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Citizenship Education in Egypt | Country Profiles: Citizenship Education Around the World |

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Citizenship Education in Egypt

Youmna El Khattam

/ 14 Minuten zu lesen

Learn more about the situation of Citizenship Education in Egypt with a focus on the definition, the ecosystem of non-formal CE, the legal environment as well as on stakeholders and challenges. To understand the current situation in Egypt, a short review of the history of CE is mandatory.

Egypt (© dpa)

1. Background Information: Brief History of Citizenship Education

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, which can either be registered in the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MoSS) or not, as in the case of unregistered 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 civic education were developed with the purpose of promoting Egyptian nationalism, highlighting that Egypt was an independent entity, despite its colonial history.

Following the 1952 revolution , the priority was to increase the capacity of educational institutions 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’. Citizenship education was diffused within social studies, Arabic language and religion, mainly as a hidden curriculum. Furthermore, the history textbooks focused on Arab nationality and students studied the history of all Arab nations. After the war in 1973, the values of peace and dialogue were stressed, highlighting the role that dialogue played in accomplishing the Camp David Peace Agreement.

During Mubarak’s era, history and geography were renamed ‘social studies’ and included more information having to do with civics, including human rights and the meaning of democracy. With the new millennium, more attention was directed towards utilizing citizenship education in confronting growing threats of extremism and globalization. Another supporting factor in citizenship education’s growing prominence was the pressure on Egypt from international donor agencies that required ‘quality learning that included interactive and democratic teaching styles’.

After the 25th of January 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 rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the second was issued for academic year 2012/2013 under the rule of former president Mohammad Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood Group and the first civilian president of Egypt, the third was issued for academic year 2013/2014 under the rule of interim president Adly Mansour, who came into power for a transitional period after the events of 30 June, 2013. Currently, Egypt is under the executive leadership of President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, elected in 2018 to a second term. In an effort to tackle the long-standing problems in public schools, the MoE began implementing the Supporting Egypt Education Reform project in the second half of 2018.

Regarding the citizenship education programs for youth in Egypt, first of all, the definition of youth as a group is not clear. In the 2005 youth policy, it was defined as 18-35 years old , however other definitions exist within the society; since there is no current national youth policy, this remains an unclear issue. In 2005, a unit for citizenship education was established within the MoY in partnership with UNICEF, which focuses mainly on citizenship education projects. Since then, this citizenship education unit has developed several partnerships with other international agencies to implement different programs in different parts of the country.

b. Non-formal Sector

The Egyptian regime has a strong hold on public life, which impacts the way in which civil society actors participate therein. In the past 15 years, CSOs have operated carefully within the field of citizenship education, especially during Mubarak’s era, when organizations working on issues related to human rights and citizenship were not supported. After the 25th of January revolution in 2011, Egypt witnessed a spike in the citizenship education 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 being essential for youth to learn in this period and programs varied in scope and direction.

2. Definition of Citizenship Education

a. Formal Sector

According to a publication issued by the MoE in 2003 , citizenship education is based on eight core principles:

  1. civic education (duties and rights);

  2. life skills (negotiation, cooperation, tolerance, and managing diversity);

  3. government system (democracy, constitution, People’s Council, elections, citizens’ role in elections);

  4. preserving heritage (Arab and Egyptian heritage, Islamic and Coptic heritage, Arab and Egyptian values and traditions);

  5. Egypt’s relations with other countries (on the Arab, Islamic, African and global levels);

  6. Non-governmental organizations (conditions for establishing NGOs, the role of NGOs);

  7. Arab organizations and institutions and

  8. international organizations and institutions .

Research has been conducted in the past years to examine to which extent the aforementioned principles have been achieved within the school curriculums and environments. An analysis of citizenship education textbooks and history curricula in the Mubarak era shows an over-emphasis on authority, nationalism, the importance of tourism, cultural diversity and the role of government in service provision; it also shows little emphasis on citizenship and human rights; and minimum emphasis on rule of law, social justice and political participation.

In its newest strategic plan (2014-2030), MoE has stated that the long-term goal for the education sector is ‘setting the holistic development of young people, instilling the principles and values of citizenship, tolerance, renunciation of violence, freedom and justice, and taking into consideration related rights and obligations in addition to the sense of responsibility towards nation and fellow citizens’. In response to a dynamic multi-party system, the MoE views that the philosophy of education should contribute to developing political awareness and participation of citizens, and to promoting the values of democracy, freedom, citizenship, tolerance and acceptance of others in order to achieve the transition to democracy on a sound footing.

