Educate Me, an Egyptian non-profit that aims to redefine education, is looking to advance its curriculum with the hope of influencing Egypt’s education system in a positive and constructive way, by supplying students with skill-based curriculum.
The face of Educate Me has changed since its inception in 2010, when it primarily acted as a fundraising opportunity to assist underprivileged youth in being able to afford schooling. Since it first kicked off its programme, Educate Me has been able to aid 2,000 beneficiaries in finding a way to afford an education.
However, after a few years the organisation quickly made the shift from funding education to shaping it, after witnessing firsthand the dire situation of an education system in need of reform. They established their first community school in 2015, and hope it will be the first of many.
According to the organisation’s website, they have educated more than 400 children through their education programmes.
Daily News Egypt met with the PR manager of Educate Me, Aya Yasser, to discuss what changes the organisation is seeking to implement in its schools in order to shake the foundations of education in Egypt—exemplified through classroom curriculum. Educate Me is hoping to become a model for education development amid recent failures in the education system.
Through their newly established Educate Me Community School, which is located in the Talbeya district of Al-Haram, Educate Me is putting their developed curriculum to the test to understand its weaknesses and strengths and refine them accordingly.
The school looks to combine the essentials of the national education programme with Educate Me’s ideas for boosting curriculum through improving students’ self-actualisation while still gaining the necessary education certificate and recognition from the government.
Yasser said Educate Me observes how students were accustomed to studying before they came to the organisation, and how they compare to other kids who come from other forms of education when paired together. The organisation looks to see if students are learning how to be decisive and are gaining useful skill sets that are not taught in government-run schools.
Educate Me hopes to publicise their new education model and influence the government’s reform of the education system with their new curriculum, said Yasser. Although no timeline has been set in place, Yasser said this will happen “hopefully in the future”.
As one of their biggest projects, the new school aims to work in underprivileged and highly populated areas in Egypt where there are fewer schools. They also want to target areas where they can give girls the chance to attend school, said Yasser.
In the Educate Me Community School, they have KG-1, KG-2 and primary classes, all carried out under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Solidarity. The school hands out certificates that have been accredited by the ministry, and with these certificates the students are able to enrol in the public school system once they have completed the elementary grade levels offered by the Educate Me Community School.
There are already plans for Educate Me to expand next year, and establish a preschool in a different underprivileged area, which will later be expanded into a community school.
The real purpose of education
“What is the purpose of education and what should it do for students if it doesn’t help them progress in their lives?” said Yasser, recalling the words that the founder of Educate me, Yasmin Helal, told her about the meaning of education.
Yasser said students should obtain from education abilities greater than just literacy. They should also obtain other skills that assist them with their future professions and being active members of society.
“When we talk about skills, we talk about 21st century skills,” said Yasser, who added that education around the world is developing and job markets have new requirements, which require more from students and thus their education system as well.
Educate Me also aims to provide professional development for teachers. The organisation hosts sessions and seminars that aim to improve teachers’ skills over the course of the school year and help them provide quality education for their students, said Yasser.
Educate Me has plans next year to expand its “teacher training arm” to work in over 70 schools to assist in developing more teachers, Yasser added.
Yasser said the organisation hopes to develop well-rounded students and teachers without adhering to just one specific focus or specialisation, while also trying to avoid telling students what is best for them and allowing them to figure it out for themselves.
In turn, Yasser added, it will also be favourable for Egypt’s economy to have an educated and well-developed workforce that strives to improve “their lives, society, and hopefully the country”.
Hurdles along the way
Amid much hope, there remain a few hurdles that are obstructing the future pathway of Educate Me’s progress. For starters, as a registered NGO it was an obstacle for them to be able to obtain funding from outside the country, which resulted in most of the funding having to come from Egypt.
Second, according to Yasser, it took months upon months for Educate Me to obtain the licence to open a school, despite the procedures being relatively easy. However, the bureaucracy stands in the way of finishing the required papers as they take long time to be approved.
Yasser also added that the recent leaks of the thanaweyya amma (secondary school) exams are the result of “several problems in education and not just in the curriculum”.
Developing children with the integrity to not cheat is needed, and improving the whole education system is also essential to economic development.
Educate Me relies on four different sources for funding. For the programme they created to train and develop teachers, they use profits from their main operations. There are also company sponsors (CSRs) that fund their programmes and their operations. There are also grants that can be on a local or international level. Lastly, there are the crowd-funding campaigns, which are based on donations and charity work.