Revisiting history in Egypt's schools: Beyond characters

News article, posted 04.27.2012, from Egypt, in:
Heba Afify
Revisiting history in Egypt's schools: Beyond characters (Photo: Al-Masry Al-Youm)

Egyptian students woke to Mubarak-less history books in the wake of the new academic year. The new look of the textbooks that were previously laden with visuals of the bygone president reflects a new direction from the government: events-oriented, rather than character-based, history learning.

This may be good news for those who don’t want history to be reduced to a series of decision makers. But it’s not enough good news, for many describe the curricula changes as cosmetic and say a more radical change to the way history is taught in schools is needed.

Post-revolutionary fixes

Outrage broke out when the new books for the sixth primary grade were released in the post-uprising fall of 2011 with the same section discussing Hosni Mubarak’s achievements, now ending with the line:

“But these attempts were not enough to live up to the ambitions of the nation and the needs of the people, which led to a revolution of the people against the ruling regime in January 2011.”

In response, the Ministry of Education under Essam Sharaf’s cabinet formed a committee to update the history curricula to correspond to the political change in the country.

Assem al-Dessouky, a professor of modern history and a member of the committee, says that its task was strictly limited to lessons about Mubarak’s era, and the rest of the curricula remained unchanged.

Dessouky says the committee recommended that, instead of teaching Mubarak’s era in terms of achievements, it was taught as an introduction to the reasons for the revolution.

After the committee made its recommendations, the ministry issued a booklet to replace the parts about the Mubarak era in the curriculum. The booklet shyly mentions some of Mubarak’s faults while still mentioning some of his “achievements.” The curriculum's logic of spoon-feeding history as fact, however, remained intact.

For some, the way forward is to deny Mubarak altogether.

Earlier this month, Parliament's Education Committee demanded the cancellation of Mubarak's history altogether from school curricula, an apology from the ministry for teaching it in a positive light, and a punishment of those responsible for it.


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