The Population Council conducted a study named “Young Women Technical and Vocational Education in Egypt”, in collaboration with the National Council for Women (NCW) and supported by UN Women and the Japanese Embassy in Cairo.
The study aimed at maximising young women’s access to technical education and increasing their participation in the labour marker in Egypt through providing better understanding of the education and employment choices that young women in technical secondary education have.
The reason for conducting this study
Technical and vocational education has proven to be the rescue boat for improving the socio-economic empowerment of youth, especially women of major industrial nations. The situation cannot be different in Egypt.
Furthermore, Nahla Abdel Tawab, Population Council country director, told Daily News Egypt that all the programmes and research conducted on technical and vocational education in Egypt always focused on males.
Meanwhile, Abdel Tawab pointed put that there is a great number of females enrolled in technical secondary education (TSE), however, no one knows their aspirations, challenges, and opportunities, thus the council made this study to provide better understanding of these aspirations, challenges, and opportunities.
More than 700,000 female students were enrolled in TSE in the academic year 2015/2016
The study revealed that more than 700,000 female students enrolled in TSE in the academic year 2015/2016.
Meanwhile, Abdel Tawab pointed out that this number is almost half the total number of female students enrolled in public secondary schools.
In this context, the study explained that about half of these students obtained a total of more than 70% in the preparatory certificate, which is the main factor determining whether students enter general secondary education (GSE) or TSE.
Socio-economic factors, customs, and traditions often prevent young girls from attending general secondary school even if they have achieved high total academic score in the preparatory certificate
According to Abdel Tawab, the study found that other factors, such as maintaining equity among siblings and peer influence, also play a role in girls’ choice of entering TSE. School proximity is also an important factor, as parents are reluctant to send their daughters to schools far from home.
“Several students indicated that they would have liked to attend nursing school but their parents would not allow them because the school was located in a different governorate,” according to the study.
In this context, a female student at a commercial school said that her family’s financial circumstances are not very good, so she enrolled in commercial secondary school to earn a certificate and finish quickly.
Meanwhile, “my score was more than 70% in the preparatory certificate, so I decided to join the GSE but my father prevented me as my twin, whom my dad considers a genius, got a lower score that could only allow him to enter industrial school, so my dad decided to send me to industrial school so I won’t be better than my brother,” a female TSE student at an industrial school said.
The impact of women’s technical education on the Egyptian economy
Unfortunately, Abdel Tawab said that the percentage of TSE female graduates who work in the labour market is very low, pointing out that data revealed only 22% of TSE graduates participated in the labour force, while the study found the percentage of TSE students who continue to higher education is around 5-9%.
She added that TSE focuses more on industrial technical education, including mechanics, smithery, and carpentry, but unfortunately, females do not enter these tracks as most females, 51.5%, are mainly concentrated in the commerce track.
Furthermore, it was also clear that sub-specialities that are more available to women, such as textiles, are not in high demand in the Egyptian labour market.
So, “we need to create and open new tracks according to the needs of the market,” Abdel Tawab said.
Meanwhile, she said that if new specialisations or tracks are opened, young women will have more job opportunities so females will contribute to improving and developing the Egyptian economy, adding that what is happening now is a waste of state resources.
She explained that the government now spends money on the education of female students in TSE, while they do not enter the labour market, so there is no benefit or return for the government in exchange for the money invested in the education. Moreover, Abdel Tawab said that females face many obstacles that impede them from working.
Problems faced by female TSE graduates at work and how to overcome them
Abdel Tawab said that their skills do not fit the labour market’s requirements, salaries are very low, they work very long hours—as most work in informal sectors, so they are not subject to the Labour Code—and the jobs are not commensurate with their ambitions and potential.
She explained that this is because they went to technical school and was hoping for a better career, but the jobs available do not fulfil their ambitions.
Furthermore, she added that the state has to find a way to solve the problems of female workers in informal sectors.
Moreover, she added that the government should encourage small and medium enterprises (SMEs), provide training in entrepreneurial skills for female TSE graduates, supervise business owners in informal sectors, and update TSE curricula.
Furthermore, among the problems is the persistent societal view that technical education is inferior.
In this context, Abdel Tawab explained that this outlook will not change unless the TSE led to significant jobs.
Women’s work is not a luxury, but necessity
Abdel Tawab said that the work of women is not a luxury, but a necessity, pointing out that if woman worked, they would benefit their entire families.
Furthermore, she said that when women work, childbearing reduces and the rate of early marriage decreases.
TSE’s future in Egypt
On a positive note, the Egyptian government is giving priority to revamping technical and vocational education. Egypt’s Vision 2030 for sustainable development places great emphasis on improving the quality of TSE, adapting TSE curricula to meet market needs, and making TSE schools more attractive to students.
The Ministry of Education has set a national strategy to upgrade 2,000 TSE schools over the next five years through updating curricula to meet international standards, providing modern equipment, and improving teachers’ skills.
In this context, Abdel Tawab hopes that the ministry bears in mind the needs and skills of the females.
Meanwhile, the National Council for Women is advocating for the creation of new TSE tracks that meet the needs of the Egyptian market, as well as young Egyptian women’s capabilities, and initiatives supported by international organisations also aim at enhancing the employability of female graduates of TSE and linking them to employment opportunities.