How academia can become more beneficial to Egypt
Knowledge is the bedrock of any nation that desires to achieve true progress. Although knowledge in itself constitutes the highest aspiration for any human being, nations should have a different goal; that of optimizing it to best serve their citizens, which is not the case in Egypt. Knowledge is our lifeblood and our government should ensure that it continues to flow and flourish.
In Egypt, the education system and business operations are two completely different dynamics. Far from benefiting one another, they tend to pursue separate paths that cross only once every summer, when university graduates eagerly seeking employment pour on to the job market. Meanwhile, companies are looking to hire employees with specific skills and personalities that are appropriate to the real-life work environment, irrespective of their scholastic knowledge.
The academia challenge in Egypt does not concern the various courses of study on offer; rather, it lies in the prevalent attitude toward education wherein many faculty members believe that academically successful students are an achievement per se — regardless of whether or not their studies eventually benefit their respective communities. No one in our education system is interested in exploring the relevancy or the suitability of subjects taught at our universities to the needs of the work market.
The success of Egyptian private enterprises is due to their talent for maximizing their profits in a ruined market that works with a mechanism and tools that have nothing to do with knowledge. Thus, rather than hiring graduates who can make use of the advanced knowledge they acquired at universities to better serve their employers, these enterprises look for new graduates who can fit into their working structures.
To achieve true progress, education and employment structures need to be more integrated and they must be driven by knowledge and merit.
Meanwhile, our high-school graduates, supported by their families, often make the mistake of enrolling in faculties determined either by their school degree grades or based on unrealistic emotional desires. At that age, students cannot make mature choices and are not familiar with the reality of work demands, while their parents often want to impose their own narrow personal educational desires. This dilemma results in having hundreds of thousands of Egyptian university graduates every year who are searching for a job that is frequently not linked to their studies.
The thousands of students that our state universities are forced to enroll every year, along with the very minimal student fees charged, have led to the complete deterioration of our educational mechanism (curricula, quality of faculty members, university facilities, and the list goes on). This constitutes a costly burden on both our government and our society. University graduates are eager to obtain higher degrees to differentiate themselves from high-school graduates, but they are still lacking in substantive knowledge.
The clear alternative to this dilemma was the spread of private universities, inaugurated a few decades ago with the intention of attracting wealthy students whose families could pay noticeably higher fees. These universities may provide significantly better facilities, but not necessarily a better education. To attract wealthy students, private universities have commercialized their educational programs by giving their universities attractive foreign names, accompanied with false or exaggerated claims of affiliation with renowned international universities.
Egypt currently has a number of private universities that better fit into the reality of our work market; both (the market and the universities) are commercially driven and have a limited knowledge base. One of the results is that Egyptian business enterprises are unable to produce products that can compete with those of other developing nations. Egypt’s evolution is presently far removed from any form of genuine development. To achieve true progress, education and employment structures need to be more integrated and they must be driven by knowledge and merit.
• Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom.