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  1. F. Merlino
  2. http://21pstem.org/about/staff-directory/fmerlino/
  3. President
  5. 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education
  1. Dr. Deborah Pomeroy
  2. Coordinator STEM Curriculum
  4. 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education

Egypt STEM Schools Project (ESSP)

2017 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12

In September 2011, in the midst of the Egyptian Arab Spring, another revolution was taking place in Egypt, a revolution in education. It began small with the establishment of the first Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) High School in Egypt - 6 October residential STEM School for Boys. 

The goal was not only to raise a generation of critical thinkers, problem solvers and future leaders of Egypt, but also to stimulate innovation in the education system and serve as a catalyst for system-wide science and mathematics education reform.This new goal required technical assistance to design an integrated project based curriculum, train teachers in inquiry pedagogy and laboratory experiments and create an entirely new  assessment system.  USAID-Egypt sponsored a study tour for an Egyptian delegation to visit STEM schools in Philadelphia and the Math Science Partnership of Greater Philadelphia. (MSPGP). In 2012 USAID awarded a $25 million grant to four partners where staff from the MSPGP were charged with co-designing  a new integrated STEM curriculum based on Egypt's Grand Challenges and multi measured assessment system.  We used a novel 18-step design process with many stakeholders participating.

The lessons learned from our nine years of work on our MSPGP and being a part of the wider MSP community were indispensable to the Egypt project and made it possible for us to do it. Today the Ministry of Education has build eleven (11) STEM schools throughout Egypt with goal of establishing 27 over next two years and 100 more Low cost versions thereafter. These are 27 STEM schools as residential schools for their most talented children regardless of income. The goal is to develop a new generation of leaders who are equipped problem solvers and able to work collaboratively to address their country's biggest challenges while also stimulating more widespread education improvements K-16.

Our goal is to in turn bring these Model Egyptian Schools back to the US. and elsewhere in the world.  Already we have brought this 18 step curriculum design process back to Philadelphia. We have thus far completed the first 4 steps involving 134 people from 74 organizations as part of an initiative entitled, "The City as Classroom: A New Vision for Urban High Schools" See the attachment. 







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Discussion from the 2017 STEM for All Video Showcase (13 posts)
  • Icon for: Dr. Deborah Pomeroy

    Dr. Deborah Pomeroy

    Coordinator STEM Curriculum
    May 14, 2017 | 05:24 p.m.

    Greetings, and welcome to "the dream."  This video was created by a group of students in one of our schools.  The video does not describe the project so much as it shows the results of our work with our Egyptian colleagues and students.  As you watch the video, please think about and share with us not only of your own questions and reactions but also responses to any or all of the following 3 questions which can help us in our work going forward.

      1.  What sort of research questions come to your mind when you see the video and read paper?

      2.  Given the fact that these schools are currently designed for Egypt’s most talented high school students and given the capstones which are linked to Egypt’s grand challenges, how appropriate do you think would this be for average to low performance kids or should the problems be scaled to a more local/neighborhood level?

    3.  How receptive do you think public school systems in the US might be to all STEM subjects being taught every semester, every year (but not every day) in an integrated manner – do you know of any models of this in the US?

      We look forward to your comments,  Joe and Deborah

  • Icon for: Joni Falk

    Joni Falk

    Co-Director of CSR at TERC
    May 15, 2017 | 03:10 p.m.

    Hi Deborah, Thanks for sharing this work in Egypt. I understand from Joe Merlino that it grew out of his experience with an NSF MSP grant, so Joe, if you come on from Cairo... please share that story! Deborah, Have you dealt with a lot of gender equity questions in terms of promoting the girls towards STEM related fields? How is that viewed by their families in Egypt? Are they supportive? Also you write that all STEM subjects are taught every year in an integrated manner. Can you describe that in more detail? What would a week look like for a girl in this school? What challenges do you see in spreading the model to other schools in Egypt? Thanks for this very interesting submission to the video showcase!


  • Icon for: Dr. Deborah Pomeroy

    Dr. Deborah Pomeroy

    Coordinator STEM Curriculum
    May 16, 2017 | 09:21 a.m.

    Hi Joni,

    Thanks for your thoughtful questions.  Since Joe is travelling, he may not get a chance to respond, but let me say that probably the one of the biggest contributions of our MSP work to the Egypt project was our focus on helping educators at all institutional and administrative levels grapple with paradigm change.  Also, we have drawn heavily from the conceptual change and concept inventory work of some of the other MSPs.  Joe may want to add to this, but that's my first response.