With regard to MoY, there is no specific mention of citizenship education and its definition in their official documents, however there is mention of several dimensions relevant to it. There now seems to be more focus placed on participation in elections, especially parliamentary elections, and the focus on the values of belonging and of loyalty to the country. When it comes to inclusion, there seems to be a focus on most of the governorates. To conclude, it seems that there are various efforts being made within the formal sector to address issues of citizenship education for Egyptian youth, however there is a lack of uniform definitions and goals among the concerned ministries, and an insufficient consistency in the approach.

b. Non-formal Sector

Due to the diverse nature of the non-formal sector, here one finds different and interrelated definitions of citizenship education. However, some CSOs in Egypt now work within the framework of developing ‘well-rounded, responsible citizens who know their legal rights and duties, and apply this knowledge to evaluate government policies and practices. Moreover, nurturing students to become citizens who work for the common good has a positive impact on their communities and societies’. Many CSOs in Egypt have developed and customized their programs to satisfy and address the specific needs and target audience, with a greater focus ‘on citizenship, democracy, human rights, tolerance, and political participation’. Many of these programs began in the years leading up to the January 25th Revolution, and thus program leaders were prepared to adapt and expand their work during the post-revolution period’.

3. Ecosystem of the Non-formal Citizenship Education

With the beginning of the millennium, the mapping of the citizenship education actors in Egypt reflects that different foreign donors started to work in Egypt with pre-determined developmental plans and agendas, either with the Egyptian government, or with the CSOs.

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 solely on youth. This focus can be explained by the focus of MoY on citizenship education for youth as well as by the rising wave of youth activism from 2011.

Most programs carried out by the CSOs are centralized in the capital and big cities: Cairo, Alexandria and Menya. Other areas are neglected, especially in Upper Egypt, Sinai and the Red Sea provinces. CSOs working in the field of civic education and engagement are mainly international donors and agencies, research centres, social enterprises and registered and non-registered youth organizations and student activities.

However, in mid-2014, the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MoSS)– overseeing all NGO and foundation work in Egypt – issued an ultimatum to all groups involved in activities that could possibly be considered NGO activities to register as NGOs within a few months. They would otherwise face legal investigation. This new requirement suggests that the regime, like its predecessors, is aware of youth initiatives and the potential role of non-political CSOs in preparing young people for political engagement and mobilization.

Along with the public sector and the civil society organizations, there are other important and contributing stakeholders promoting the spread of civic education values and content: for example, the media, political parties, the private sector, and religious institutions as well as donors. Media is considered to be ‘powerful because it is widely accessible to all, irrespective of their level of education and sophistication’.

4. Legal Environment

According to Article 19 in the Egyptian Constitution of 2014, ‘Every citizen has the right to education. The goals of education are to build the Egyptian character, preserve the national identity, root the scientific method of thinking, develop talents and promote innovation, establish cultural and spiritual values, and found the concepts of citizenship, tolerance and non-discrimination. The State shall observe the goals of education in the educational curricula and methods, and provide education in accordance with international quality standards.’ Another national example is the Sustainable Development Strategy: Egypt’s Vision 2030 announced in March 2015 during the Egypt Economic Development Conference. The Strategy states that by 2030, there will be an education system that ‘contributes to building an integrated personality that is encouraged to reach its potential, producing an individual that is confident, enlightened, creative, responsible, pluralistic, and able to interact competitively with regional and international entities’. Additionally, in July 2018, President al-Sisi announced 2019 to be Egypt’s Year of Education, allocating funds for international and domestic scholarships, improving the quality of technical education, directing research projects at universities toward solutions to social problems, as well as other plans to increase youth sports and cultural activities.

The 2019 NGO Law replaces Law No. 70 of 2017, which replaced the Mubarak-era Law No. 84 of 2002. This law governs the process by which domestic and foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can achieve legal recognition and sets forth provisions concerning their activities, oversight and monitoring, funding, and sanctions for violations of the law. Egypt’s NGO Law is not the only piece of legislation governing civil society work. Numerous laws—including provisions within the Penal Code, the 2018 media and cybercrime laws, the country’s counter-terrorism legislation, and the 2013 Protest Law—have articles which hinge upon broad terms like ‘terrorism’ and ‘harm to national security’, empowering authorities to constrict the public sphere, shutter spaces for civil society work, and subject members of civil society to additional sanctions.

5. Challenges

a. Formal Sector

The challenges within the formal sector are related to the political environment, the school and university environment, the curriculum, and the teaching methods and teacher preparation. The political environment might be seen as a challenge to citizenship education, because of the real life situations which the student has to encounter that contradict the principles and values of citizenship education; teaching students about human rights, social justice, freedom of speech, political participation and other concepts might only create further frustrations and issues if these practices are not allowed in real life. The highly centralized educational system that tightly monitors curriculum, teachers, and school budgets also creates structures that lack accountability and transparency. This situation is compounded by ‘notable gaps and overlaps in authority’. Citizenship education curriculum is based more on transmitting information than on teaching skills, does not include any real life situations or participation from students. With regard to the teaching methods and teachers’ preparation there is still a lot of effort needed to introduce new teaching techniques that are of a participatory and creative nature, highlighting ‘the role of the teacher in a democratic classroom’. Despite these challenges, recent policy developments could have important implications for the future of citizenship education in Egypt. Since the Revolution, discourses on citizenship and citizenship education have been featured in national development programs and international agreements.

