The EduCamp Project prepares teachers and students for building a sustainable future
By Ahmed Mansour
Even before the 2011 and 2013 revolutions, Egyptians had long realized that the nation can only prosper when the youth have access to decent education. “Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice” were the vocal demands of 2011, but “education” could also have been one of the rallying cries. And it’s not just about reading, writing and arithmetic, experts say, but Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).
Egypt moved one step closer to that goal with the completion of a three-year EduCamp project, which connected local public and private universities with EU partners to create centers of excellence to train Egyptian teachers in the skills and concepts of ESD.
ESD focuses on teaching children the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future, incorporating key issues such as climate change, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity, poverty reduction and sustainable consumption into the curriculum. As opposed to the rote memorization that marks much of public school education, the ESD approach requires participatory teaching and learning methods that motivate and empower learners to change behavior and take action for sustainable development.
“The Egyptian youth has too much potential, and we wouldn’t want to see them go to waste,” said Lisa Anderson, president of the American University In Cairo (AUC, at the EduCamp closing ceremony in late January. “What we do is that we represent what all universities in the world should do for their students. This project will help transform the education in Egypt and help accomplish the demands of the Great White Revolution.”
The challenge of providing quality education is one of the most important issues facing Egypt, which has an illiteracy rate is 28% and about 50% of the population under the age of 25, according the most recent CAPMAS statistics. Limited teaching materials and a very high student-to-teacher ratio compound these problems.
Through EduCamp, university professors received training on ESD; in turn, they trained primary, preparatory and secondary school teachers. Local universities participating in EduCamp include Cairo, Suez Canal, Fayoum, Alexandria, Zagazig and Heliopolis universities, as well as AUC, which hosted the project’s closing ceremony. Each of these universities now hosts a center of excellence that will continue training and certifying teachers in ESD methods and curriculums.
The project also developed a set of grade-appropriate resource kits for use in public schools, covering topics such as water, energy, biodiversity, agriculture and global issues. These kits were officially presented to the Ministry of Education at the January ceremony.
The EduCamp Project, which ran from 2010 through 2013, is funded by the European Commission under the framework of Tempus IV. Comprised of 17 Egyptian and European partners, and led by RWTH Aachen in Germany, EduCamp strives for the introduction of Education for Sustainable Development into educational life in Egypt. Other local partners include the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the SEKEM Development Foundation and the Wadi Environmental Science Center.
At the EduCamp event, representatives from the ministries of education and higher education called the project a stepping stone for a more sustainable Egypt. “We no longer live in isolated islands; we live in small villages where everyone is affected by everyone,” said Amr Salama, who served as Minister of Higher Education during 2011 and 2012. “We need to understand this concept and apply it so that we can comprehend the fact that when you teach one person, it’s like you have taught ten.” et