Education Minster Tarek Shawki walked back on Tuesday applying the conversational new educational system at public “experimental” schools, which was meant to roll out next year, which recently caused outrage among parents leading to a protest outside the ministry building last week.
Shawki said in a statement, “the new educational system will be applied next year at Arabic language and Japanese schools only,” adding that the ministry will discuss and evaluate the experience, and discuss the possibility of applying it to experimental schools in 2020/2021.
The system was to be applied at governmental experimental language schools from next year, for students in kindergarten. The main features of the plan are to end the experimental school system and unify the educational system at all schools, in which the curriculum is to be only in the Arabic language until the preparatory stage (seventh year), after which students would be taught the curriculum in English.
In April, Egypt signed an agreement for a five-year loan worth $500m to improve education conditions at Egyptian public schools.
The system triggered a wave of anger and concerns among middle class families, who said that they do not have other choices but public experimental language schools to offer their children an opportunity to have a decent level of education, with relatively bearable expenses compared to private and international schools.
Following Shawki’s announcement last Wednesday, dozens of parents held a sit-in in front of the Education Ministry building to protest the new decision. Some raised banners which read: “against curriculum Arabisation,” “our children have the right to study language curricula,” and “our children’s education is a red line.”
“If the minster wants to apply the new system, it should be applied at all schools in Egypt not just the governmental ones,” said Eman Adel, a mother whose son is in the third primary stage at an experimental language school in Dokki, told Daily News Egypt. She added that all students must be dealt with in an equal manner. “What shall I say to my son when I get asked why his peers speak English fluently, but he does not? The ministry should focus on developing a curriculum in a way that serves all students’ interests,” noted Adel.
Several parents may hold another sit-in in the coming days, said Adel. “We are thinking of going to court, but there are no official decrees issued by the ministry until this moment,” she said.
Adel further said that the English language has become an essential language for any student in the world. “How do they want to apply new systems depending on tablets and other electronics without teaching students a standard level of English in their early stages?” wondered Adel.
Meanwhile, Ghosoun Tawfek a researcher in the education filed, agreed with Adel on the right to equality for every student. “The system was to be applied on a social class that does not have another option to give their children an acceptable level of English language, which is very essential in the labour market,” she said, adding, “if the ministry is looking to develop education in Egypt, it should focus on improving the whole educational environment, teachers’ conditions, and schools, as well as the amount of expenses spent on education.”
She further said, “developing education is a respectable effort done by the ministry, but there are significant fundamentals that need to be improved and to be within their priorities,” adding, “if they believe that the experience of experimental schools has failed, they should put in mind improving it, not cancelling the whole system.”
Meanwhile, Tawfek noted, these kinds of measures do not affect affluent classes, who can always offer their children better opportunities in education, inside or even outside the country. “The minister says they want to maintain the Egyptian identity, then it should be applied evenly to international and private schools,” noted Tawfek.