Article 16 of the Basic Education Law 1981 (Law No. 139), amended by Law No. 233 in 1988, states that the aims of basic education in primary and secondary school are:
nurturing the abilities and potentials of students, fulfilling their preferences, and equipping them with values, knowledge, and skills needed to flourish in their own environment. Skills and knowledge provided shall enable those who finished basic education either to pursue a higher degree or go into vocational training. This is to prepare the learner to be a productive active citizen in their own community.
Basic education can also be defined as education that equips children with knowledge, orientations, and basic skills that enable them to develop further and later on “pursue higher education or go into vocational training” to become a “productive active citizen.” The core concept of basic education is to prepare enlightened and active citizens who are able to bear personal and social responsibilities, and are able to link their educational pathway with their career and environment.
Early childhood education (ECE) in Egypt was traditionally based on memorization and the use of wooden logs where children would transcribe what the Al-Faqeeh (Islamic teacher) asked them to do, especially based on the Holy Quran. The Al-Faqeeh would sometimes encourage peer tutoring of younger learners by older students (Badr 1988).
In 1996, kindergartens came under the supervision of the Ministry of Education (MoE) (UNESCO 2006). Later, a Preschool Curricula Development Committee was established to develop teacher guides and activity books that would nurture both the children’s skills and abilities. It is important to note that most of these development initiatives focused on health and nutrition, because a link was found between improved health and future education. Education policies in Egypt have witnessed a number of developments since then with regard to the curricula and preprimary education programs (sometimes called kindergarten or nurseries). The kindergarten programs include: Arabic language, mathematics, manners, hygiene, environment, drawing, handicrafts, physical education, music, rhythmic activities, and poetry (Abd Al-latif 2014).
The official bodies that are involved in the supervision of kindergartens are the MoE, the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs (MISA), the Ministry of Health (MoH), the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), and the Ministry of International Cooperation (MIC), with a governance committee under the umbrella of the NCCM to monitor provision and report regularly to the government (UNESCO 2006).
Among the objectives of basic education in Egypt is the aim to nurture the potential and capabilities of students in the following areas:
Ability to acquire knowledge
Language and communication
Knowledge and awareness.
These standards are outlined in the document for National Standards for Early Childhood Education in Egypt (Ibrahim 2014) and are used as the framework that faculties of education use to train prospective ECE teachers.
The Ministry of Education oversee the development of ECE learning activities, as well as the development of ECE teacher training programs for potential and current teachers. The National Standards for Early Childhood Education in Egypt (Ibrahim 2014) clearly outlines the standards, with specific learning outcomes that stem from each standard. The document includes a process for turning the standards into learning activities, recommends taking children’s cognitive developmental stages into consideration, and utilizing ideas from constructivist learning theories. Moreover, the document suggests means to assess students on the learning outcomes, as well as to link the respective activities to different ways of teaching, such as group-work, hands-on, and play-based. The MISA has developed curricula that are based on Frobel (learning through play and Montessori) for children below the age of 4 years (UNESCO 2006).
There are a number of limitations in the kindergarten curriculum. These include the failure to provide learning environments that nurture critical thinking and unleash learners’ potential. This is due to a traditional approach to education that relies mainly on memorizing (Assem 2012). Teachers depend on a collection of twenty-three books that include general teaching guides and subject guides for art, math, language, and writing as well as workbooks (UNESCO 2006).
There are a number of factors that hinder the attainment of kindergarten objectives. For example, music and rhythmic activities are not practiced in the majority of kindergartens because either a music teacher is not hired and/or there is little attention dedicated to music in general. Also, the current kindergarten curriculum ignores various forms of evaluation and assessment of learning progress. It only focuses on assessing academic knowledge gain and ignores other forms of learning. Consequently, it is inevitable that both teachers and parents focus on memorizing and homework (Youssef 1977: 17).
There is a huge gap between theory and practice. In practice, education in private and experimental schools supervised by the MoE is still subject-centered (Kamal 1988). Therefore, the KG curriculum should not focus on “teaching” but, rather, on the holistic development of the child’s sensations, skills, abilities, and preferences. Also, the KG curriculum has to cater for social, mental, and emotional aspects as well as primary school preparation. The national standards for early childhood encourage the integration of play activities; however, a play-based approach to ECE is not adopted or implemented as a mandate by the Ministry of Education.
Different stakeholders and institutions work hard in attempting to sustain a good environment for ECE in Egypt. However, the absence of a clear philosophy that determines and shapes academic preparation and training of kindergarten teachers can hinder these efforts. Since kindergarten is not mandatory, more than 40 percent of children below the age of 5 years have never attended nursery or kindergarten (Krafft 2015), with about half of KG enrollment happening in private schools, which are mostly managed by NGOs, religious schools, and other members of the Egyptian private sector (UNESCO 2006).
This also means that inequity exists, and training teachers to deal with students who are disadvantaged is not an easy task. For instance, university students in a faculty of education are not provided with academic courses on policies in education and child psychology (Diab 2013). This creates a challenge for teachers who have to deal with children without being properly equipped to do so, where they are expected to cater for children’s basic needs, as well as implement play-based learning theories.
There is also an imbalance between the theoretical and practical aspects of preservice training. Teacher preparation programs provide limited practical and field training opportunities. This reflects the traditional perception of education as a profession that can be mastered through practice and imitation, and not as a profession that needs adequate preparation and extensive practical training (UNDP 2008). Preservice training institutes do not regard research and pilot projects as a foundation to further develop the training available. There is also a big gap between preservice training and in-service training. Preservice training is conducted through faculties of education and teacher institutes, while in-service training is delivered through training and preparation units in the MoE. This gap is reflected in the absence of coordination and collaboration between both training bodies (Diab 2013).
The main motive behind ECE programs in Egypt is to prepare students to enter schools. This creates a huge gap between the standards identified by the Ministry of Education and the actual implementation of ECE curricula in Egypt. Progressive and play-based approaches are only provided in private kindergartens, which are accessed by a limited number of students. The majority of teachers use traditional practices targeting memorization and knowledge gain. The gap between preservice and in-service training increases the inconsistencies between the standards and practice.
Aga Khan Development Network. 2018. “Early Childhood Development.” Accessed June 7, 2018.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 2015.
Schools for Skills: A New Learning Agenda for Egypt.
Accessed June 25, 2018.
UNESCO International Bureau of Education (IBE). 2006.
Egypt Early Childhood and Education Care (ECCE) Programs.
Accessed June 20, 2018.
World Bank. 2015. “Early Childhood Development in Egypt.” Accessed June 15, 2018.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 2006. “Country profile commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2007 .” In Strong Foundations: Early Childhood Care and Education ; Egypt .
Refers to preprimary education of children aged 4–5 years, prior to transitioning to school. It usually takes place in formal classroom settings with a teacher and a curriculum.
Programs tailored for younger children (ages 2–4 years), it can also take the form of a regular classroom setting with a teacher and a curriculum.