In the Egyptian context, there are two ministries that are mainly concerned with citizenship education, the Ministry of Education (MoE) which is mainly concerned with the schooling system and the Ministry of Youth (MoY) which organizes activities and camps for youth as extra-curricular activities. For the purpose of this study, the efforts done within this framework will be referred to as Formal. On the other hand, the Non-formal sector is any non-governmental organization, whether registered in the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MoSS) or not registered or social enterprises, in other words Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
a. Formal Sector
Civic education can be traced back to 1922 after Egypt’s independence. This period witnessed the beginning of Egypt’s transformation into a nation state; courses in civics education were developed with the purpose to promote Egyptian nationalism, highlighting that Egypt remained an independent entity, despite its colonial history (El-Nagar & Krugly-Smolska, 2009).
Following 1952’s revolution, the priority was to increase educational institutions’ capacities to accommodate more students, this came at the expense of improving curricula and led to “an environment that discouraged students’ participation, questioning and independent thought” (Baraka, 2008, pp. 6-7). CE was diffused within social studies, Arabic language and religion, mainly as a hidden curriculum (Baraka, 2008). Furthermore, the history textbooks focused on Arab nationality and students studied the history of all Arab nations (El-Nagar & Krugly-Smolska, 2009). After the war in 1973, the values of peace and dialogue were stressed on, highlighting the role that dialogue played in accomplishing Camp David Peace Agreement (Baraka, 2008).
During Mubarak’s era, history and geography were renamed to social studies and included more information on civics including human rights and the meaning of democracy (Baraka, 2008). With the new millennium, more attention was directed at CE to be utilized to confront growing threats of extremism and globalization (Baraka, 2008,). Another supporting factor to CE’s growing prominence was pressure from international donor agencies on Egypt that required “quality learning that included interactive and democratic teaching styles” (Baraka, 2008, p. 6).
After the January 25th revolution in 2011, Egypt underwent several political changes, every year thereafter a different political power was ruling the country. This led to three different curriculums from 2011 to 2014; one was issued for the academic year 2011/2012 under the ruling of the Supreme Council of the Army Forces (SCAF), the second was issued for academic year 2012/2013 under the ruling of former president Mohammad Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood Group and the first civilian president for Egypt, the third was issued for academic year 2013/2014 under the ruling of interim president Adly Mansour, who came into power for a transitional period after the events of June 30th, 2013 (Ali, 2014).
Regarding the CE programs for youth, first the definition of the age group of youth is not clear in Egypt, in the 2005 youth policy it was defined as 18-35 years old (Abdelhay, 2005), however other definitions exist within society; and since there is no current national youth policy this issue remains an unclear issue. In 2005 a unit for CE was established within the MoY in partnership with UNICEF, which focuses mainly on CE projects. Since then, this CE unit has developed several partnerships with other International agencies to implement different programs in different parts of the country.
b. Non-formal Sector
For the past 15 years, CSOs have operated carefully within the field of CE, especially during Mubarak’s era, where organizations working on issues related to human rights and citizenship were not supported (Youniss & Barber et al., 2013). After the 25th of January revolution in 2011, Egypt witnessed a spike in the CE programs and initiatives, some of these programs were being implemented by organizations that existed before the revolution. Leaders within CSOs identified citizenship values and principles as essential for youth to learn at this period and programs varied in scope and direction.
Research was conducted throughout the past years to examine the extent to which the aforementioned principles were achieved within school curricula and environments.
Textbook analysis of CE and history curricula in the Mubarak era shows more emphasis on authority, nationalism, tourism importance, cultural diversity and role of government in service provision; it also shows less emphasis on citizenship and human rights; and minimum emphasis on rule of law, social justice and political participation (Baraka, 2008).
With regards to MoY, there is no exact definition of CE in their official documents. However, there is mention of several dimensions of CE. There seems to be more focus on participation in elections, especially parliamentary elections, and on the ideals of belonging and loyalty to the country. When it comes to inclusion, it seems that there is attention brought to most of the governorates. To conclude, it appears that there are various efforts done within the formal sector to address issues of CE for Egyptian youth, whereas there is a lack of unified definition and goals among the concerned ministries, as well as consistency in their approach.
According to the “Citizens in the Making” report conducted by Gerhart Center 2012, only 14% of the civic education programs carried out by the NGOs do not target youth, while the rest focuses on youth solely. This can be explained by the focus of MoY on CE for youth as well as the rising wave of youth activism from 2011.
Media is considered “powerful because it is widely accessible to all irrespective of their level of education and sophistication” (El-Mikawy, 2013, p. 33).
Needless to say, many CSOs prefer to maintain other forms of legal status rather than being registered within MoSS to avoid issues of bureaucracy and state control.
In Egypt, small and medium sized CSOs neither have the capacity nor the resources to manage media campaigns or any other marketing campaign, while the big local CSOs have been able to sustain a rather good image. There is huge pressure on CSOs regarding the outreach, especially considering that the country is large on both a geographic and demographic level. The differences between the urban and rural settings in Egypt are huge both in terms of culture as well as interests.
Another challenge to implementation is finding the qualified trainers to deliver the programs in quality, given the limited resources available to this sector.
CE also faces an obstacle in measuring the impact of their programs, as requested by donors, which is not easy to do considering the nature of the subject matter.
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