b. Non-formal Sector

The institutions working in citizenship education in the non-formal sector are facing several challenges with regard to their program’s legalities, outreach, impact, sustainability, curriculum development, trainers, and financial constraints. After the 30 June events in 2013, there the NGOs were under a lot of attack, and there were accusations of foreign funding and treason. This has impacted the way the community looks at civil society in general and youth groups specifically. In Egypt, small and medium sized CSOs do not 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 in Egypt. With regard to the outreach, there is huge pressure on CSOs with regards to outreach, especially given that the country is large both geographically and demographically. There are huge differences between urban and rural settings in Egypt in terms of culture and also interests. When it comes to content, the programs can use further improvement; there is a need for further emphasis on civic skills such as advocacy, organizing, and persuasive argument. Another challenge to implementation is finding trained and qualified trainers who can deliver the programs in high quality, given the limited resources available to this sector. In addition, most CSOs receive funding from INGOs, international agencies, local and international corporations and community members; the funds are inconsistent and short-term, which leads to many challenges and obstacles. Over and above, there are limitations from the MoSS and a very lengthy process to get the funds approved. Another challenge, for citizenship education in general, is to measure the impact of the programs, as requested by donors – a difficult task given the nature of the subject.

6. Further Reading

Aly, S. 2017b. Citizenship education: A critical content analysis of the Egyptian citizenship education textbooks after the revolution. In N. Megahed (Ed.), Education during the time of the revolution in Egypt: Dialectics of education.

Attalah, M., Makar, F. 2014. Nationalism and Homogeneity in Contemporary Curricula Cairo: Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

Becker, G., Shahien, M. 2013. Civic Education Conference Documentation. Cairo: Goethe Institut.

CIVICUS. 2005. Civil Society Index Report for the Arab Republic of Egypt: Executive Summary. Cairo: CIVICUS.

Dewey, J. 1897. My pedagogic creed. The School Journal, pp. 77-80.

El-Rouby, H. 2007. Mapping organizations working with and for youth in Egypt. Cairo: World Bank.

Handoussa, H., et al. 2008. Egypt Human Development Report. Cairo: United Nations Development Programme.

Khallaf, M. 2010. Civil Society in Egypt. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from Foundation for future: [Externer Link:] Accessed June 1, 2021.

Wardany, Y. 2012. The Mubarak Regime’s Failed Youth Policies and the January Uprising. Institute of Development Studies, pp. 37-46.



  1. Research Team: Shereen Aly, Youmna El Khattam, Rana Gaber and Mennatullah Reda. This country profile is a product of a partnership between DEDI, EYF and bpb. Views expressed in this country profile do not necessarily represent the views of DEDI or its Board members.

  2. Ministry of Youth 2014-2015. Executive Plan for Youth Activities. Cairo: Ministry of Youth. Shomali, S. 2010. Euro-Arab Youth Policy Co-operation in the Broader Euro-Mediterranean Context. Sharm El Sheikh: European Union.

  3. USAID 2011. The 2011 Civil Society Organization Sustainability Report for the Middle East and North Africa. Cairo: USAID

  4. El-Nagar, A. M., Krugly-Smolska, E. 2009. Citizenship Education and Liberal Democratic Change: The Egyptian Case. Canadian and International Education, pp. 36-54.

  5. When Egypt became totally independent and declared a republic.

  6. Baraka, P. E 2008. Citizenship Education in Egyptian Public Schools: What Values to Teach and in which Administrative and Political Contexts? pp. 6-7, Journal of Education for International Development, pp. 1-18.

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  8. El-Nagar, A. M., Krugly-Smolska, E. 2009. See supra note 4.

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  12. Id. Baraka, P. E. 2008, p.6. See supra note 6.

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  14. Nunzio Dorio, J. et al. 2019. Envisioning Hope in Post Revolutionary Egypt Through Critical Citizenship Education, In: J. Dorio, ED. Abdou, and N. Moheyeldine (Ed.) The Struggle for Citizenship Education in Egypt: (Re) Imagining Subjects and Citizens, pp. 17–48.New York.

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  29. Hellyer Hisham 2014. New requirement to register rattles Egyptian NGOs. The National, 31 July. [Externer Link:] Accessed: June 2, 2021; Khater M. 2014. NGO registration extension period ends under ministry’s recently drafted bill. Daily News Egypt,9 November. [Externer Link:] Accessed: June 2, 2021.

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  32. The 2014 Arab Republic of Egypt Constitution, English translation [Externer Link:] Accessed: June 2, 2021

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  40. El-Nagar, A. M., Krugly-Smolska, E. 2009. See supra note 4.

  41. Id. El-Nagar, A. M., Krugly-Smolska, E. 2009. See supra note 4.

  42. Nunzio Dorio, J. et al. 2019. See supra note 14.

  43. Aly, S. 2017a. Egyptian Youth Building a Peaceful Community: The Selmiyah Movement. In: N. Megahed (Ed.), Education during the time of the revolution in Egypt: Dialectics of education in conflict, pp. 37–58. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.


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