Students attend class on the first day of their new school year at a government school in Giza, south of Cairo, September 22, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)
CAIRO – 2 May 2018: A new decision by Egypt’s Ministry of Education to Arabize the curriculum of the experimental language schools has caused wide controversy, especially among the middle class, who believe that a step like this could deepen social stratification.
“We recognize that the country has a new vision for developing the education system; however, we don’t think that Arabizing the curriculum of the experimental language schools is the right choice for its development. Frankly, we felt anger shortly after knowing the government’s new intentions regarding the governmental language schools, which will turn into other ordinary governmental Arabic schools,” Abeer Ahmed, founder of Egypt’s Mothers Association for Education Development, said in statement issued Tuesday, May 1.
Ahmed explained that according to the ministry’s new decision, the students will study everything in Arabic only, until they finish their basic education, which she and other members of the association consider unfair. “When students start their secondary education at the experimental language schools, they will start studying other subjects, such as maths and science, in the English language instead of Arabic for the first time,” Ahmed added in her statement.
She believes it would be difficult for students to start studying new subjects in English after six years of using only Arabic in schools.
“Nothing we can do by then will help them to develop their language skills; it would be too late,” Ahmed asserted.
Another problem for the founder of Egypt’s Mothers Association for Education Development was the fees that they will still be obliged to pay for the experimental language schools, even though they will not be studying anything different from the ordinary Arabic schools. “Both of the schools will be exactly the same; so why would we bother paying any additional money for it,” she said.
One of the core points of Ahmed’s statement was that the decision is considered to be a kind of discrimination and inequality since the Arabization decision was not generalized for all language, private and international schools, but only the experimental language schools. Experimental language schools are considered to be the middle-class governmental schools for students who aim for a better and more advanced level of foreign language education, without having to pay the large amounts of money for international schools in Egypt.
“Excluding the private and international schools from this decision is considered to be a kind of discrimination,” Ahmed said in her statement, affirming that “If the government decided to establish a new education system, then it’s better for them to apply the decision on all schools.”
Education Minister Tarek Shawky announced through a press conference on Monday, April 30 that the experimental language school curriculum will be Arabized, as the cost of translating the governmental curriculums from Arabic to English in order to be taught in the experimental language schools is very high and the government cannot afford it anymore.
“Whoever wishes to study foreign languages has the choice to travel and study wherever he wants abroad,” Shawky said during the conference.
The government announced that the basic education levels should remain only in Arabic, which is the students’ first language. The decision was praised by several social media users, however others expressed their complete opposition, wondering how canceling the experimental language schools could be considered a right move for the sake of educational development.
On Monday, April 30, following a hearing about the decision, several mothers protested in front of the Education Ministry in opposition to the decision. However, the minister affirmed during his conference that the decision has already been made and that “no further discussion should be re-opened again in this regard.”
According to the minister, all the students who are currently studying at the experimental language schools will finish their education, but starting from 2019, the current English curriculum of the experimental language schools will be canceled and replaced with another Arabic-advanced curriculum.
Egypt has a large number of experimental language schools throughout the country, including 221 in Cairo, 59 in Giza and 79 in Alexandria.