A recent report from the British Council has shown the extent to which private English Language Tuition (ELT) is highly valued in Egypt, and highlighted a public lack of confidence regarding the region’s state-provided education.

“There is little public trust in state-provided education,” the report notes. “Instead, parents put their faith in private tutors to give their children a competitive advantage in life by achieving high scores in public examinations, which, in turn, offer the best chances of access to higher quality further education and employment.”

Families spend some $2 billion on private tuition annually, amounting to around a quarter of Egypt’s total education budget, according to the report.

Hamish McIlwraith, one of the report’s main authors, explained that essentially, the region already has a private education system running simultaneously to one provided by the state, with a nationwide curricula objective which hopes to guarantee every student can communicate coherently in English by the time they leave school.

“What came out of the findings was a demonstration that parents place an enormous amount of commitment in terms of money and time into their child’s education by giving them private lessons and private tutoring, however poor or rich they may be in order that they might give [the child] the best opportunity possible in life,” McIlwraith told The PIE News.

The report notes that a rapidly-rising population is a root cause of pressure on Egypt’s education system, which, according to the United Nations (UN) increased from 44.9 million in 1980 to approximately 78.1 million in 2010. Furthermore, the UN predicts that by 2050, Egypt’s population will have grown to 121.8 million as a result of increased life expectancy and reduced child mortality. This forecast comes in spite of reduced fertility rates in the region.

“Your parents and your family will pay what they can afford,” McIlwraith noted. “But there is a sort of expectation if you’re going to give your child the best chance it’s not a question of accessibility, there’s always provision, it’s a question of what you can afford.”

According to the report, limited class time, low rates of pay and excessive class sizes all contribute to the low quality of teaching in Egypt’s state provided education.

It further states that “the development of ‘good’ lesson plans is founded on knowledge of, rather than use of, the language as one might expect in a communicative classroom”.

Students surveyed in the report confirmed their belief in the value of the English Language, with 186 of a total 190 students stating ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ when asked whether they believed learning English was important in terms of their future prospects, with 179 also confirming a belief that it boosts their status within the community.

“If you look at the national institutions which have a different orientation, they are trying to ensure that there’s a different style of teaching,” McIlwraith told The PIE News. “But everyone appears to be restricted by the end of the secondary school test.”

In addition to the students, 90 percent of teachers claimed to ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that ELT diversifies students’ personal identities, with 96 percent confirming that widespread fluency in English among the Egyptian public would be greatly beneficial to the region.

“I think [there’s] an opportunity for international organisations, language schools, international providers, universities to engage in training,” McIlwraith concludes, adding that “it’s there to be a springboard for discussion and further development whether it’s from larger institutions and organisations or other providers.”

Additional reporting by The PIE News

Image via Free Range Stock.

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