Text only  Print this page | E-mail this page| Add to favourites|
British Council home
Students studying in the their college grounds. © Mat Wright
Main Titles
Social trends overview
Skills around the World: Egypt

Egypt has the largest education system in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and it has grown rapidly since the early 1990s. In recent years the government has accorded even greater priority to improving the education system.

According to the Human Development Index (HDI), Egypt is ranked 116. With the help of the World Bank and other multilateral organisations, Egypt aims to increase access to education and to include ICT at all levels of education, especially at tertiary level. The government is responsible for offering free education at all levels.

The Ministry of Education is also trying to move from a highly centralised system to offering more autonomy to individual institutions, thereby increasing accountability. The personnel management in education also needs to be overhauled and teachers should be hired on merit with salaries based on performance.


The literacy rate in Egypt was 71% in 2005, which includes 59% of females and 83% of males. There is special attention given by the government and other NGOs to reduce the gender disparity in education and to achieve the 2015 MDG of universal primary education.


University and HE education enrolment has increased significantly, reaching an estimated 2,397,863 students in 2007. The number of private universities has increased, with an estimated student population of 50,000. The number of private schools has also increased steadily over recent years and is currently approaching 4,000.

More on education

Learn more here about:

The education system in Egypt
Types of schools
Basic, secondary and vocational education
Higher education

The education system in Egypt

The public education system in Egypt consists of three levels. The basic education stage is for 4-14 year olds and consists of two years of kindergarten followed by primary school for six years and preparatory school for three years.

The secondary school stage lasts three years, from ages 15 to 17, followed by the tertiary level. Education is compulsory for children aged 6-14. Moreover, all levels of education are free in government-run schools.

Promotional examinations are held at all levels except in grades 3, 6 and 9 at the basic education level and grades 11 and 12 in the secondary stage, which apply standardised regional or national exams.

The Ministry of Education is responsible for making decisions about the education system with the support of three Centres: the National Centre of Curricula Development, the National Centre for Education Research, and the National Centre for Examinations and Educational Evaluation. Each centre has its own focus in formulating education policies with other state level committees. The Ministry of Higher Education supervises the higher education system.

There is also a formal teacher’s qualification track in place for basic and secondary education levels. Teachers are required to complete four years of pre-service courses at university to enter the teaching profession. The Professional Academy for Teachers offers several programmes to raise teaching standards in mathematics, science and technology. Local teachers also take part in the international professional training programmes.
Back to top.

Types of schools

Government schools

There are two types of government schools:

Arabic Schools provide the governmental national curriculum in the Arabic language
Experimental Language Schools teach most of the government curriculum in English, and add French as a second foreign language.

Private schools

There are three types of private schools:

Ordinary schools have a similar curriculum to that of government schools, but private schools pay more attention to students' personal needs and to school facilities
Language schools teach most of the government curriculum in English, and add French or German as a second foreign language. They are expected to be better than other schools, because of the facilities available, but their fees are much higher. Some of these schools use French or German as their main language of instruction, but it may be difficult for the student to study in governmental universities in Arabic or English afterwards.
Religious schools are religiously-oriented, e.g. Azhar schools.

Many of the private schools were built by missionaries, are currently affiliated with churches and provide quality education.

Many private schools offer additional educational programmes, along with the national curriculum, such as the American High School Diploma, the British IGCSE system, the French baccalauréat, the German Abitur and the International Baccalaureate.
Back to top.

Basic, secondary and vocational education

Basic education

Basic education consists of pre-primary, primary and preparatory levels of education. Irrespective of whether they are private or state-run, all pre-school institutions come under the Ministry of Education. The ministry receives support from international agencies, such as the World Bank, to enhance the early childhood education system by increasing access to schools, improving the quality of education and building the capacity of teachers..

The second tier of basic compulsory education is the preparatory or lower secondary stage which lasts for three years. Completion of this tier grants students the Basic Education Completion Certificate. It is important for students to complete this level of education, as early drop outs easily recede into illiteracy and eventually poverty.

Secondary education

Secondary education, which is also compulsory, consists of three tracks: general, vocational / technical and the dual system vocational education which is represented in Mubarak Kohl schools. The general secondary stage includes three years of education, whereas the secondary vocational track could be for three-five years and three years for the dual system vocational education.

To enter the secondary level, students must pass a national exam at the end of the preparatory stage. At this level, students have assessments during the first year, and the average of the end of year national standardised exams for year two and three qualifies the students to take the Certificate of General Secondary Education-Thanawiya Amma.

Technical/Vocational Secondary Education Technical education, which is provided in three-year and five-year programmes, includes schools in three different fields: industrial, commercial and agricultural. The UN and other multilateral organisations are working towards improving the technical and vocational training system in Egypt.

Al Azhar Education System

Another system that runs in parallel with the public educational system is the Al-Azhar system. It consists of four years of primary stage, a three year preparatory stage and finally three years of secondary stage. Al Azhar education system is supervised by the Supreme Council of the Al-Azhar Institution.

The Azhar Institution itself is nominally independent from the Ministry of Education, but is ultimately supervised by the Egyptian Prime Minister. Al Azhar schools are called ‘institutes’ and include primary, preparatory, and secondary phases.  All schools in all stages teach religious subjects and non-religious subjects. The bulk of the curriculum, however, consists of religious subjects.
Back to top.

Higher education

Egypt has an extensive higher education system. About 30% of all Egyptians in the relevant age group go to university. However, only half of them graduate.

The Ministry of Higher Education supervises the tertiary level of education. There are a number of universities catering to students in diverse fields. In the current education system, there are 17 public universities, 51 public non-university institutions, 16 private universities and 89 private higher institutions. Of the 51 non–university institutions, 47 are Middle Technical Institutes offering two-year courses and four are Higher Technical Institutes offering four-five year courses. The higher education cohort was expected to increase by close to 6% (60,000 students) in 2009.

Initiatives to improve the system

Egyptian tertiary education is run centrally, with institutions having little control over decisions about the curriculum, programme development and deployment of staff and faculty. In order to improve this outdated system, rigid curriculum and teaching practices, the government has established the National Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Education (NAQAAE) as an independent entity.

The aim of NAQAAE is to introduce international best practices, promote quality and provide greater autonomy for universities and technical institutes. Two new government bodies have been established to promote research, development and innovation (RDI) through increased funding and technical assistance. In 2007, the overall level of funding of RDI was 0.24 percent of the GDP but it is expected that by 2012 RDI funding will reach 0.5% of GDP, which is quite high by the standards of lower middle income countries.

New Master Plan

The Ministry of Education recently proposed a Master Plan for the Development of Higher Education until 2022, which is a second phase following the reforms initiated in 1995. This plan aims to further the reform process in the higher education sector by spreading best practice. The World Bank has been one of the few donors, along with the OECD, to be deeply involved with the higher education sector.

Types of institutions

There are both private and public institutions of higher education in Egypt. Public higher education is free in Egypt, and Egyptian students only pay registration fees. Private education is much more expensive. Major universities include Cairo University, Alexandria University, Ain Shams University, and the 1,000-year-old Al-Azhar University, while the American University in Cairo, Arab Academy for Science and Technology and Maritime Transport, the British University and Université Française d'Égypte are some of the leading private universities.
Back to top.

   Return to homepage

The United Kingdom’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities.
A registered charity: 209131 (England and Wales) SC037733 (Scotland)
Registered in Singapore as a branch (T09FC0012J) and as a charity (No 0768).
Our privacy and copyright statements.
Our commitment to freedom of information. Double-click for pop-up dictionary.

 Positive About Disabled People