    Concerning gender equity - there are many young women in the science and engineering fields, but they are not getting the kind of jobs they are trained for.  There is a national commitment to gender equity in STEM, so the issue must be addressed at all levels from education to employment.  That said, there is a huge interest among girls wanting to attend the STEM schools.  Probably the biggest single factor holding them back - especially those from more rural areas - is the fact that these are boarding schools.  This is a tremendous challenge, especially for more traditional families.  Once the girls do get to the schools, there is a very difficult period of adjustment for them, and they need a lot of support from staff and older students.  Once they get through this, there is very little that can hold them back!  The same is true for our boys.  Among our 11 schools, the first two were single sex only; all the others are now co-ed, but in most there is still a very high degree of separation of the boys and girls.

    Concerning the curriculum - STEM subjects are generally taught twice a week in 80 minute blocks.  The curriculum was developed first in a design studio in which Egyptian educators identified the knowledge and skills necessary to begin to address the grand challenges of Egypt.  This data was analyzed and big themes emerged.  The semesters are focused around these themes (e.g. matter, form and function; energy, force and motion; change, equilibrium and cycles; systems and feedback....).  Learning outcomes were created for each course by semester that related to the theme and, hence (in many cases), each other.  These outcomes are all back-mapped to NGSS and now to Egyptian STEM standards.  Teachers of all different subjects including humanities and activities work together to try to tie their outcomes to each other through their lesson planning.  Additionally, there is a capstone project each semester which draws on learning outcomes from all courses that semester and has students apply their knowledge and skills to a specific problem associated with one of the grand challenges.

    As for spreading the model to general education in Egypt, there are many challenges because of an incredibly strong tradition of lecture and fact-based schooling.  The Ministry of Education is committed to using this project as a platform for change.  Because the purpose of schooling and assessment of students in their achievement of stated outcomes drive the curriculum, we believe that substantive change cannot take place without an evolution of the Egyptian assessment system.  Along with that will be a major need for teacher training at both the pre- and in-service levels. 

    Needless to say these are only brief responses to your questions, but I hope they can give you a flavor of the challenges of the project and its link to MSP.

  • Icon for: Marcelo Worsley

    Marcelo Worsley

    Assistant Professor
    May 15, 2017 | 04:38 p.m.

    I noticed in the attachment that fablabs are a part of the model. I'm interested in knowing how digital fabrication was incorporated into the project. Were all students taught how to use all of the machines? What sort of support did students and teachers receive in the Fablab? Did students come up with their own projects within the individual focus areas? What challenges did you have to overcome during this project?

  • Icon for: Dr. Deborah Pomeroy

    Dr. Deborah Pomeroy

    Coordinator STEM Curriculum
    May 16, 2017 | 09:29 a.m.

    Hi Marco,

    Thanks for picking up on the FabLabs; they are a critical piece of the schooling experience for our STEM teachers and students.

    Each FabLab has a manager who is trained by FabLab "gurus."  Teachers of all subjects receive basic training in FabLab principally to provide them with an idea about the potential of using integrating FabLab projects into their courses.  Students receive several levels of training in FabLab in which they create projects, and some students become student trainers.  FabLabs are utilized mainly in two ways.  The greatest use of the FabLabs by students is in the design, fabrication and testing of prototypes for their capstone projects.  The second use of the FabLabs is by teachers who have students design and fabricate projects that support specific learning outcomes in their courses.  This latter potential for FabLabs is at this time really underutilized.  We need to continue to work with teachers to help them see how digital fabrication can support student learning in their subjects.

  • Icon for: Michael Lach

    Michael Lach

    Director of STEM Policy and Strategic Initiatives
    May 16, 2017 | 10:19 p.m.

    This looks very exciting and motivating! I'm curious how you define quality vis-a-vis the capstone projects--what sorts of knowledge to do the students need to demonstrate, and what avenues seem to best demonstrate their success? Seems like answers to that might help answer your question #3.

  • Icon for: Dr. Deborah Pomeroy

    Dr. Deborah Pomeroy

    Coordinator STEM Curriculum
    May 17, 2017 | 09:14 a.m.

    Hi Michael,

      Great question.  The capstone projects are evaluated three different ways.  Every 2-3 weeks students respond individually to specific questions in a journal.  These prompt the students to discuss in detail how they are using their classwork (subject-specific knowledge and skills) in their projects, how they are functioning in their teams, and how their work is modeling the engineering design process.  These journals are assessed by teams of teachers working with very clearly defined rubrics.  Teams of students are also evaluated on their final prototype and on a formal poster and presentation.  These evaluations are done by teams made up of faculties from neighboring universities and by specialists from the Ministry of Education and from the local education administration districts (governorates).  Again, these evaluations follow very explicit rubrics.  This part of the evaluation is conducted in a very formal exhibition format.  For the prototypes, the main focus is what and how the students learned from their application of the engineering design process.  For the posters, students are assessed on their write-up including abstract, discussion of the problem and related research, process, presentation of findings, and discussions.  All work is evaluated on their correct application of knowledge and process.  Additionally, students are evaluated on the applicability of their project to the specific research question/challenge and the grand challenge they are all given at the start of the semester.

