University education is considered as the royal road in Egypt. It has contributed to the education of far too many students in recent years compared to the needs of the labor market. Vocational education suffers from a lack of image and does not attract young people. However, according to the latest report of Femise, it deserves to be valued given its relevance in the labor market.
Out of 90 million inhabitants, Egypt currently has 2.5 million students. On the benches of the university, enrollment jumped 20% in four years. The budget devoted to higher education has increased from 18 billion pounds in 2013/2014 to 21 billion in 2015/2016 (ie one billion euros). Admittedly, higher education plays a key role in developing countries. But is it necessary to bet on the university when it is skilled workers that lack Egypt? Is vocational training not also a factor in reducing inequalities?
Femise asks these questions in its latest report (FEM 42-10) published in March 2018 entitled ” Inequality and inclusive growth : Are education and innovation favoring firm performance and well-being?” in three parts. The first, coordinated by the economist Inmaculada Martinez-Zarzoso (Jaume I Universities in Spain) in collaboration with Javier Ordonez from the same University and Dr. Mona Said from the American University in Cairo (AUC), analyzes vocational and technical secondary education in Egypt in 1998, 2006 and 2012.
Match vocational training to the needs of the enterprises
Despite the government’s effort to encourage technical education, the number of students dropped by 3% in 2012. According to the study, this phenomenon can be explained by the relatively low level of returns to technical education, which continues to decline, compared to returns to university education (especially for men in the public sector). For women, the returns to education are even lower in the public and private sectors, regardless of their education. Note, however, a smaller gender gap exist in the private sector.
Redesigning technical education could help promote social mobility and equity. “The quality and relevance of vocational education are the keys to effective reform. The labor market lacks skilled workers. The technical pathways suffer from social stigmatization” underlines the report. It is high time to revalue the image of vocational education, believes Femise. Apprentices are generally poorly paid. The Skills Development Project, with the support of the World Bank, directly benefits Egyptian enterprises of vocational training schemes.
Femise suggests strengthening partnerships between training institutions and companies with financial support from the European Union. But, “encouraging private companies to invest in vocational education will be of no use if trainees still face social stigma,” warns Femise.