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We have been hearing about the gap between job markets and education systems since before the young job seekers of today were even born. How has this gap evolved over the years, and how have education systems been keeping pace? We speak to Nelly El Zayat, who puts on several hats related to this area. El Zayat is co-founder and director of Newton Education Services, advisor to the Minister of Education and Technical Education, and has been part of the team working on the national education reform program, Education 2.0.What gap(s) is Newton Education Services addressing? We (the founders) are all a group of Egyptians who had studied abroad ourselves. So, we were looking at how to help others who need guidance on where to start, where to go, how to find a good fit university based on their interests and their credentials, and how to prepare. We first started off offering advising services for both undergraduates and graduates who want to study abroad. At the same time, we also launched test preparation courses for the tests that are required with university applications like the SAT, the ACT, the GRE, the GMAT, etc. Of course, tied to this is the whole scholarship management area that we work in, because more people every day cannot afford to study abroad. We help students find suitable scholarships, and we also manage scholarships for scholarship providers. For example, we have been managing the Yousriya Loza Scholarship provided by the Sawiris Foundation for six years. We also manage the Souraya El Salti scholarship provided by the MBC group. Right now, we are working with the American University in Cairo (AUC) on a big scholarship program called the USAID Scholars Activity that offers students from all over Egypt opportunities for undergraduate studies at AUC. We also do consultations for educational institutions in areas like outreach and recruitment strategies. And we also have a blog that we invite those looking for information on education to follow. How has COVID-19 affected the choices of those looking for the international education experience?It certainly made a lot of students hesitant to apply to study abroad as they will not be getting the full experience. A major part of the study abroad experience is being abroad and interacting culturally. On the receiving end, universities face travel and healthcare restrictions on international students, which also slows down things in that regard. This opens more doors in online education, pushing people to explore how to determine whether a program is of good quality or not. Also for now, unfortunately, a lot of scholarship providers are hesitant or against funding students to enroll in international universities and then end up at home on their laptops. A lot of scholarship providers in Egypt are now turning to fund students inside Egypt rather than abroad.After almost two years into the pandemic-related restrictions on education, what could we say about distance learning?I do not think distance learning will ever replace the face-to-face experience, but I am sure that we will keep some of what we learnt. Distance learning has benefits that we have personally seen at Newton in our test preparation courses, like attracting students who usually would not come physically due to distance or other reasons. [caption id="attachment_6877" align="alignleft" width="260"] Nelly El Zayat is co-founder and director of Newton Education Services, and advisor to the Minister of Education and Technical Education.[/caption]Are there any new trends in what people are choosing to study?There will always be a good mix between the sciences, arts and humanities and social sciences. However, with the COVID situation there are areas that are gaining attention, like FinTech, public health, and how the pharmaceutical world meets the business world. For example, with the current situation with vaccinations, there is an emphasis on supply chain management, logistics and finance. What is happening is that some of the fields that were not necessarily considered part of business education are now converging under it because there is a need for that. How has attitude to life-long learning been affected?I see life-long learning will definitely be on the rise. Executive education will be really growing because people will be looking at a specific area they want to improve on or learn about, without going for a degree that requires a long time commitment, but rather a short course on something in particular. On-demand and customized sort of courses will be on the rise. Do you see that the gap between market needs and education system outputs is closing in any way?Yes, I would say there is more teaching of more relevant content. COVID-19 came to expedite this trend. When everything went online and everyone’s life was affected one way or the other by what was going on, people started to look for what really matters and what is relevant, whether on the personal or the professional level. I think education is catching up in the same way. There’s more focus on skills. 21st century skills like communication, problem solving, empathy, etc. All of that is being embedded and included in different curricula, even at the K-12 level and at the higher education level as well. The final question is about Egypt’s educational reform and your involvement in that effort. What skills do students ideally need to gain from K-12 education?The team who has been working on Education 2.0 actually started asking this very question. ‘What is it that we want our students to learn? Who do we want them to be in the future?’ We did a lot of research, and we worked closely on the life skills and citizenship education framework that was developed by UNICEF and a lot of other partners.The framework highlights a number of skills; 12 skills in different areas. What we added for our Egyptian context are two other skills which we thought are important for Egypt. One of them was accountability, and the other one was productivity. All the 14 skills are weaved into the curriculum, starting from kindergarten, all the way until a student graduates.Besides this set of skills, you obviously want them [students] to be competent in literacy, in language, and hopefully more than one language, as well numeracy and social sciences.And I think the important thing this curriculum is giving students is the flexibility and agility to be open to learning more. We hope to instill the notion that the book a student gets from the Ministry is not the curriculum. The objective is that students are here to learn and to understand, not to memorize this book.I think there is a whole cultural shift and a shift in the mindset that will take some time to unfold but I think we will eventually get there.Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
In a Business Forward exclusive, Sherwat Elwan, associate professor of operations management and the director of the MBA programs at the American University in Cairo (AUC) School of Business, details the implications of the Suez Canal blockage from a supply chain management perspective.Egypt followed anxiously since Tuesday March 23 as news of the massive container ship Ever Given getting stuck between the Suez Canal banks made it to the top headlines of the world’s biggest news outlets and took over social media attention. The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) had stated that daily losses due to the blockage are estimated to be around $12 to $15 million, a reminder of the vitality of the waterway to the Egyptian economy. For days, the SCA lead a huge effort to pull the giant vessel out of the waterway via tugboats until it was finally freed on Monday March 29 into the Bitter Lakes for further inspection, freeing more than 400 ships who were jammed in the process.The incident is also a reminder of how maritime transportation shapes the bulk of international trade (around 80 percent, according to UNCTAD), as it is cheaper than other modes of transportation. The Suez Canal is a passageway for about 12 percent of global trade, according to the World Economic Forum.How can we explain trade interconnectedness using the example of the Suez Canal blockage by the Evergreen-operated container ship?Everything is very interconnected. For example, geographically, what happened to the Suez Canal in Egypt affects other continents such as Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Due to the Suez Canal blockage, reefer containers have not been able to get to Latin America so the prices of reefers in Latin America have gone up. This can be compared to what happened with China during the beginning of the pandemic. When China closed due to COVID-19, 20 percent of the container supply worldwide was in China and it could not get out. This shows how everything is connected, and everything affects everything else. However, some things, like an Asia-US or India-Far East Asia trade would not be affected. Overall, trades that do not go through the Suez Canal are not going to be affected, but the multitude of trades that depend on the Suez Canal will be, due to their interconnectedness.What was the immediate impact of this incident on global supply chains, prices of goods, on oil prices?The immediate impact was huge, everything going from Asia to Europe stopped for a whole of seven days. Anyone without a big enough safety stock got completely dismantled. Prices of goods had no immediate change, and it could take a couple of weeks to understand any changes of the price of goods. Oil prices did go up (around 6 dollars). The safety stock will not change in the long run, as this event is seen as a one-time thing. The only time something similar happened was around 20 years ago but with the amount of disruption happening during these past couple of years, companies need to revisit their risk strategies. Video by Moustafa DalyWho appear as winners and losers out of this crisis?Due to the increase in oil prices, the oil and gas industry appears as a winner. Many losers can be seen among which appear are shipping lines, reefer containers industry, final customers, the Suez Canal itself, and many more.As this crisis detangles, does it leave any longer-term implications on the shipping industry and trade routes?No, the rate increases that occurred are predicted to decrease again and are not expected to be permanent in the long run, due to Suez Canal blockage. Improving supply chain resilience through redundancy and buffer stocks is an ongoing discussion on the agenda of many top companies and academic research, especially local sourcing strategies that would allow for more agile supply chains. This includes the development of new closer suppliers.The article has been last edited on April 3, 2021.
[Video] How can developing countries prepare for the post-pandemic world? Ft. Youssef Boutrous Ghaly
The Business Forward annual event saw a slew of economic and policy experts share their insights on the state of the world economy today and the way forward following the pandemic. Dr. Youssef Boutrous Ghaly, a renowned economic adviser and Egypt’s ex-minister of finance, shared valuable insights covering everything from policies needed to overcome the fallout of the pandemic, to how the world economy is going to look like in this economically bipolar world. Moderated by Heba Saleh, Cairo and North Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, and a member of Business Forward’s editorial board, we invite you to watch the insightful discussion below.“Today, emerging markets are competing to stay on the world market, because the world market as you’ve seen – the IMF has predicted contraction of 4.4 percent this year. There is a slight pickup next year, but very uneven in most countries. Emerging countries are all competing to stay in the market. You also have massive indications in countries in the world, from advanced economies where trillions have been spent, to emerging market economies where many have spent vast amounts to try to address the fallout of the pandemic.On a national level, you have a massive unemployment wave. People are losing jobs. The massive increase in poverty. People are pushed to use their limited savings, and poverty rates are increasing. Not only in emerging market economies, but also in developed economies. Here in the UK, poverty rates have increased massively; there are queues in front of food banks; the free distribution of food has increased enormously. Now this is a rich country. Imagine what happens in countries like ours.Of course, there’s also parallel to this, capital stock destruction. All of these companies, enterprises that are going bankrupt. Therefore, we need to do something and many countries have taken measures to address this issue so that this capital stock does not disappear. When a company goes bankrupt after the pandemic, it will not come back. Therefore, you have to take measures to prevent this.Inequality is massively increasing. Some people are benefiting. But the vast majority are not. Therefore, the gap between the upper income and the lower income is going to increase. All of this, and I haven’t even mentioned the health requirements, the spending and the challenges faced by this sector in most of these countries. Be it hospitals, clinics and now, with the vaccine, the distribution.I don’t think that the appearance of a vaccine will address these issues in the short term. Because we have an issue of distribution and production. When you put all of these vaccines together, the most you can produce is about two and a half billion doses per year. Now, at the rate of two injections per person, that’s half a billion. We’re 7 billion people, and therefore, there will be inequality as to who gets the vaccine first. Developed countries will probably get it first, before we and the emerging markets get it. And within countries, probably those who have more resources will get it first, and those with less access will get it last – typically the poor. So, you’ll have even more inequality.What do we do? The question then arises, what do we do? What can we do? At the personal level, well, my advice is increasing your versatility; make sure you can do multiple things, because we don’t know what the work environment is going to be like in the next 10 years. What we do today is going to affect the environment we’re living and working within in the next decade.And therefore, since we don’t know how it’s going to look, you have to learn many skills, digital skills, because now the work-from-home mode isn’t going to go away once the pandemic is over. Some companies have discovered that you work as well from home as you do from the office. So a lot of these mechanisms are going to change. You want to be able to adapt quickly. You must increase you resilience. You have to be able to survive a period of unemployment, even mental resilience. You have to learn new skills quickly. Don’t get stuck running after degrees. The world today is not degrees, it’s skills. So you need to make sure you are competitive, remain flexible in the job market.What do countries do?Now what happens at the country level? There’s massive destruction in our structures, productivity, employment, human, everything is being restarted. The question is, do we rebuild better? Or do we rebuild as it was? If better, then we have to start thinking how. If we’re going to rebuild it the way it was before, okay well, do it. But, most practical economies will tell you never let a crisis go to waste. Use the crisis to change, to push forward policies that normally you would not be able to accept. Now is the time to change, to evolve and to build better.What are the main policies? Employment, you have to make sure we concentrate on productivity. Emerging market economies are going to be competing in the world. They’re going to lower the currencies, increase the productivity, competitiveness. You have to be part of that race. I’m helping a number of South American countries, and the first obsession is productivity. Improve the quality of your products. Second you have to make sure to lower the cost of moving from low-skilled to high-skilled jobs. A lot of low-skilled jobs are going to disappear.Many women and low skilled labor are going to disappear. Many companies have cancelled their rental agreements and will work from home – all the people that were in charge of cleaning, providing food services, have lost their jobs and they’re not coming back. These people need to upgrade their skills. We, as a government, need to make sure that whoever has the skill to upgrade can do so, we need to salvage the capital stock.All of these companies that are going to be bankrupt need to be helped now. Now, these are the main lines, if I look at the tools we have at hand, on a micro level, I need to create fiscal space – to be able to spend money without wrecking the rest of the economy. Domestic indebtedness is not the issue – if you don’t borrow today to salvage your economy, you won’t have an economy in the future. What is relevant in our countries is debt-to-GDP. Now if this GDP can grow at 10 percent, then you can take care of GDP ratios fairly quickly. So don’t be afraid to borrow, to have a big deficit.Protecting the poor should be first priority, what destroys an economy is mass poverty, mass income inequality. Not the income inequality that comes in transitional economies that go from low to high growth. There’s usually an increase in income inequality in the beginning and then it catches up later on. You also have to preserve the capital stock, help companies to stay in the market, because they are the ones who are going to give you the taxes later on that you’ll use to cover your deficits and indebtedness. Therefore, have programs that aren’t afraid to go into grant money and unconditional assistance.You have to promote a rich recovery. Go hot; get hot macroeconomic policies, not tentative ones. Push at the heart. You’re in quick sand and you’re sinking, so you need to push hard. This is the essence of fiscal policy.Monetary policy has to have its primary purpose to facilitate lowering the cost of fiscal intervention. Because printing domestic currency is a convention. The interest doesn’t come from God, it’s not in any holy book; it’s a custom; an agreement between the issuer and the user. But it’s a convention. Now we need to go past the convention. Also lower the cost of indebtness to the economy. Lower the interest rate on companies to help them cross over to viability after the pandemic.Finally, on the external sector, preserve competitiveness. You do this by increasing your productivity.”Youssef Boutrous Ghali.
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