Egypt has made significant progress towards achieving the Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly in expanding access to basic education, and closing the gap between boys’ and girls’ enrolment. Egypt has attained a school net enrolment rate of 95.4% . Despite this overall progress, socio-economic, geographical factors and gender disparities continue to affect access to primary education. The percentage of children between the age 6-18 years who never enrolled or who have dropped out of basic education is 8.1%, equivalent to around 2.8 million children . Most of these children come from poor families; live in remote rural communities; are working children, and children with disabilities. In addition, gross enrolment rates for girls are generally lower than those of boys in primary school and gender gap is 2.8% in favour of boys at the national level . Gender gaps especially in rural Upper Egypt ranges between 1.2% (Aswan Governorate) to 11.2% (Assiut Governorate)3 and remain an important challenge towards achieving universal primary education. The pre-school education system, where children are prepared physically, socially and cognitively for the rest of their education, is underdeveloped and is mainly an urban phenomenon. About 21% of children are enrolled in pre-schools, which is far from the national goal of 60% enrolment. In addition, the quality of education remains a major challenge that hinders the capacity of children to develop to their full potential.
The school environment adversely affects completion rates as about one in five school buildings are not fit for use and lack functional water and sanitation facilities. Students suffer from rigid conventional style teaching techniques in which participation is not encouraged and corporal punishment is commonly applied. To-date, less than 10% of the total number of schools meets the national standards for quality education .
UNICEF’s InterventionsThe education programme, has three main strategic interventions contributing to the national efforts to increase the access of girls and boys, age 4-14, to quality education with a focus on reaching children in disadvantaged areas.
1. Early Childhood Development;
Supporting the Ministry of Education (MoE) to use standard quality assurance tools, in pre-schools education programmes in three governorates. UNICEF has supported the MoE to pilot community-based models of kindergartens (KGs), establishing 310 KGs reaching 25,000 child-ren in disadvantaged communities in Upper Egypt with quality pre-school education. Currently, the good practices and lessons-learned from this pilot are being mainstreamed and scaled-up by the (MoE) to increase pre-school enrolment rates.
2. Community Based Education (CBE);
- Providing technical assistance to MoE, to maintain quality education in CBE initiatives, reaching 44,000 children, of whom 75% are girls.
-Combating the Worst Forms of Child Labour, through integrating children at risk and child labourers into formal and CBE, reaching 8,000 children, in 3 governorates. In 2011, the initiative was expanded to 5 governorates targeting 13,000 children at risk and child labourers.
-Supporting MoE to develop the multi-grade curricula, for one-class-room community schools to improve the quality of the primary stage CBE initiatives, reaching 100,000 children.
3. School Improvement Project (SIP);
- Developing a child friendly, safe and stimulating learning environment in primary schools for accreditation against national quality standards for public schools. To-date, 53 schools were accredited thus providing quality education to around 55,000 children.
- Facilitating the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream government schools, including training of MoE staff and creating special areas with additional learning materials. To-date, 334 children with disabilities have been integrated into 20 primary public schools.
- Building the capacity of schools’ students’ unions, in 9 governorates, to strengthen civic education/participation through developing students’ life skills, positive values, and enabling students to participate in decision-making processes within their schools and communities.
- Initiating a series of consultations to eliminate violence in schools through reviewing MoE policies and develop child protection mechanisms in schools, at the national level.
Programme Expected Results
- Quality assurance tools, based on national standards, are available and piloted in 3 governorates and children’s school readiness (in community based and government KGs) is strengthened. Community models of pre-school education are piloted and mainstreamed in the national system.
- Reduction of disparities in access and completion of quality education, with a focus on disadvantaged girls. Multi-grade curriculum is developed and monitoring and evaluation systems are designed to strengthen the capacity of the MoE to supervise the community based education sector.
- Criteria of child friendly schools are integrated into national school quality standards and mainstreamed in primary schools, with a focus on disadvantaged areas in 9 governorates.
- Children suffering from learning difficulties, mental and physical disabilities are benefiting from the pilot for inclusion of children with special needs, in primary schools in Cairo and Sohag governorates.
- Three hundred thousand students, actively participating in student unions activities inside the schools and surrounding communities.