Minister of Education Tarek Shawky talking at the parliament – Hazem Abdel Samad
CAIRO - 22 January 2018: In an attempt to develop education in Egypt, the state is introducing technology into public schools. However, there have been many obstacles facing the implementation of this national project, which seem to have been disregarded by the Ministry of Education despite the recurrent failures of many development plans in that sector.
In December, Minister of Education Tarek Shawky said that one million tablets would be distributed among 10th grade students, teachers and school directors in the next academic year. He added that the tablets would be given for free and would not need to be returned.
A similar plan was implemented before, in 2013, as 250,000 tablets were given to students at public high schools in six governorates at a cost of LE 400 million ($22.5 million). The governorates were Matrouh, North Sinai, South Sinai, New Valley, Red Sea and Aswan.
The ministry started with these governorates, as they would be ideal testing grounds for the scheme due to their small populations. The idea of introducing tablets stemmed from the fact that printing school books costs the state LE 1.2 billion per year.
The experiment failed miserably, as students used the tablets to play video games and watch movies during classes. Moreover, a large number of the tablets were either damaged or sold by students. Although students were allowed to take the tablets home with them, they had to return them back when finishing their education; however, that did not happen.
In January 2017, former Minister of Education Helaly el-Sherbiny announced that the curricula would be uploaded to the ministry’s website, and that students would have access to the material in school through tablets, as the number of governorates where the tablets system was taking place increased to 10.
The question of why the ministry insists on giving the tablets to students despite the dissatisfactory results from testing the scheme remains an issue. The huge amounts of funds that go into purchasing tablets can be redirected to developing and constructing laboratories in public schools as well as renovating and introducing new educational materials.
As the curricula would be available online, teachers can display them in classrooms with projectors, which are available in many schools already and can be set up for others. The ministry announced on Sunday that it is allocating LE 30 million for only the maintenance of these devices.
Since most households now possess computers, students would be able to have access to the material at home. Even those who do not have ones, they have access to public places where they can use computers, connect to the internet and print out whatever they wish.
No official sources could be reached for comment.