Character Reform: Egypt’s Year of Education

James Aird
Content Type
Journal Article
Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
Issue Number
Publication Date
The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
As Egypt’s ‘Year of Education’ begins, the government pushes much needed reform in pre-university education across the country. Supported by a $500 million World Bank loan, the government is accelerating efforts to train teachers, build schools, and implement tablet technology in primary and secondary education. The reforms include one ambitious project that is especially deserving of more attention: the expansion of a pilot program adapting Japanese educational techniques to the Egyptian context. At a meeting in Tokyo on February 29th, 2016, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced a joint partnership that sought to link Egypt to Japan through educational development, in part thanks to al Sisi’s personal admiration for Japan’s education system. As part of the joint partnership, Japanese and Egyptian administrators and policymakers set out to reshape Egyptian pedagogy. Modeled on Japan’s Tokkatsu education system, which refers to a program of “whole child development,” Egypt aims to build schools that place great emphasis on teaching students to be responsible, disciplined, and clean, as opposed to the more traditional model prioritizing higher standardized testing scores. A Tokkatsu-inspired curriculum is already being used at over forty schools that accepted more than 13,000 students in September 2018. While President al Sisi plans to personally monitor the new education system, other MENA states should also watch closely. If it successfully contributes to building Egypt’s human capital and improving students’ competitiveness, other states in the region might consider implementing similar educational policies.
Development, Education, Reform, Children, Partnerships, Youth
Political Geography
Japan, Middle East, North Africa, Egypt