the Human Development Index (HDI),Egypt is ranked 116 in the HDI. With the help of World Bank and other multilateral organizations Egypt aims to increase access in early childhood care and education and the inclusion of ICT at all levels of education, especially at the tertiary level. The government is responsible for offering free education at all levels. The current overall expenditure on education is about 12.6 percent as of 2007. Investment in education as a percentage of GDP rose to 4.8 in 2005 but then fell to 3.7 in 2007. The Ministry of education is also tackling with a number of issues: trying to move from a highly centralized system to offering more autonomy to individual institutions, thereby increasing accountability. The personnel management in the education also needs to be overhauled and teachers should be hired on merit with salaries attached to the performance.

Education System in Egypt

The public education system in Egypt consists of three levels: the basic education stage for 4-14 years old: kindergarten for two years followed by primary school for six years and preparatory school for three years. Then, the secondary school stage is for three years,for ages 15 to 17, followed by the tertiary level. Education is made compulsory for 9 academic years between the ages of 6 and 14. Moreover, all levels of education are free in any government run schools. According to the World Bank, there are great differences in educational attainment of the rich and the poor, also known as the “wealth gap.” Although the median years of school completed by the rich and the poor is only one or two years but the wealth gap reaches as high as nine or ten years. In the case of Egypt, the wealth gap was a modest 3 years in the mid1990s. Overall, the composite education Index in the MENA Flagship Report: The Road Not Traveled showed promising results of Egypt’s relative educational achievements. Of the 14 MENA countries analyzed, Egypt achieved the universal primary education and has also reduced the gender gap at all levels of instruction, but there is still a need to improve the quality of education.

Promotional examinations are held at all levels except in grades 3, 6 and 9 at the basic education level and the grades 11 and 12 in the secondary stage, which apply standardized regional or national exams.

The Ministry of Education is responsible for making decisions about the education system with the support of three Centers: the National Center of Curricula Development, the National Center for Education Research, and the National Center for Examinations and Educational Evaluation. Each center has its own focus in formulating education policies with other state level committees.On the other hand, the Ministry of Higher Education supervises the higher education system.

There is also a formal teacher’s qualification track in place for basic and secondary education levels. The teachers are required to complete four years of pre-service courses at university to enter the teaching profession.Specifically with respect to teacher’s professional development to raise mathematics, science and technology teaching standards, the Professional Academy for Teachers offer several programs. Local teachers also take part in the international professional training programs.

Starting in 2007, the Ministries of Education, Finance, and Local Development (and others) started informal discussions to experiment with the decentralization of education. Working groups were established to make more formal proposals. Proposals included ideas for starting with recurrent expenditures, using a simple and transparent formula for carrying out fiscal transfers, and making sure that transfers would reach the school itself.

During 2008 design was carried out, three pilot governorates (Faiyum, Ismailia, and Luxor) were chosen, and monitoring and capacity building processes and manuals were agreed upon. The formula is quite simple, and includes enrolment, poverty, and stage of education as drivers.

During 2009 funding was decentralized all the way to the school level, and schools began to receive funding. As of late 2009, the pilot showed few if any problems, and the expected results were materializing quite well, in terms of stimulating community participation, allowing schools to spend more efficiently and assess their own priorities, and increasing the seriousness of school-based planning by creating a means to finance such plans, among other expected results. An informal assessment of the pilot revealed that the funding formula money precipitated an increase in community donations. The survey results show that the ratio of the median values of community donations of the pilot year to the previous year was 2.20.Parallel to these efforts in the education sector, other sectors (for example, certain aspects of housing and municipal services) in Egypt are planning to decentralize decision-making and spending, now nation-wide (without a pilot stage in limited governorates), in a phased approach. Education plans to be one of the lead sectors in this process. In addition to administrative and financial decentralization, there is an increasing emphasis on involving elected local popular councils (which exist at governorate and district level) in the horizontal oversight of expenditure and planning across the decentralizing sectors, and as they come on stream in the decentralization process. Within the education sector, as of late 2009 plans are being made to decentralize certain lines of funding and planning for capital equipment and infrastructure, in all governorates, all the way to school level in the case of smaller units of capital equipment, or levels higher than the school for items such as new infrastructure. The education sector does expect to continue to use the original 3 pilot governorates as a special observatory to assess and understand how well the process is proceeding .


The literacy rate in Egypt is 71 percent as of 2005 which includes 59 percent of females and 83 percent of males.There is special attention given by the government and other NGOs to reduce gender disparity in education and to achieve the 2015 MDG of universal primary education

The Egyptian educational system is highly centralized, and is divided into three stages:

  • Basic Education ( , transliteration: al-Taʿaleem al-Asassī)
    • Primary Stage
    • Preparatory Stage
  • Secondary Education ( , transliteration: al-Taʿaleem al-Thanawī)
  • Post-Secondary education ( , transliteration: al-Taʿaleem al-Gammeʿī)

Since the extension of the free compulsory education law in 1981 to include the Preparatory Stage, both Primary and Preparatory phases (Ages 6 through 14) have been combined together under the label Basic Education. Education beyond this stage depends on the student's ability.

Types of Schools

Government Schools

Generally speaking, there are two types of government schools: Arabic Schools and Experimental Language Schools.
  • Arabic Schools, provide the governmental national curriculum in the Arabic Language. A governmental English language curriculum is taught starting at fourth Primary year and French is added as a second foreign language in Secondary Education.
  • Experimental Language Schools, teach most of the government curriculum (Science, Mathematics and Computer) in English, and adds French as a second foreign language in Preparatory Education. An Advanced English language curriculum is provided in all Educational stages. Social Studies are taught in Arabic. Students are admitted into first grade at age seven; a year older than Arabic schools.

Private Schools

Generally speaking, there are three types of private schools:

  • Ordinary schools, their curriculum is quite similar to that of the government schools, but the private schools pay more attention to the students' personal needs and to the school facilities.
  • Language schools, teach most of the government curriculum in English, and add French or German as a second foreign language. They are expected to be better than the other schools, because of the facilities available, but their fees are much higher. Some of these schools use French or German as their main language of instruction, but it may be difficult for the student to study in governmental universities in Arabic or English afterwards.
  • Religious Schools, are religiously oriented schools as Azhar schools.

Many of the private schools were built by missionaries, are currently affiliated with churches and provide quality education.

Many private schools offer additional educational programs, along with the national curriculum, such as the American High School Diploma, the British IGCSE system, the French baccalauréat, the German Abitur and the International Baccalaureate.These are the types of private schools in Egypt.

Basic Education

The basic education consists of pre-primary, primary and preparatory levels of education. In Egypt, the Ministry of Education coordinates the preschool education. In 1999-2000 the total enrollment rate of pre-primary students was 16 percent and that increased to 24 percent in 2009. Irrespective of private or state run, all preschool institutions come under Ministry of Education. It is the Ministry’s duty to select and distribute textbooks. According to the Ministry’s guidelines, the maximum size of a preschool should not exceed more than 45 students . Ministry of Education is also getting support from the international agencies, such as the World Bank to enhance the early childhood education system by increasing access to schools, improving quality of education and building capacity of teachersAt the primary level students could attend private, religious or government schools. Currently, there are 7.8 percent of students enrolled at primary level in private schools as of 2007.The total enrollment of students at primary level is 105 percent in 2007 . The examinations at grade 3 are on district (edara) level.

The second tier of basic compulsory education is the preparatory stage or lower secondary which is three years long. Completion of this tier grants students the Basic Education Completion Certificate. The importance of completion of this level of education is to safeguard students against illiteracy as early drop outs at this stage easily recede into illiteracy and eventually poverty.

