Egypt is expanding in the establishment of international schools, after investment in the field was limited to the private sector. In 2010, the government opened the Nile Egyptian Schools, offering an English-language curriculum in cooperation with Cambridge, with internationally accredited certificates.
Although the government began developing the local education system in the academic year 2018/2019, it is still expanding in establishing Japanese, American and English and other international schools. This article presents the reasons and benefits of this expansion along with the development of international schools in Egypt.
The emergence of international schools in Egypt
Egypt’s international schools fall under the category of private schools. They were established after foreigners were allowed to invest in the education system, which resulted in the spread of foreign education systems countrywide, such as the American, English, Canadian, French, and German systems. In 2002, the Prime Minister decreed establish international schools. In late December 2002, the first Canadian-curriculum Egyptian school was established, opening the door for the establishment of independent international schools and language schools with international sections.
The main difference between international and local schools is the curriculum and the teaching language. American, British and Canadian schools teach in English. French and German schools teach in their respective languages. There is a large number of French, German and Canadian schools in Egypt; however, American and British schools are the most common, English being the second language in Egypt. British schools provide students with the needed knowledge and skills that qualify them for college. American schools, on the other hand, have attracted students who believe the system has an easier assessment method and less school subjects.
The number of international schools in Egypt
Since 2011 there has been a significant increase in the number of international schools. In that year there were 168 international schools in 10 governorates, mainly Cairo, Giza and Alexandria. In 2017, the number increased to 589 schools in 14 governorates, and 795 schools three years later.
Egypt’s international schools in 2011, 2017, and 2020.
Source: Ministry of Education Information Center, Schools Directory
Some 48 percent of international schools are located in Cairo. The capital houses 147 British, 195 American, 20 French, 11 German, and six Canadian schools. Giza comes second with 172 schools, and Alexandria third with 137 schools. Together the three governorates have 688 international schools, which is 86.5 percent of the total number of international schools in Egypt.
The government’s role in international education
The Egyptian government introduced international schools through the cabinet’s Education Development Fund. Following the Nile Schools, that later became affiliated to the Ministry of Education, governmental schools that provide the International Baccalaureate curriculum (IB) and the British curriculum (IG) were introduced. The final stage was establishing Japanese schools in cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The work of these schools is regulated by separate ministerial decisions. Ministerial Decree 159/2017 regulates the work of Japanese schools, Decree 289/2016 concerns regulations of international schools, and Decree 271/2014, amended by Decree 17/2015, regulates the work of Nile schools. The following is a briefing of some international schools’ establishment and activities:
Nile Schools: These were established in 2010. Compared to private language schools, they provide international education with reasonable annual fees. The schools are administered by the Egypt Foundation for Educational Administration. In 2017, they followed the protocol signed between the New Urban Communities Authority, Nile International Certificate Unit of the Education Development Fund (Council of Ministers), and NI Capital (the leading Egyptian financial services holding company) of the National Investment Bank and the Ministry of Planning. Nile Schools are funded by the New Urban Communities Authority of the Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Development, the Educational Projects Fund of the Ministry of Education and Technical Education, and the Long Live Egypt (Tahya Misr) Fund. There are nine Nile Schools in Egypt, with fees ranging between EGP 11,000 and EGP 15,000 depending on the school year.
Official international schools: They operate under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and some international associations. Some of them grant their students the IB, and others grant the International General Certificate of Completion of General Secondary Education (IGCSE). They were established by the ministry in the academic year 2014/2015, and their total number stands at 11 schools. Their fees average EGP 16,000.
Japanese schools: They teach the Egyptian curriculum (2.0) in English using the Japanese kids Tokatsu activities. Some 35 Japanese schools were established by the ministry in the academic year 2018/2019. Last year, the number increased to 40. Three other Japanese schools are slated to open during the academic year 2020/2021.
In total, the number of Egyptian governmental international schools increased from five in 2010 to 60 in 2020.
Why Egypt establishes more international schools?
A number of observers may believe there is a contradiction between the government’s declaration it is developing the local education system to be on par with international education systems and its expansion in establishing international schools. Some might even say the government seeks to make profits. However, these are non-profit institutions the revenues of which are spent on operating the schools according to international standards. The government expands in the establishment of international schools for the following reasons:
1- More time is needed to develop the education system:
Despite the effort to develop the Egyptian education system, more time is needed to reach the targeted proficiency. Developing the elementary and preparatory stages will not be completed before 2027. At the same time, parents aspire to create a better educational environment for their children, and they tend to enroll their children in international education.
2- Regulating the hike in the fees of international schools:
The government is trying to regulate the fees of international schools that have sharply increased. In Cairo, the lowest annual school fees are set at EGP 50,000, which is the highest among all Middle East capitals, according to the 2015 International Schools Database Report. Dubai was the only capital with higher fees, as shown in the chart below.
Fees of international schools in the Middle East (in US dollars)
|Lowest fees||Standard fees||Highest fees|
The government’s international schools provide almost the same service provided by private language schools, with fees not exceeding EGP 16,000. Their fees are 33 percent less than the lowest fees of private schools. This may lead to reducing the fees of private schools, or at least stabilizing them at their current rates, provided that the government continues to expand in the establishment of these schools to meet their increasing demand.
3- Diversifying education systems enhances competitiveness and services:
Some might believe diversifying education systems and curricula does not develop the education system, and creates differences between members of society. However, this diversity (schools with Arabic curriculum, schools with English curriculum, and schools with other countries’ curriculum) contributes to enhancing the quality of the educational service. In general, competition between the different educational institutions enhances the quality of the provided services.
Based on the aforementioned reasons, the government is expanding in establishing international schools in response to the increasing demand on this service, and to control its mechanisms. The move, however, is a supplementary solution until the completion of the educational reform program.