Egypt set to license $2.3 billion tutoring industry

Private tutoring centres, which are a multi-billion pound industry in Egypt, are set to receive long-sought licenses from the government, the country’s education ministry has said.

It’s a move that professionals say could upend the national education offer, where there has been a lack of state funding – something the government has admitted.

As people, as ordinary citizens on the streets, we would not have borne the consequences of devoting all the limited resources of the country to education

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi

Although they were frequently vilified and banned by former education minister Tarek Shawky, who was replaced in a cabinet reshuffle in August, private tutoring centers have proven difficult to eliminate, which has led the new leadership of the ministry under Reda Hegazy to formalize them.

Mr Hegazy spoke in favor of the centers during a plenary parliamentary session on Tuesday evening while outlining his plans to integrate them into the sector over the next academic year. He said the ministry had decided to “accept reality” and bring the private centers into the fold.

Large class sizes, low teacher salaries, lack of funding for public schools, and unavailability of educational resources over the decades have caused Egyptian parents and students to prefer private tutoring centers to public schools.

“When they said they were closing private centers last year and fining them all that money, I and a lot of parents were worried about our children’s education,” says Noura Ahmed, 41, mother of three children. The National. “Public schools are really unsustainable and I want my children to be educated so they can find jobs later. But the ban didn’t really happen, so that was a relief.

“My eldest daughter goes to school once or twice a week whenever there is a lesson from a competent teacher, but most of the time she just attends classes at a centre.”

Although they were banned last year as part of a large-scale crackdown, private lessons have continued unhindered. The EGP 47 billion ($2.38 billion) that these centers receive annually in tuition fees from learners is testament to how these centers are an integral part of the Egyptian education system.

Because their operations were largely unregulated in the past, the government earned little tax on the massive profits made by the private centers, a mistake the ministry is trying to rectify by formalizing them.

Ms Ahmed, whose 16-year-old daughter is a second-year secondary student, explains that unlike public schools, private centers give parents and students much more control over the subject matter and take more steps to ensure that exams are passed.

She points to the funding disparity between public schools and private centers as one of the main reasons why she chose to send her children to the latter. Where public schools are in a state of severe disrepair, private centers often use the latest technology for education.

“I once took my daughter to a class at a private center and was shocked to see the size of the room, there must have been around 1,000 chairs,” Ms Ahmed says. “The room was segmented into four sections, each with a huge dedicated plasma TV. The teacher stood in front of the class with a microphone and a camera that transmitted his image to the screens.

A lack of trust in public school teachers is also behind the massive success of private tutoring centers in Egypt.

“Last year was my first in secondary school and the subject was much more difficult than the year before. But on the first day of school, I arrived to find that the same teachers from my preparatory class were going to teach me that year,” explains Ms. Ahmed’s daughter, Manal, saying it soon became clear that her teachers didn’t know the more difficult high school curriculum well enough.

The National also spoke to Naglaa Abdel Moneim, the owner and manager of a large private tutoring center in Giza. She says the reason the centers have become a necessity is because the country’s curricula need updating and they are just too difficult to learn without outside help.

“The problem is definitely the programs,” she says. “They need to be streamlined urgently. If parents had confidence in the programs or in their children’s ability to understand them, they would not pay for their children to receive additional private lessons. But they know that if they don’t, the child will likely fall behind and have a harder time finding a job later.

Low teacher salaries in Egypt have also contributed significantly to the popularity of private tutoring centers. Public school teachers almost always hold private sessions because of their cost effectiveness.

“I don’t really blame the teachers,” says Ms. Ahmed. “I clean for a living, so I understand how difficult things can get when you can’t earn money. These teachers earn almost nothing working in public schools and they have families and children to take care of, so it is understandable that they pay more attention to their private lessons.

However, this creates a conflict of interest that ultimately makes it impossible for students to get a good quality education without taking private lessons, says Ms. Abdel Moneim.

Ms Ahmed says her younger son’s teacher repeatedly claimed he was failing, which turned out to be untrue. She said the teacher misrepresented his level and repeatedly recommended that he be enrolled in his private lessons.

Private schools

However, the profit potential creates more competition inside tutoring centers which ensures that the best teachers are employed, according to Ms Abdel Moneim, who worked as a teacher in a public school for 20 years before devoting herself to her career. tutoring center.

On the other hand, she concedes that financial motivation has also driven many private teachers to help students cheat on their exams to ensure they pass and then return to the tutoring center the following year.

“Teachers are not celebrated in Egypt and socially speaking, the profession is considered inferior,” says Ms. Abdel Moneim. “Thus, in their efforts to lift their families out of poverty, the least scrupulous teachers will act unethically for profit.

“It’s the decisions of a few bad apples, but overall I think the one-to-one lessons are beneficial.”

After an incident this month where a staircase at a school in Giza collapsed, killing one girl and injuring 14 others, the country’s education sector has come under intense scrutiny. The incident was blamed on pupils rushing down the stairs, however, critics pointed out that many schools across the country were in dire need of refurbishment.

As the country tries to weather an economic crisis that has dried up funding for many of its sectors, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said reliable electricity, roads and adequate food supplies have taken priority over the country. ‘education.

“We, as people, as ordinary citizens on the streets, would not have borne the consequences of devoting all of the country’s limited resources to education,” the president said.

Shady Zalata, the official spokesperson for the Department of Education, phoned to Akher El Nahara talk show aired Wednesday on a private TV channel, explaining that the licensing of private tutoring centers should not be seen by Egyptians as a failure on the part of the ministry, but rather as a formalization in the system education of the country.

Updated: October 20, 2022, 1:00 p.m.

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