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Egypt’s Higher Education Exams to Start Following ‘Open Book’ System

Egypt’s Higher Education Exams to Start Following ‘Open Book’ System

A secondary school student taking his exam in Egypt
Source unknown.

The Ministry of Education and Technical Education announced that students from grades 1 and 2 in the secondary level of the Thanaweya system would be following the new system in which they would have open access to textbooks during their exams.

The implementation in the system, announced through the Ministry of Education itself, was long anticipated since Egypt’s Minister of Education Tarek Shawki announced a new reform in Egypt’s education system.

Image courtesy of Ministry of Education’s Facebook page

Such updates are expected to be implemented as of the next the round of exams set for January for most Egyptian students or students in the public ‘thanawiya ammah’.

Over one million students are expected to be venturing into this change, with the exams designed to be a combination of both paper and electronic forms, as per local news outlets.

For years, Egypt’s ailing educational system has relied on heavy set memorization and ‘ideal answer’ practices. Switching to an ‘open book’ form of examination is intended to spark critical-learning skills as learners become less reliant on memorizing facts.

To score highly in the competitive system, Egyptian students largely depend on expensive private tutoring in which they are encouraged to submit ‘expected’ and ‘model’ answers rather answers than based on understanding which hinders long-term retention of information and the quality of education overall.

Indeed, Egypt in its Global Competitiveness Report 2018–2019, the World Economic Forum ranked the quality of Egypt’s ‘critical thinking in teaching’ as 2.7 out of 7. In 2018, the country’s education quality ranked 129 in Spectator Index

Egypt introduced a new education system in August 2018, with the beginning of the new school year. Part of the reviving the curriculum is introducing a digital system to replace the old paper-based examinations. This move comes in an attempt to prevent manipulation of grades.

The upgrade of the educational programme comes after Egypt received a US $500 million loan from the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) last April to help revamp the system. This also feeds Egypt’s ‘2030 Vision’ development plan that emphasized the importance of educational reform to achieve social development in the country.

The newly instilled policies aim to annul examinations until 5th grade, the digitization of exams, the re-training of teachers, and setting up a  GPA system for high school students.

Technology is crucial to the future of Egyptian education. Credit: AFP.

In an interview with Egypt’s Minister of Education on the sidelines of the World Youth Forum in November 2018, Dr. Tarek Shawki revealed that a severely limited budget and resistance to change from families were some of the challenges to implementing the new system.

”We realized that, yes, you can get very competent technical expertise to build curricula, to talk about assessment, but the biggest problem is really a change in the mindset,” explained Dr. Shawki, further elaborating that the parents are themselves products and ”guardians” of the system the ministry was seeking to dismantle.

He also added that although the system was implementing technical changes and updates, it was a challenge getting all segments of Egyptian families on board with the developments. As such, the ministry is trying to carry its messages across through social media, radio, television and door-knocking approaches to inspire Egyptians to think of education differently.

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