Education in Egypt - State and Religious Systems

Education is highly valued in Egypt and for children between the ages of six and fifteen education in Egypt is free and compulsory. There is still quite a high drop out rate unfortunately, due in part to levels of poverty, and adult literacy levels in Egypt are only around 57.7%. The education system is divided into either the State System or the Azharite Religious System.  Schools in the former system and private schools fall under the administration and supervision of the Ministry of Education and schools in the Azharite Religious System are supervised directly by the Egyptian Prime Minister.

For international expatriates living in Egypt they have the option of sending their children to a local state school or enrolling them in one of the many private and fee paying international schools that exist mainly in Cairo and Alexandria. This article provides an overview of the education system in Egypt as well as a closer look at the options available to international students of all ages who wish to study in Egypt.

The state education system in Egypt is currently undergoing a period of semi-reform with specific focus being applied to the state of the secondary education system which presently streams children at an early age into general, technical or vocational secondary education and further streams those studying in the general secondary education establishments into either studying humanities or science or mathematics. 

New proposals under scrutiny at the moment are for the creation of a secondary education system in Egypt that is modelled on the American high school diploma so that children are offered a wider choice of subjects to study. In the meantime, Egyptian children who follow the state education system through to completion and who wish to go on to post-secondary education, university or college can do so depending on their final exam scores. Public higher educational establishments in Egypt are free for Egyptian students with students only having to pay to enrol whereas private higher educational establishments are fee paying.

The Azharite education system has schools known as Ďinstitutesí for primary, prep and secondary age students with girls and boys taught separately and all students attending have to be of the Muslim faith. While a certain amount of emphasis is placed on the teaching of non-religious subjects, the foundation and fundamentals of Azharite education in Egypt are religious. Students who do well in their studies can go on to study at the ancient Al-Azhar University in Cairo.

Itís fair to say that the vast majority of expatriate families living and working in Egypt send their children to one of the fee paying international schools or else they send them to a boarding school in the country from which they originate.  In terms of the international schools available in Egypt the majority are to be found in Cairo with a few in Alexandria and there are also a number of international language schools in locations such as Luxor where education is taught in part in English and in part in Arabic and/or French.

Education in Egypt for international students usually follows the UK or US curricula with options available for children of all ages in Cairo and Alexandria.  Some favourites with expatriate parents include The American School of Alexandria and the Alexandria International School or the British International School of Cairo or the Maadi British International School in Cairo.

Since 2005 there has been a British university near Cairo, it was inaugurated by the Prince of Wales in March 2006 and it is affiliated with the UK based University of Loughborough.  The British University in Egypt as it is known is located in Al Sherouk which is 37 kilometres from Cairo and it currently has faculties for the teaching of engineering, computer science and business administration with future proposed faculties to include pharmacy, dentistry, nursing, teacher training, English, Middle Eastern studies and British policy studies.

A number of other British and some American further education establishments have affiliated with various teaching institutions in Egypt to offer accreditation and additional teaching resources, for example itís possible to study for a diploma in economics from the London School of Economics at the Advanced Management Institute of the Arab Academy for Science and Technology in Cairo. Or alternatively one can study for an Edinburgh Business School MBA at the American University in Cairo.

The value of education in Egypt is highly prized, but while there exists such a huge discrepancy between the standards of living, amenities and facilities available to those from wealthy and poor and city and rural backgrounds there will continue to exist a barrier between those who can afford to send their children to school and those who donít even have access to teaching staff or learning materials. Egyptian parents all want the very best for their children but not all can afford to send them to school. This is just another reason why many expatriates choose to take jobs in Egypt working for non-governmental aid and support agencies or who volunteer for a few years to teach students in impoverished or remote areas.

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

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