  • Icon for: Frederic Ntirenganya

    Frederic Ntirenganya

    May 17, 2017 | 07:55 a.m.

    I enjoyed watching this exciting video. I will like to know the type of challenges you encountered in this project in order to achieve your goal. I am also keen to know the approach which help students to come out with their own innovative projects to solve challenges. How students identify the major problems?

  • Icon for: Dr. Deborah Pomeroy

    Dr. Deborah Pomeroy

    Coordinator STEM Curriculum
    May 17, 2017 | 10:40 a.m.

    Hi Frederic,

    We are so glad you enjoyed the video; we admit that it is quite different from others and that it leaves open lots and lots of questions. The strongest challenge was, by far, working with all aspects of a school system, from top administration to students and parents, which has a very strong tradition based on lecture and recall of facts.  Our Egyptian counterparts and our USAID program officer had such a strong vision of the potential for this project, however, that we were able to overcome or work around this and other challenges. In fact, many in Egypt recognize the need for and are totally committed to change, so it was more a matter of providing technical assistance, guidance and training than convincing.  As for day to day work, we were challenged by working in a system with which we had no familiarity and with people for whom English is a second language.  As in almost any new cultural experience, we have been experiencing the "onion effect" in that from day 1 we have been and still are discovering things about the Ministry, schools and broader culture that impact the work.  Understanding comes slowly, layer after layer, and only after having developed a culture of trust, true collaboration, and, in some cases, willingness to identify and challenge our assumptions.  This implies nothing negative about our colleagues, the system in Egypt or even us; it is just a statement of fact for any kind of deep cross-cultural work.

    As far as the students are concerned, they are, for the most part, fully cognizant of the problems and challenges facing Egypt.  They are highly motivated and eager to be problem-solvers; that is why they come to the schools.  Part of their induction into the STEM schools involves their introduction to the engineering design process which forces them to look at design "failures" as opportunities for learning.  From day 1 at the schools, students are encouraged to explore and experiment and try creative solutions to challenges - from simple egg-drops to finding new ways to generate electricity.

  • Icon for: Eric Hamilton

    Eric Hamilton

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 17, 2017 | 08:10 p.m.

    Deborah, your video is so inspiring.  I wonder if it would make sense to talk a bit more.  We have an NSF project that runs in Kenya, Namibia, Finland and US, where we link students in digital maker spaces.  I wonder if your students would be open to that kind of collaboration?  Our video is at http://videohall.com/p/942, and we have a one-page summary at 
    http://bit.ly/ic4-researcher-info-page.  (I was in Cairo last year for e-Learning Africa.  My first visit outside of the airport hub.  It was amazing, and just a tip of the cultural map I know.)  Will be back in Africa in July-Aug.

  • Icon for: Lauren Amos

    Lauren Amos

    Associate Director
    May 18, 2017 | 06:54 p.m.

    Wow. Wonderful video! Very inspiring. It's nice to learn that Egypt has made gender equity in STEM a priority. Can you say a little bit more about what this commitment looks like? Who is leading the way? Educators? Industry? The government? What kind of efforts are promoted and funded? 

  • Icon for: Dr. Deborah Pomeroy

    Dr. Deborah Pomeroy

    Coordinator STEM Curriculum
    May 18, 2017 | 08:28 p.m.

    Hi Lauren,

    What fun to get your reaction!  Many of us had the same reaction when the girls first showed us their work.  The commitment to gender equity in STEM  throughout Egypt appears to be significant, but I can really only speak to our schools.  In our schools, there is an effort to be sure that girls and women teachers are encouraged to apply.  Other than that, with a few exceptions in resourcing, we don't see a real difference in numbers or opportunities for girls compared with boys.  That, in and of itself, speaks volumes to the kind of commitment that the Ministry of Education, and even President El Sisi have made because it is such a break in tradition.  What we are perceiving, though, is that once they learn about and experience collaboration, the girls in our schools thrive, in many cases, even more than the boys.  Unfortunately, there is not a research component to our grant, but if there were, I think that exploring the ways that boys and girls apply to the schools, experience them and become transformed as learners would be an intriguing study.  Additionally, it will be critical to follow the students through higher ed and into careers.

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Lauren Amos
  • Icon for: Dr. Deborah Pomeroy

    Dr. Deborah Pomeroy

    Coordinator STEM Curriculum
    May 18, 2017 | 08:09 p.m.

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for your comments.  I just viewed your as well - what fun to see the collaborations across cultures and contexts.  I would imagine that at least some of our kids might be interested, as they are engaged in much the same kind of work.  If you'd like to discuss this more, please contact me at dpomeroy@21pstem.org


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