Implications, Challenges and Recommendations


It is encouraging that literacy rates and education enrolments are improving, especially among the youth. The youth literacy rate in 2015 was 93.3%, where males (94.5%) and females (92.1%) in this age group were literate in 2015. However, the adult literacy rate is significantly lower, and reveal a major discrepancy between male and female literacy, with the male rate at 83.6%, compared to the female rate of 68.1%.

The pre-school enrolment rate more than quadrupled from 1990 to reach 30.3% in 2014. Primary school enrolment rates have experienced similar improvements. While this is positive, it has placed stress on the provision of infrastructure and quality education. The pupil-teacher ratio in primary school remains very high at 43:1.

The quality of the Egypt education system is also a major cause for concern. Egypt ranks 134th out of 138 countries in the Global Competitiveness Report for the ‘quality of primary education’, 135th for the ‘quality of the education system’ and 138th, worst in the world, for the ‘quality of school management’.

The majority of students qualifying at universities for theoretical fields lean towards commerce and law (48.2%), while for practical fields, more than a third of graduates are from the fields of engineering and science. This aligns with Egypt’s availability of scientists and engineers, as it ranks 46th (out of 138) on the Global Competitiveness Report 2016–2017.

The majority of the Egyptian population (between the ages of 15 and 49) have a secondary education (34.4%) or higher (17.8%), indicating that Egypt has a wealth of skills. But these skills may not be of a high standard as the quality of the Egyptian education is poor. Although there is an abundance of skills, the demand for them is low as one in five Egyptians with tertiary education are unemployed. This suggests that there is a mismatch between the skills of the tertiary educated and the skills needed in the labour market. The education system is more supply than demand driven.

For policymakers

Though educational attainment and literacy is relatively high in Egypt, especially among the youth, concerns remain around the quality of education. Enrolment in basic education is very high, as is the share of the labour force with tertiary education (19% in 2013). However, unemployment among graduates remains high (see Chapter 5). This is a clear indication that efforts need to be made to address the mismatch of skills of graduates from universities and the skills required by the labour market. At the same time, the adult literacy rate is significantly lower than the youth literacy rate, suggesting that there is a lack of adult education programmes.

It is important that the government partners with businesses in the private sector to establish proactive links between tertiary, technical and vocational schools and industries. Furthermore, the government should give incentives to those businesses that create jobs for the youth. Egypt can follow the example of South Africa’s youth wage subsidiary, where government provides businesses with an employment tax incentive, attainable if employers hire first-time workers aged between 18 and 29.[166]

Another major concern is the gender disparity in education, which is worse in the rural/urban divide. One in four rural women has no formal education, and girls in urban areas get on average 3 years more schooling than their rural counterparts. Among adults, the female literacy rate is 15.5 percentage points lower than the male rate. Though the gender gap in enrolments has narrowed over time, programmes to educate adult women could provide a lot of value both for the women involved and for the economy.

For HR practitioners

The mismatch between the knowledge and skills demanded by the labour force and what the post-secondary and tertiary institutions deliver has placed a huge responsibility on employers to develop and train their employees to the necessary standards. Human resource management departments of companies can work together with higher education institutions to reduce this gap. Another way to address this gap is for major employers, donors and development agencies to provide bursaries, career guidance and internships at their workplaces. Special focus should be on mentoring and employing female graduates.

BP’s internship programme is an example of this. This internship allows students to study a relevant undergraduate degree (engineering, science and business) while using the latest technology on ‘real-life’ projects and operations under the supervision of qualified and experienced colleagues. On completion of their degree, many students enter into BP’s graduate programme.[167]

  • Country Profile
  • Introduction
  • Broad Economic Indicators
  • Currency and Exchange Rate
  • Competitiveness and Ease of Doing Business
  • Foreign Investment and Largest Companies
  • Foreign Aid
  • Country Strategic Framework
  • Summary of Economic Conditions
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations
  • Population
  • Living Standards and Poverty Levels
  • Healthcare
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations
  • Qualifications Profile of the Population and Workforce
  • Levels of Schooling and Basic Education
  • Technical and Vocational Education and Training
  • Tertiary Education
  • Innovation in Egypt
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations
  • Labour Force
  • Employment by Sector
  • Employment by Skill Level
  • Employment by Occupation
  • Labour Productivity
  • Unemployment and Job Creation
  • Expatriates, Immigrants and the Egyptian Diaspora
  • Wage and Salary Trends and Social Insurance
  • Industrial Relations Framework
  • Labour Market Efficiency
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations

Education and Skills Development

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