Egypt’s Minister of Education Tarek Shawky said that his ministry has “ambitious plans” in the coming period to ensure that all students in Egypt are connected to digital learning facilities.
Shawky noted that students in Grades 10 to 12 are already connected to such facilities, with the ministry set to extend these facilities to the 12 million students in Grades 4 to 9.
The minister’s remarks came during a virtual meeting with the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt (AmCham), on Tuesday, in which he addressed Egypt’s education strategy and its development process.
Shawky started his speech by introducing the developments in Egypt’s education in the past few years, which directly benefited the country’s move to digital learning during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) period.
“We were really moving on many fronts, having started a brand new education system in September 2018 which we called Education 2.0,” Shawky said, “It worked for about 8 million students from the KG to Grade 3 stages.”
He added, “It is a very modern education system that was implemented in collaboration with international partners. Its student-based model of education is very different, including the books and methods of teaching used.”
Shawky said that the ministry is investing in Egypt’s high schools, changing the assessments model whilst abolishing the rote-learning of information which did not achieve real outcomes.
“We started using technology to assist with this,” the minister said, “The main change was in Grades 11 to 12, where we resorted to different questions and open book exams.”
A total of 250 high schools in Egypt are now equipped with servers, smart screens, WiFi, the minister said.
In a huge infrastructural overhaul of teaching methods, Shawky noted that a total of 18 million tablets have been distributed to students at a cost of about EGP 10m, in addition to a total of 36,000 smart screens installed in class rooms.
Teachers have also started preparing for the introduction of electronic exams, with paper exams abolished in Grades 10 and 11. Paper exams will also be removed from the Grade 12 syllabus by the summer of 2021.
“When COVID-19 hit in mid-March, we really benefited from the prior investment,” Shawky said, “For instance, we used the digital library study, which has huge circular and digital learning objects for KG1 right through to Grade 12.”
The minister added, “We were able to put this content on the learning management system (LMS), where it was sorted out lesson-by-lesson for each subject in each academic year, which was achieved in less than week and made available online for free.”
At the same time, the minister was keen to emphasise that no child was left behind during the pandemic.
“The full academic year was completed, despite many the many challenges we faced, not least because of the pandemic, but also because of certain students cheating on exams or purchasing research papers,” Shawky said.
He said that the Ministry of Education is carrying on with its current plans, which include an across-the-board revamping of the curricula for KG to Grade 6. The developments in this area are set to be finalised by 2021.
“We are also launching an “Ask Your Teacher” facility, which will allow students to ask teachers questions via an online platform, controlled by the ministry, and which will allow teachers to earn a controlled income through these means,” Shawky said, “We are also looking forward to controlling the private lessons landscape, as we will allow teachers to give lessons, regulated by the ministry and also at controlled prices, on school premises and during out-of-school hours.”
The wave of technological integration has entered high schools nationwide, with students in Grades 10 to 12 having access to technology, the minister said. In an innovation, there will be no books printed for high school students this coming year, as all books have been converted to electronic.
“It is almost impossible to think of offering tablets to all 12 million of the students in Grades 4 to 9,” Shawky said. He noted that the ministry has come up with some creative ideas, engaging with worldwide manufacturers for a list of approved devices with different price ranges which will be made available for parents to buy.