The educational curricula of preparatory and high schools are nationalistic and lack respect for diversity, according a study the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) published on Tuesday.
The EIPR study examined history and national instruction textbooks in the academic years 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 in order to formulate recommendations for the Ministry of Education that recently announced it would change 30 textbooks to incorporate the political events since 2011.
It found that the ”Brotherhoodisation” of education, the alleged attempt of the Muslim Brotherhood to rewrite the educational curriculum, was exaggerated, as changes made under the rule of the Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, were “few and insignificant”.
After the ouster of Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, Minister of Education Mahmoud Abou El Nasr had said he would investigate the ”Brotherhoodisation” of education, in line with media accounts that the Brotherhood led government had tried to infiltrate and dominate state institutions.
Instead, the study indicated that educational curricula have been rigid over the past decade, reflecting a strong “nationalist discourse employing a simplistic narrative to create a constructed, homogenising Egyptian character”.
EIPR sounded firm criticism on the curriculum, arguing that education serves a “grand narrative […] to legitimise the post-1952 regime” and create the modern nation state Egypt.
The study quoted a line in 2011/2012 curriculum plan of the Ministry of Education saying: “The curricula should abide by the cornerstones of the Egyptian personality.” In the same plan, one of the general goals of education states that students should be able to “discern the general principles of Egyptian thinking”.
It noted that the 25 January Revolution that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, is not portrayed as an uprising against this post-1952 system, but rather as opposition against distinct wrongdoings in the last 10 years of Mubarak’s rule.
The study argued that a nationalist discourse in education poses several problems, one of which is the homogenising effect of nationalism, overshadowing ethnic or other differences and, as a result, challenge tolerance and diversity.
Nationalist narratives are often a “clear attempt to create obedient citizens who adhere to existing power structures and who do not question authority”, it added.
EIPR further identified a lack of use of primary sources and several historical simplifications and inaccuracies in the curriculum, including the omission of certain parts of history and overemphasising of others.
The study is part of a larger assessment of how nationalist discourse developed in Egypt since the 1950s.