Education Minister Tarek Shawki on Sunday presented a program to the Education and Scientific Research Committee of the House of Representatives regarding education development, Chairman of the Education and Scientific Research Committee of the House of Representatives Samy Hashem said adding that all the MPs, even the opposition, praised him after a closed session where media was banned from attending.
He added that Shawki stressed upholding free education in accordance with the constitution.
Shawki said that the Education Ministry requires loans, whether from home or abroad, to implement its reform program. According to Hashem, the minister pointed out that the Ministries of Planning and Endowments are currently working on allocating an endowment to spend on the education reform program.
The government is currently preparing amendments to the Endowment Law to allow spending on the educational development program from an endowment, Hashem said.
Shawki raised controversy earlier this month when he said that the issue of free education should not be left without discussion and requires reconsidering.
“People pay money to any place except the government, and the evidence is the money spent annually on private tuition lessons. For whom education should be free? Those who have two children or those who have 10 children?!” Shawki said.
Shawki’s remarks came during a meeting of a House of Representatives committee regarding a plan to reform education in Egypt, sparking a storm of controversy and speculation that the minister wants to abolish free education, a right enshrined in the country’s constitution.
Article 19 of Egypt’s constitution stipulates, “The State shall provide free education in the various stages in the State’s educational institutions according to the Law.”
The controversy prompted the minister to clarify his statements on Facebook.
Shawki explained that discussion regarding the economics of education is a necessary topic to be discussed in community dialogue.
“The free education provided for in the constitution was not realized properly. And the evidence is the expensive cost of lessons which poor and rich alike complain about. So the reality that education is expensive and not free,” the minister said.
“And therefore I see it normal to face this reality with study and research, while we said nothing about the abolition of constitutional entitlement at all and did not ask for this.”
“We invited MPs to study this reality which contradicts the Constitution and study the economics of education and how we will face the high cost now and in the future with better solutions to make use of what we spend on education to achieve real social justice and higher quality of Egyptian education,” Shawki said.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm