The Ministry of Education and other officials made several new decrees over the summer in an attempt to improve some of the chronic problems in Egyptian public schools. Whether or not they will translate into changes on the ground is yet to be seen, as the academic year starts tomorrow.
Grading in Egypt is currently wholly dependent on mid-year and end-of-year exams. A decree issued by former Education Minister Moheb al-Rafei in July attempts to change this by allocating 10 percent of thanaweya amma grades to attendance figures and behavior.
Current minster Al-Helaly al-Sherbiny asserted on Sunday that this decree would be upheld and attendance would be centrally monitored by the ministry, through daily reports of absent students from educational directorates.
The ministry announced imminent maintenance in schools across the nation and the building of several new schools, following a number of accidents last year caused by old buildings in a bad state of repair.
According to the ministry, 189 new schools will welcome students on Monday. But several media reports indicate that planned renovations were not completed in time, leaving some schools out of service ahead of the new school year. Officials told privately-owned Al-Watan newspaper that students would be allocated to nearby schools until works are completed.
According to a ministerial decree issued in June, teachers have been instructed not to use corporal punishment, or to cause physical or emotional harm to their students. The “School Discipline Charter” also details the rights of responsibilities of all stakeholders in the educational process, including students, teachers, parents and school administrators. The decree details acceptable punishments for student misbehavior. This follows the injury and death of a number of students as a result of violence by teachers in the last few years.
The discussion of political or partisan matters in schools was forbidden on Sunday in a manual circulated by the ministry. Other instructions include ensuring the flag salute is performed and the national anthem is sung in the mornings, as well as details about the maintenance of school buildings.
One of the financial nightmares for parents of school children, especially those in the thanaweya amma, is the cost of private tutoring, which has become a necessity to make up for below-standard teaching in many schools. Former Education Minister Rafei moved to close 1628 of them, according to a tally by the ministry.
To replace them, the Cabinet announced in August that it would create tuition services in youth centers and schools at subsidized rates. However, experts are skeptical as to the government’s ability to make this transition effectively.