‎2 minutes with Randa Kamel: How to enhance Egypt’s education sector as a third party

Launched in 2012, the Education First Foundation has ‎been on a mission to bridge the attainment gap between private and public schools – photo courtesy of the foundation’s official Facebook page

Improving the state’s education system lies at the heart of Egypt Vision 2030 – Sustainable ‎Development Strategy. However, bringing about a tangible transformation in the public school ‎system can become extremely challenging. Issues like overpopulation and the decades-long ‎degradation of the education system stand in the way of real reform. Alongside the Ministry of ‎Education’s overhaul of the teaching methods and curricula of public schools, civil society ‎organizations and other entities are working on developing and enhancing the system as a third ‎party. ‎

Among those efforts is the Education First Foundation. Launched in 2012, the foundation has ‎been on a mission to bridge the attainment gap between private and public schools, helping ‎students in public schools realize their full potential through interactive youth camps and ‎outreach programs.‎

In academic partnership with the Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Educational ‎Leadership and Research Methodology, the foundation has so far offered over 380 scholarships ‎to students from public schools and trained over 7,500 school staff members in its first phase. ‎The 721 schools the foundation works with host about 1 million students. It has also provided ‎‎15,000 educators with quality teacher training, in partnership with the Ministry of Education.

In an interview with Business Forward, secretary-general of the Education First Foundation ‎Randa Kamel highlights the state of Egypt’s education sector and how the entity evaluates its ‎impact.‎

Is the education sector still underserved?‎
The education sector should be a priority in national development strategies; it represents the ‎nation’s hope for a better future and livelihood. However, it is the least exposed to a real ‎overhaul. For instance, the status of Egypt’s surgery rooms has evolved compared to the past; ‎they have been comprehensively upgraded throughout the years. But not much has changed in ‎Egyptian classrooms. ‎

In my opinion, an urgent overhaul of the teaching methods is needed to bring about the desired ‎change, while keeping up with the global trends of innovative teaching methods and ‎progressive ideas.‎

We, at the foundation, are motivated by life-changing possibilities. We work on transforming ‎under-resourced students through quality education in public schools, ensuring strong ‎workforce in the future. Through our extracurricular endeavors and different outreach ‎programs and youth camps, we add academic value to students enrolled in these schools.‎

How do you evaluate and measure your impact?‎
First, I would like to say that we are not concerned with decreasing the number of students in the ‎classrooms or upgrading educational facilities. We are working on strengthening students’ educational ‎abilities, beyond the conventional schooling system.‎

At the student level, we assess our success through constantly connecting with the students ‎graduating from our training programs, in order to assess the impact of our work.‎

To demonstrate our successful work, three of our scholarship winners were later awarded an ‎opportunity to study a semester abroad in one of the high-ranking schools in US.‎

At the school level, we routinely make site visits to schools, whose managers or teachers were ‎previously part of our training programs to help us evaluate the impact of our training programs on ‎their day-to-day jobs . We also carry out regular competitions to reward the highest-performing ‎teachers, while encouraging others to follow in their footsteps.‎

We have also noticed how former participants of our program are transferring their gained knowledge ‎to their colleagues; thus, maximizing our on-ground impact.‎

What were the foundation’s major milestones?‎
Last year, we had an agreement with the Ministry of Education to provide around 15,000 ‎educators with quality teacher training. Recently, we set up youth camps to support students ‎talented in music, arts, science and technology, providing them with mentors in the discipline of ‎their choice.‎

For example, some of our distinguished graduates were admitted into an internship at the ‎Egyptian National Theatre, while their tech-savvy peers got an internship at BMW. ‎

This year, we are planning to train public school principals, supervisors and kindergarten ‎teachers on leadership skills . ‎

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