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Horizons of Development Owing to American Diploma Exam Problem

The current problem concerning high school’s American Diploma proves that adopting international educational systems not subject to Ministry of Education and Technical Education supervision is not a fundamental solution to the problems of Egypt’s governmental education system. The administrative mismanagement of the American Diploma was evident when the SAT exam, that qualifies students to join universities, was leaked more than once. The College Board cancelled the SAT exam in Egypt until June 2021. American Diploma students’ parents called for the Ministry of Education and Technical Education to intervene to find a solution to the problem. Previously, the Ministry of Education had never interfered in the direct relationship between the College Board and pupils. This dilemma helped open up new prospects for the Ministry to develop mechanisms that enable it to have more authority in Egypt’s education policies.  

American Diploma an easier alternative 

The American Diploma spread in Egypt over the past 10 years. The number of schools increased in 14 governorates. In 2019-2020, there were 330 schools providing American Diploma education in Cairo, Giza and Alexandria. The increase is the result of the rising demand by families that can afford the expenses of international education and who believe the American Diploma is an easier alternative to the governmental Thanaweya Amma, or high school, system.

Why American Diploma is easier

  • The assessment of students does not completely depend on the SAT exam. The student’s total is divided into 40 percent of the cumulative grade point average in all subjects over the three years of school, and 60 percent for the final exam (which is a prerequisite for joining university).
  • To join a theoretical faculty, students take SAT1, an exam for two subjects: English and Math. For scientific faculties, students take SAT2 exam, in which students choose two or three subjects from Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Advanced Math. Thus, this system does not pressure students and is more flexible than the government’s secondary education system.
  • Students can take the exam more than once, since it is held four times a year. They have the right to attend all four exams, from grade 10 to grade 12, and record the highest mark they achieve. The system allows students to enhance their total marks, unlike the government’s system that allows students to take the exam only once at the end of the third year. 

However, the current problem will push parents to think twice before enrolling their children in the American Diploma system.

The Ministry of Education’s positive intervention

The main problem of American Diploma students is that they were not allowed to join university without taking the SAT exam. One of the main reasons of that problem was that the ministry did not supervise international exams, nor accepted the internationally-recognized ACT exam as an alternative to the SAT exam. In July, the ministry decided to adopt the ACT exam to save the academic year. Unlike the SAT exam, the ACT exam is electronic. The ministry announced the dates of tests and allowed more examination centres to help students join universities in the new academic year.  

In cooperation with Pearson Education, the ministry launched a new Egyptian test: the Egyptian Scholastic Test (EST). This test is designed as an equivalent to SAT and ACT. The electronic EST was mainly designed to help American Diploma students overcome their problems. It assesses the skills and knowledge of American Diploma students to qualify them for universities. However, the EST is not recognized abroad as an alternative to other international exams. 

The EST is an Egyptian alternative to international tests, preserving students’ right to join non-Egyptian universities. The partnership between the ministry and Pearson Education is an indication that the ministry seeks to make the EST internationally-recognized, so that students who pass it are allowed to enrol in universities abroad without the need to take another equivalent exam.

Will the EST become a unified assessment tool in Egypt?

The diversity of international schools in Egypt allows more competition between them. This competition makes each system exert more effort to have its graduates more qualified to enrol in universities and work all over the world. However, applying these international systems under the umbrella of an Egyptian philosophy can create many problems, such as the current problem of the American Diploma. Therefore, the current situation of implementing international education systems must be temporary before it ends with the completion of the Egyptian education system development process.

The EST is in line with the new secondary education system that was recently announced by the ministry. In this new system, all exams shall be electronic and all questions shall be multiple-choice questions. Moreover, students can take the exam twice. This modification is a strong motive for international school students to join the new system of secondary schools. 

If the ministry succeeds in conducting the EST for American Diploma students, it will strive to make the exam internationally-recognized, in which case the EST can be used as a unified assessment tool for the new secondary school system. This would require the ministry to have both English and Arabic versions of the test, and to include in it all the subjects that secondary school students study, as their evaluation is mainly based on the final exam, not on the cumulative evaluation. 

Mahmoud Salama
Researcher at Public Policy Program

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