Secondary Education

Secondary education consists of three tracks: general ,vocational/technical and the dualsystem vocational education which represented i Mubarak Kohl schools. The general secondary stage includes 3 years of education, whereas the secondary vocational track could be for 3-5 years.And 3 years for the dual system vocational education.To enter the secondary level, the students must pass a national exam which is given at end of the secondary stage. As of year 2004 the 77.3 percent of students completing preparatory stage are estimated to be enrolled in secondary education .At this level, students have formative and summative assessments during the first year and the average of the end of year national standardized exams for year two and three qualifies the students to take the Certificate of General Secondary Education-Thanawiya Amma, which is one of the requirements for admission into the universities.So far efforts are underway with the support of multilateral organizations to make the general and vocational secondary system less rigid and provide equal opportunities to students of various wealth quintiles in the two tracks to opt for higher education. This is also being implemented by the World Bank led secondary enhancement project in Egypt.

Secondary education consists of three different types: general, technical or vocational.

Technical/Vocational Secondary EducationTechnical education, which is provided in three-year and five-year programs, includes schools in three different fields: industrial, commercial and agricultural. The UN and other multilateral organizations are working towards improving the technical and vocational training system in Egypt. It is recommended to the Ministry of Education to introduce broad vocational skills in the curricula of general secondary schools. In this way students will be able to gain certification in practical skills needed in the job market.The Ministry of Education (MoE) controls pre-tertiary, school-based programs that can start after grade 6 and that enroll the largest number of students in TVET-over 2 million students. The Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) controls the middle technical institutes (MTIs). These draw their enrollments from MoE's general secondary schools or technical schools and have much smaller enrollment numbers. Graduates o f the MoE’s vocational programs can enter vocational training centers (VTCs).From the 2004 data, it is estimated that 30 percent of the secondary students have opted for the vocational track.Government of Egypt has undertaken some promising initiatives to strenghten the management and reform of the TVET system.In 2006 the Industrial Training Council(ITC) was created through a ministerial decree with a mandate to improve coordination and direction of all training related entities, projects and policies in the Minsitry.This will resolve the issue faced by most firms to employ skilled work force.According to the Enterprise Surveys in 2007, 31 percent of the firms in Egypt identify labor skill level as the major constraint of doing business in the country.

Al Azhar Education System

Another system that runs in parallel with the public educational system is known as the Al-Azhar system. It consists of four years of primary stage, a three year preparatory stage and finally three years of secondary stage. The Ministry of education reduced the number of secondary school years from four to three years in 1998, so as to align the Al Azhar system with the general secondary education system. In this system as well, there are separate schools for girls and boys. Al Azhar education system is supervised by the Supreme Council of the Al-Azhar Institution. The Azhar Institutionmarker itself is nominally independent from the Ministry of Education, but is ultimately under supervision by the Egyptian Prime Minister.Al Azhar schools are named "Institutes" and include primary, preparatory, and secondary phases.All schools in all stages teach religious subjects and non-religious subjects, to a certain degree- not as intensively as the state schools. The bulk of the curriculum, however, consists of religious subjects as described below. All the students are Muslims, and males and females are separated in all stages. Al-Azhar schools are all over the country, especially in rural areas. The graduates of Al-Azhar secondary schools are eligible to continue their studies only at the Al-Azhar University. As of 2007 and 2008, there are 8272 Al-Azhar schools in Egypt. In the early 2000s, Al-Azhar schools accounted for less than 4% of the total enrollment.The graduates of this system are then automatically accepted into Al-Azhar Universiyt.In 2007, the Pre-University enrollment in Al- Azhar institutes is about 1,906,290 students.

Higher Education System

Egypt has a very extensive higher education system. About 30% of all Egyptians in the relevant age group go to university. However, only half of them graduate. According to The Economist, standards of education at Egyptian public universities are "abysmal".

The Ministry of Higher Education supervises the tertiary level of education. There are a number of universities catering to students in diverse fields. In the current education system, there are 17 public universities, 51 public non-university institutions, 16 private universities and 89 private higher institutions. Out of the 51 non –university institutions, 47 are two-year middle technical institutes (MTIs) and four are 4-5 years higher technical institutes’ . The higher education cohort is expected to increase by close to 6 percent (60,000) students per annum through 2009.

In 1990, a legislation was passed to provide greater autonomy to the universities17 . But still the education infrastructure, equipment and human resources are not in place to cater to the rising higher education students. Tertiary education enrollment increased significantly from 659 thousand students in 1999 to 2.5 million in 2007, whereas the gross enrollment rate of the 18-23 age group went from 20 to 28%. But there has not been a similar increase in spending on improving the higher education system in terms of introduction of new programs and technologies. It is noted that out of the 77 percent tertiary education students who attend universities, about 98 percent of attend free public institutions. Out of those 98 percent, 48 percent of university students come from the top income quintile. This is primarily because of the highly competitive secondary level exam, --Thanawiya Awwa, in which students with more resources can afford private tutoring which helps them to score higher on the national standardized exams and hence are accepted in top universities in Egypt. Therefore, this competitive process of selection restricts students’ degree options and results, hence making students opt for programs and careers which are of little interest to them.

The Egyptian tertiary education is steered by a centralized system with institutions having little control on the decisions of the curriculum, program development and deployment of staff and faculty. In order to improve the already outdated system, rigid curriculum and teaching practices, the government has established National Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Education (NAQAAE) as an independent entity. The aim of this entity is to introduce international best practices, promote quality and provide greater autonomy to the universities and technical institutes. Two new government bodies have been established to promote research, development and innovation (RDI) through increased funding and technical assistance. In 2007, the overall level of funding of RDI was 0.24 percent of the GDP but it is expected that by 2012 RDI funding will reach 0.5% of GDP, which is quite high by standards of lower middle income countries.

The Ministry of Education has recently proposed a Master Plan for the Development of Higher Education until 2022, which is a second phase to the reforms initiated in 1995. This plan aims to further the reform process in the higher education sector through the generalization of good practices. The World Bank has been one of the few donors, along with OECD, to be deeply involved with the higher education sector.There are both private and public institutions of higher education in Egyptmarker. Public higher education is free in Egypt, and Egyptian students only pay registration fees. Private education is much more expensive. Major universities include Cairo Universitymarker (230,000 students), Alexandria University, Ain Shams University, and the 1,000-year-old Al-Azhar University (350,000 students), while the American University in Cairo, Arab Academy for Science and Technology and Maritime Transport and Université Française d'Égypte are some of the leading private universities.


Although significant progress has been made to increase human capital base through improved education system, still the quality of education experience is low and unequally distributed. Due to lack of good quality education at the basic and secondary levels, there has been a mushrooming market for private tutoring. Now to take private tuition has become more of an obligation than a remedial activity. According to the Egypt Human Development Report (2005), 58 percent of surveyed families stated that their children take private tutoring. The CAPMAS (2004) survey showed that households spend on average around 61 percent of total education expenditure on private tutoring. In addition, per household expenditure of the richest quintile on private tutoring is more than seven times that of the poorest. Among the issues is the lack of sufficient education in public schools and the need for private tuition. As of 2005, 61-70% of Egyptian students attend private tuition.. Other common issues include: theft of public educational funds and leakage of exams..

Egypt also has a shortage of skilled and semi-skilled workforce.But there has been an abundance of low-skilled laborers. Even if there are any high-skilled workers available, their quality of training is quite poor. This is mostly a problem in small-medium companies and large public industries that work in “protected” domestic markets. The average gross production per worker is lower than other North African countries: Morocco and Tunisia. Youth unemployment is also very high, primarily due to lack of education system in providing necessary training under TVET programs.

A study conducted by UNESCO on educational equity in world’s 16 most populous countries placed Egypt in the middle range in terms of equity of primary and secondary enrollments across governorates in Egypt . But when the wealth component is added to education attainment, the results are not very encouraging. There are significantly higher enrollment rates in wealthier regions at both the primary and secondary levels. This confirms that more efforts are needed to reduce the wealth gap in educational attainment

See also


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