Paradigm change: Egyptian higher education establishment considers options for entrepreneurial learning.
Thematic Area: Education and business
Prompted by the European Union’s policy recommendations for more developed promotion of entrepreneurship in third-level education, high-level policy makers, private sector and academics in Egypt gathered in Cairo, 12 April, to consider options for a more concerted promotion of ‘across campus’ entrepreneurial learning.
Opening the meeting organised by the American University of Cairo, Dr. Salwa Elghareeb, Chairperson of the Supreme Council of National Universities, stressed the importance of finding solutions to the high level of unemployment amongst Egyptian university graduates.
‘Many governments around the world are looking into ways of getting more people to become entrepreneurs and starting their own companies,’ she said. ‘Here in Egypt we need to foster the entrepreneurship process. We need to build up the enterprising person as the catalyst of the economic development. Education is central to this objective’, she continued.
Making the case for a more concerted effort to develop entrepreneurship across Egypt’s network of public and private universities, Dr. Elghareeb stressed that entrepreneurship education should be no ‘add on’. Rather, it should be ‘embedded into the teaching, learning and assessment process – and from the earliest opportunity,’ she said.
Dr. Elghareeb’s calls were echoed by Dr. Hany Barakat of the Ministry of Industry and Trade who represents Egypt on the Working Party for Euro-Mediterranean Industrial Cooperation which is the driver for more developed entrepreneurship promotion in the Southern Mediterranean region. Dr. Barakat stressed the importance of entrepreneurship education to Egypt’s enterprise environment and welcomed the ETF policy indicators agreed by all countries in that effort. The indicators form part of an EU policy index (Euro-Mediterranean Enterprise Charter) to support countries in developing more robust economies.
Discussions at the meeting were reinforced with presentations by a number of prominent international experts. Professor David Kirby of the British University of Egypt argued for a ‘paradigm shift’ in third level education. We need to rethink what is taught, how it’s taught and where,’ said Professor Kirby, underlining the importance of universities shaping the entrepreneurial mind set. ‘Our education system needs to prepare graduates not only for business start-ups but as important, prepare them to be more entrepreneurial employees.’
Dr. Shima Barakat of the University of Cambridge encouraged Egyptian partners to ‘think big’. She stressed the importance of universities being ambitious, being embedded into local economies and contributing to innovation and business growth. ‘Universities need to work with local talent, local entrepreneurs,’ she said, describing how Cambridge’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning had been key to creation of over 100 business ventures since 1999. ‘We schedule an entrepreneurial journey for our students’, adding that the teaching corps came directly from enterprise. ‘It’s the hard business experience which makes the difference to the learning process,’ said Dr. Barakat.
Case studies on entrepreneurship promotion were presented by Dr. Amal Abbas of Cairo University and Dr. Hassan Azzazy of the American University in Cairo (AUC). ETF’s Anthony Gribben used the meeting to road-test the Foundation’s entrepreneurship education indicators amongst a keen participant group comprising academics, administrators, policy makers and business from across Egypt. Meanwhile, a group of budding entrepreneurs from AUC’s student entrepreneurship society demonstrated how their own campus-based activities were generating business ideas and already attracting significant private sector support.
Addressing the meeting, Silvia Crecimbeni of the EU Delegation in Cairo stressed the importance of entrepreneurship promotion in EU education policy and shared experience from on Emilia Romagna, home to a thriving small business environment and considered one of Europe’s more entrepreneurial regions. Ms Crecimbeni said she looked forward to learning of further developments on entrepreneurship education in Egypt and offered her support.
On the basis of issues raised at meeting, the Supreme Council of Universities intends to draw up a strategic paper on how entrepreneurship could be more comprehensively developed in third-level education in Egypt.
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