It is commonly accepted that the national education system in Egypt promotes rote learning over critical or independent thinking, despite government rhetoric for reform. Close examination, however, of the underlying factors sustaining such a system are sparse. The first part of the research examines teacher priorities and constraints, testing effects, and parental expectations, as well as student attitudes towards their subjects, teachers and learning. The thesis fills a gap in the research by investigating private preparatory and secondary schools, which should represent the best of what the national system can accomplish without interference of confounding variables. The research is based on questionnaires, interviews and discussions conducted in three private Language schools across Cairo. Participants were 137 students, 24 parents, 22 teachers, administrators, and education experts. The second part of the research compared to secondary education systems in Egypt through 173 university student questionnaires.

While students were orally very critical of their education, they consistently distinguished between their schools and the 'government's system'. Survey responses were more optimistic regarding learning in private schools. In general, many students enjoyed their classes, reported that they learned to think better in them, rated themselves as intelligent, and said their teachers seemed to enjoy teaching. On the other hand many students said they could succeed in school without necessarily understanding content, and complained that they forgot everything after exams despite, or because of, excessive rote drills. Teachers and parents (as well as administrators and students) reported a desire for more reliance on critical or independent thought. Teachers, however, cited parent pressures for 'spoon-feeding' for exams, in addition to time constraints and dense curriculum, as primary constraints to teaching in less traditional ways. Most teachers enjoyed teaching and were aware of the language of critical thinking. Despite a fee (and reputation) difference, there were no consistent differences in results between schools. The greater difference was between subjects, with SS in general the subject most criticized and least enjoyed. Significant differences were found between educational systems as reported by university students, with German and American system students most reporting acquisition of skills, knowledge, and interest in learning for self.


School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Middle East Studies Center

Degree Name

MA in Middle East Studies

Date of Award

Fall 12-1-2008

Online Submission Date


First Advisor

Russanne Hozayin

Committee Member 1

Yehia El-Ezabi

Committee Member 2

Mona Said

Document Type



ix, 204 leaves :

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1


Library of Congress Subject Heading 2



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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Call Number

Thesis 2008/46