Founded almost 60 years ago, the Azazy Group operates 14 primary schools, a secondary school and Future University, one of the newest and most promising universities in Egypt located in the heart of New Cairo. The Group now plans to build Knowledge City, a vast educational and cultural complex which will gather together branches of universities from the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as research centers and other facilities.
A new day in education is dawning in Egypt where a long-time private purveyor of high-quality, Western-style instruction is taking further steps to bring international teaching and learning standards to the country, while at the same time the government is promising wide-ranging reforms aimed at hauling the Egyptian educational system into the 21st century.
“Egypt is again connecting with the rest of the international community and this new era is represented by our slogan: ‘A Place for Everyone in the World’. Our intent is to use our proven experience for a better future for our country,” says Khaled Hassan Azazy, the chairman of the Azazy Group.
Founded by the chairman’s father almost 60 years ago with the establishment of a small private school, the Group now operates 14 primary schools, a secondary school and a university educating more than 20,000 students, with almost 20% from other countries including the United States and United Kingdom.
In its latest effort to bring quality education to Egypt, the Azazy Group late last year signed an agreement with the United Kingdom franchise school, Malvern College to open the British educational institution’s first location in the Middle East which will serve students aged 3 to 18.
Built on the same principles as its parent organization back home, Malvern College Egypt will be a co-educational day school. Parents will be able to enroll their children starting September 2015.
The school is ideally situated between two well-known and affluent parts of Cairo, Maadi and New Cairo.
“We’ve had very positive feedback from parents of potential students as they have been waiting for quite some time to be able to gain access to the type of high-quality education that we will be offering at Malvern College from September 2016.
“It is one of the leading independent schools in the United Kingdom and our aim is to emulate its success by hiring the very best educators thus creating a vibrant atmosphere within our school where inquisitive young students have the opportunity to reach their full potential,” the chairman says.
Founded in 1865, Malvern College is one of Britain’s top independent schools, with a 150-year track record for assisting students in reaching their full potential through a broad curriculum that focuses on academic work as well as sports, music, art and drama.
Some of Malvern College’s most well-known British alumni include the author C.S. Lewis, creator of the much-loved children’s classic The Chronicles of Narnia, and Maurice Wilks, who conceived and developed the Land Rover automobile manufacturer.
Malvern has already established one foreign academic outpost in China and Mr. Azazy says that the Group hopes to grow the franchise even further within Egypt and beyond.
It is already in talks on expanding into other Middle Eastern countries where international education has become a huge growth industry, and even into Europe.
The celebration launching Malvern College in Egypt represented a major milestone for the country’s primary education system and was attended by Prince Michael of Kent, cousin of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, British Ambassador to Egypt John Casson, as well as Baroness Gloria Hooper, actress Liz Hurley and Omar Sharif.
Other attendees included Chairman of Malvern College Lord MacLaurin, former First Lady of Egypt Jehan Sadat, Malvern College Headmaster Antony Clark, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair who promised that Malvern College Egypt will provide “education for an open mind.”
“It makes perfect sense to combine the long-standing expertise of foreign educational institutions with partners who are aware of the local culture,” Mr. Azazy argues.
“It creates a dynamic mix where the strengths of both partners can be brought to the forefront for the benefit of students and parents alike.”
The Azazy Group applied that same philosophy when it took its first step into higher education by establishing Future University, one of the newest and most promising universities in Egypt and located in the heart of New Cairo.
“We founded our university in 2006 and it has experienced unprecedented growth, even through the revolution,” Mr. Azazy explains. “The country keeps growing and the education sector is one of the most resilient in Egypt.”
Through excellence in teaching, research and service, Future University strives to provide a comprehensive, high-quality education that prepares graduates to be future leaders.
The campus provides a creative, nurturing environment where students can realize their potential while learning from a talented, well-qualified faculty.
The university’s fully-accredited faculties focus on small-group teaching sessions or lectures, labs and tutorials.
It currently hosts six faculties: oral and dental medicine, pharmaceutical sciences and industries, engineering and technology, economics and political science, commerce and business administration and computer science and information technology.
Key to Future University is its much-admired range of partnerships with such prestigious U.S. institutions as the University of Cincinnati, Louisiana State University, the University of Maryland, Temple University, the University of New Mexico, as well as others in Ireland, Latvia, Italy and Hungary.
Depending on the school, partnerships include faculty, staff and student exchanges, joint research projects and knowledge transfer, and shared seminars and courses, among other activities.
“We have great respect for the U.S. education system and we recognize U.S. schools are always at the top of the rankings,” the chairman says.
“So the United States means a lot to us. It is the leader in specialized education such as medicine and we want to follow its lead.”
With that in mind, the Group is now planning an even more ambitious project: Knowledge City, a vast educational and cultural complex gathering together branches of universities from the United States and the United Kingdom, research centers and other facilities.
“We want to partner with these universities to build a world-class medical school with its own university hospital based on American standards,” the chairman explains.
“We are also aiming to create a cultural city with student and faculty accommodations, a theater, an opera house and a convention center, also with partners from abroad.”
Services to be provided include food courts, banks, post offices, and a gymnasium, as well as consultancy offices and conference rooms for private sector partners.
Based on studies of Egypt’s needs, Knowledge City will focus on information technology, engineering, science, finance, medicine, economics, environmental studies, political science and law as well as the tourism and hospitality industries.
Knowledge City will occupy approximately 200 acres on the outskirts of Cairo near Badr City and will be located close to Cairo International Airport, the Suez Canal and the Red Sea.
Running parallel to these efforts by the private sector are government programs targeting the many challenges facing Egypt’s public education system which has suffered years of underfunding, antiquated teaching methods and inadequate and badly paid teachers who must moonlight as tutors to make ends meet.
According to a survey carried out by an international NGO which works with the Ministry of Education, the illiteracy rate in some Egyptian schools is as high as 80% and many students complete grammar school unable to read and write.
Also impacting the system is the fact there have been four different education ministers and constant changes in the public school curriculum since the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak.
Even though the median age of Egypt’s population of 82 million people is just 25, the country spends less than 4% of its GDP on education which compares unfavorably with 5.4% in the United States and more than 6% in the United Kingdom.
This results in the equally dismal statistic that more than one fourth of Egyptian youths are unemployed and 54% of women in this age group are jobless.
Egyptians, understandably, are shocked at the situation. Since ancient times the country has been a leading center of intellectual and cultural life and for several hundred years, home to the Arab world’s leading universities and religious training centers as well as hosting the region’s most prolific publishing industry.
Indeed, for ambitious students from Morocco to Myanmar, Egypt boasted the most prestigious centers of learning where they could sit at the feet of renowned scholars and absorb the wisdom of the ages, a glorious time which educators want to see return.
Two years ago, Egypt was ranked last in primary education quality in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.
Last year it moved up two places among the 144 countries assessed, a slight improvement but there is still a long way to go.
And the Egyptian government is stepping up. An entirely new classroom curriculum has been announced, teaching methods are being overhauled to put more emphasis on critical thinking in place of rote learning and plans call for the hiring of 30,000 better qualified teachers and higher wages.
Last year, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi appointed an Education and Scientific Research Council which will work to ensure improvements in the school system, a step which Mr. Azazy welcomes.
“This was a significant step and heralds further changes in the public education sector. And this reflects our own visionary efforts to provide young people with the intellectual tools and skills needed for success in today’s world.”