Growth in technology especially with regard to computers and other related peripherals have permeated various areas of individuals’ lives. Computer technologies have been integrated in various economic sectors such as the banking sector, health sector, and the educational sector. One of the computer technologies which have undergone enormous growth is the internet. Currently, internet is being considered as a vital informational tool in the society.
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In an effort to improve the education sector, various governments have incorporated the Information Communication Technology (ICT) in their education system (Nickerson & Zodhiates, 1988, p.56). Egypt has considered information technology as a key priority in the country’s economic development. One of the ways through which the firm intends to achieve this is through incorporation of ICT in the education sector. Currently, Egypt’s education system is ranked as the largest amongst the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries.
The Egyptian government is committed to integrating ICT at all levels of the country’s education system. The decision is aimed at promoting student-based learning. In order to achieve this, the government has partnered with private organizations in various projects. One of these projects is the Egyptian Education Initiative (EEI). The core mission of the EEI is to add value to the country’s education system so as to contribute towards the country’s effort to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (Egyptian Educational Initiative, 2010, para. 2).
Integration of ICT in the country’s education system is also aimed at developing a model which will promote lifelong learning (Valdez, 2005, p. 3). Despite the government’s commitment in integrating ICT in the country’s education system, there are challenges limiting the effort. Some of these challenges relate to infrastructure issues and ICT policy. This paper is aimed at conducting a comprehensive analysis of the two issues.
The success of a country’s education system as a result of integrating ICT is dependent on the state of infrastructure within the country (Sayed, 2006, p.54). Currently, connectivity of ICT infrastructure in Egypt is relatively high. According to Arab Dev (2010), there has been a significant improvement in Egypt’s telecommunication infrastructure over the past few years. This increases the effectiveness with which ICT can be integrated in the country’s education system.
Most of the rural areas in Egypt have been linked to the internet thus increasing accessibility of resources amongst teachers and the students. For example, internet connectivity is enhanced by ‘El circles’ which are specialized tools which enable exchange of information amongst leaning institutions. This has greatly enhanced learning in Egypt. However, a significant proportion of citizens cannot afford a computer system despite the increased requirement to use one.
Affordability of computer hardware amongst the citizens is due to the fact that Egypt does not manufacture personal computers and other computer parts. Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Dell and IBM are the principal suppliers of computers in Egypt (ICT Initiative, 2010). However, the government is solving this problem via provision of community access center. In addition, the government through the Ministry of Education entered into a contract with K-12 schools so as to ensure that every student has access to the current computer technology.
Networking and software
Through the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology (MICT), Egypt has been able to improve its communication network across the country. This plays a significant role in the process of enhancing education through ICT. Use of networks in delivering education has become a common phenomenon in the country. Through the networks, it has become possible for students to link with other students on a global scale. Some of the tools which are promoting networking through the internet technology include Web 2.0 (Peters, 2009, p. 23).
The new format of education in Egypt entails a combination of various technologies which include telecommunication, network, microelectronics and computer technologies. As a result of improved network in Egypt, interactive learning through networking has greatly been enhanced. For example, it has become possible for learning institutions to incorporate videoconferencing in the teaching processes.
Videoconferencing has been enhanced by well established networks such as ISDN and TCP/IP which are enhanced by the internet (ArabDev, 2010, para. 7). Through the ZTE’s EduStation which is a remote education system, the government is able to provide training to teachers on a national wide scale. This has been achieved via the videoconferencing services. Videoconferencing has enabled teachers in various educational levels to execute their duties either on real or non-real time (ZTE Incorporation, 2010, para. 1-5). In addition, videoconferencing has greatly promoted distant learning. Distant learning has also been enhanced by software such as CD-ROM and DVD (Rizk, 2009).
Policy refers to plans, visions, principles and goals which guide a number of activities involving different parties. There are 3 core aspects in relation to ICT policy. These include broadcasting, internet and telecommunication. Various sectors are increasingly addressing issues related with ICT (Association for Progressive Communications, 2007, p. 1). There are a number of policies formulated by the Egyptian government via the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.
These policies target various economic sectors. For example, the education system is one of the key considerations in the country’s National ICT policy. One of the policies in relation to education entails integrating technology in all schools. This will be achieved through provision of computers, data show and internet connection to every class. In addition, the policy will ensure that every school has a computer laboratory. To ensure effectiveness, one laboratory will serve 15 classes.
In addition, ICT policy also supports development of scientific software which is linked to the school curricula. In order to attain this, the Ministry of Education (MoE) will make changes to the school curricula. In order to maximize utilization of ICT in the education system, the policy also recommends that the primary, preparatory and secondary school curricula should be uploaded on the interned. This will ensure that students have access to the school curricula both at school and home. By uploading the curricula on the internet, there is a high probability of the country enhancing virtual learning. The ICT policy is also aimed at improving the country’s infrastructure.
In order to promote effective integration of ICT within the country’s education system, the ICT policy stipulates that teachers should be trained. Despite the ICT policy recommending that every school should have sufficient laboratories, the labs built were under utilized. This is due to the fact that teachers did not have the necessary skills in relation to Information Technology (Microsoft Corporation, 2010, para. 4). The ICT policy has a provision which gives room for contracting various international companies such as Cisco, Oracle, Intel and Microsoft. The core objective of these contracts is to improve the educational process through training teachers and upgrading the programmes. This enhances the teachers’ effectiveness during conduction of lessons.
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Through integration of ICT within the education system, there is a high probability of Egypt attaining sustainable growth. This arises from the fact that the education system which is paramount in a country’s economic growth will be improved significantly. In addition, integration of ICT within the K-12 schools will greatly enhance teachers’ career. However, there are some issues which the government should address so as to attain these benefits. These issues relate to infrastructure and ICT policy. Egypt’s ICT policy is committed towards ensuring that ICT is effectively integrated in the country’s education system. This is evident in the various recommendations of the policy such as training teachers, establishment of laboratories in schools and ensuring access of computer technology by all students.
To maximize the effective connectivity of internet by learning institutions, it is paramount for the government to ensure schools have enough computers. In order to determine the effectiveness with which technology is utilized in K-12 education, the Egyptian government should conduct a research to determine whether the technology is suitable for the country’s educational curriculum. This will aid in development of a technology which will address the local requirements. This means that Egypt should only incorporate a technology in its education system if it translates into value for the country.
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