The education system in Egypt is facing numerous challenges on a variety of levels, which obstructs the materialization of the right to education with its different components as stated in Comment 13 on of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Among those components are the quality of education and the way curricula are tailored to the students’ needs whether in terms of knowledge or skills.
The 2011-2030 education strategic plan underlined the absence of a broad vision as far as developing curricula is concerned and relying in upgrading curricula on a fragmented approach that merges unrelated material from different international curricula. In addition, curricula and teaching and learning methodologies are detached from the actual school environment and the participation of teachers in discussions about curricula and in developing in-class supplemental material is minimal.
This paper will underline the main challenges facing the methodologies and different phases of setting school curricula in Egypt and will survey international experiences and propose development strategies.
The curriculum development process faces a numbers of challenges:
School curricula as part of the educational process:
In the past few decades, reports and recommendations on education have mainly focused on quantitative components such as the number of students and the number of schools while overlooking qualitative ones. Providing education for all is one of the state’s duties as stipulated by international charters. What is more important, however, is the type and quality of this education, how it is provided, and in what kind of environment. These issues, unlike the traditional approach, focus on the qualitative rather than the quantitative aspects of education.
The school curriculum is at the core of the educational process owing to its role in shaping the personality of students/learners and its role in embodying the educational goals of a given country. The curriculum is not only comprised of the material in text books, but also encompasses methods of teaching, presentation, and evaluation. Curricula are the main foundation on which the quality of the educational process is based. That is why this paper focuses on the criteria upon which curricula are set and the means of ensuring their quality. There have been demands to develop school curricula not only by students and parents, but the same demands are echoed by the media and academia owning to the role of those curricula in shaping the awareness and personality of the students.
Curriculum setting criteria in international experiences:
According to the UNESCO study on curriculum assessment, curricula are developed based on:
If the system that develops curricula is centralized and exclusive, how can it cater to the needs of children in different environments?
France is relatively similar to Egypt since it is a centralized state. Until 2003, there was not an entity in charge if developing curricula. France also has more than 300 charters related to curriculum development. In 2013, as part of an education development policy, the following changes were introduced:
Finland is considered by European countries and the United States to have performed a miracle in education. In the 1970s, Finland embarked on a process of developing the educational system for the purpose of offering equal education opportunities for all citizens. In the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, a gradual process to shift to a decentralized system started and local authorities were given more powers as far as education is concerned in their respective municipalities. The process of curriculum development in Finland is currently based on the following:
The curriculum development process in Egypt: Recommendations
It is not possible to develop school curricula without upgrading the process through which this development takes place. This process needs to be more participatory so that it would include representatives of the different echelons of society. Relevant parties to take place in the process should include the executive departments of the Ministry of Education and the Center for Education Development, municipal authorities and individuals including teachers, students, and parents. The process should take place in stages and should be transparent. It is also important to look into the criteria for appointing the staff of the Center for Education Development and ministry employees in charge of setting school curricula to make sure that they are chosen based on efficiency and experience rather than seniority and that they are chosen based on a clear set of rules. Fair access to quality education for all would only be possible when the curricula in public schools are radically changed so that they no longer depend on memorization while paying no attention to developing students’ critical thinking abilities and the same should apply to exams and other forms of assessment. Curricula need to be flexible enough to cater to the needs of different regions in Egypt since what students in Siwa Oasis need is not the same as students in Alexandria, for example. This should happen while ensuring that the quality stays the same nation-wide and that the educational system in all parts of the country depends on developing students’ mentalities and personalities. This necessitates providing teachers with intensive training and developing the educational environment inside the schools. It also means that developing school curricula not only implies a shift towards decentralization and the appointment of efficient staff, but also coordination with all other relevant entities like the schools of education, the Teachers’ Academy, and the bodies in charge of setting exams. This should be accompanied by budget amendments in which teachers’ salaries are raised and more money is allocated generally to education and to printing new books.
Because if the process of curriculum development is conducted without a clear methodology that relies of participation, representation, and efficiency it could end up repeating the same mistakes of the past, the following three recommendations need to be taken into consideration:
Implementation mechanisms first need to be discussed among relevant players—both legislative and executive—civil society, and individuals. In order for those mechanisms to be effective, decision-makers need to be serious about developing education and shifting the focus of the educational process towards students’ skills and knowledge.
First: Legislative reforms
The challenges facing education and curriculum development in Egypt are to a great extent associated with the state’s philosophy on education and the laws that govern the educational process as a whole. Several legislative amendments are required in order to make the curriculum development process more participatory, flexible, and representative of the diversity of the Egyptian society:
Second: Drafting a new curriculum development charter
The curriculum development charter would be the reference all writers of textbooks should consult. This charter would include the philosophy of education for each stage, its main goals, and the skills and knowledge the learner is expected to acquire in it. It should also determine teaching methods and the number of hours. The phrasing of the charter should be extremely lucid while leaving room for textbook writers to be creative and for flexibility of adaptation for different local environments. Such a charter was already issued in Egypt, yet it was not participatory and it did not trigger a radical change in curricula or teaching methodologies. For this reason, the following is proposed:
Third: Enhancing teachers’ skills and improving their status
The process of developing curricula would not bear fruit unless teachers receive the proper training that enables them to teach the new material. This can be done through the following:
Curriculum development is a long and arduous process, but is inevitable in the light of the challenges currently facing the Egyptian education system. Political will and societal participation are as important as legislative and budget amendments in order to develop a participatory process that is based in efficiency and fair representation.
 “Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment 13, The right to education.”, in http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/gencomm/escgencom13.htm
 Christian Depover, “Conception et pilotage des reformes du curriculum”, UNESCO, mars 2006.
 Christian Depover, ibid.
 Roger-François Gauthier, Maryline Coquidé et Dominique Raulin, « France : l’avancée du Socle commun et les
questions posées », Revue internationale d’éducation de Sèvres [En ligne], 56 | avril 2011.
 Installation du conseil superieur des programmes, dossier de presentation, Ministere Education Nationale, octobre 2013.
 Finnish Education in a nutshell, Ministry of Education in Finland, in https://is.gd/sl9HGO HYPERLINK “https://is.gd/c9fvcN
Erja Vitikka, Leena Krokfors & Elisa Hurmerinta, “The Finnish national core curriculum: structure and
Development.” Miracle of Education. Eds. Niemi, Toom & Kallioniemi. University of Helsinki, 2012.