“Shaza, I finally found us an interesting Core Capstone course to take together next semester.”
“Really? What’s it called?”
“CORE 4198: Education and Reform in Egypt.”
“Wow, that sounds really interesting. But what do you think the curricula would be like for this course?”
“Maybe we can email the professors. There are actually two instructors giving the course. I will email them and let you know”
That was a conversation between me and my dear friend Noha Fikry before the beginning of the semester when we were trying to find an interesting core capstone course to take and that also had a suitable timing.
*After a couple more days*
“Shaza, I have forwarded you the instructors’ reply and the syllabus for the course. They seem nice and the course sounds original indeed.”
“Then CORE 4198 it is!”
So this is how I came across this course and decided to take it. Personally, I have always been interested in the issue of education because I have always thought that for any nation to prosper and develop, it needs education before economics, before politics, before anything else.
Especially in a relatively underdeveloped country like Egypt, where we have many problems regarding many aspects of our welfare, education becomes a necessity in bringing up the caliber, mindset, and attitudes of the people who take the important decisions. Most importantly, when the people themselves are well-educated, they will know their duties and rights and will be better aware of their active role in society.
Anyway, back to the course. In terms of variety of the topics in the syllabus, I found them to be quite diversified. I found myself exploring ideas and topics that I probably had never thought about before. The variety of topics made me think about all the different aspects one has to put when attempting to introduce any change within the field of education.
In terms of the workload of the course, I found it to be very suitable to the number of credits. Some readings may be a bit long, but most of them are usually very interesting so I did not quite have a problem with that. The assignments were varied and urged to critically think about the concepts discussed in class. The speech assignment was really fun and novel to do. You can view my speech right here.
I found the blog posts to be especially beneficial because it allowed me the chance to express my ideas about a certain topic in a fun and creative way, instead of writing a regular reflection paper, for instance.
As for the dynamics of the class, I felt comfortable and more encouraged to participate in class for two main reasons. First, the configuration of the classroom allowed for enhanced group interactions, in addition to a more friendly setting (despite the fact that we had to walk the entire campus to reach the classroom :D). Second, the way the professors conducted the class left us room to freely express our views without being judged in any way. They did not try to direct us into a certain mode of thinking but rather offer us different ways to challenge our minds.
As for the guest speakers, I found them to be extremely enriching because it was good for me to get exposed to experts from the field of education and people who have firsthand experience. More on my thoughts of the guest speakers in my previous blog post, “Education In Egypt: The Different Approaches.”
As for the grading, the professors were extremely fair. They appreciated my input and effort, in addition to the quality of course, and graded me accordingly. Their comments on the assignments were quite clear and they offered constructive feedback that I always cared to put in consideration when doing my next assignments. Thankfully, they were also flexible with deadlines and would agree to change the deadline when they saw that a majority had a problem with it, which is something that not a lot of professors care to do. Moreover, the fact that we designed our own grading rubric for the final project was actually very suitable because this way, we had a chance to think about what we are capable of implementing and stating it in the rubric so the professors could know what to expect and for us to know the frame within which we were working.
On the other hand, what I found problematic with the layout of the course is the limited time frame we had for the final project. We only had two weeks to work on it, which was already the extremely hectic time of finals and exams. Thus, it was stressing because I really wanted to put more effort and thought into it, but time was not in my hands. I think we ought to have started brainstorming for ideas, deciding on the groups, and starting to work on the final project before the series of guest speakers started. This way, we would have about a month to work on it, which would have been very convenient. We would also be encouraged to think about ideas while listening to the guest speakers, augmenting the value of the lectures further.
Overall, I found this course to be indeed beneficial, eye-opening, and engaging. It allowed me to think critically about education in general and my own education in particular. I really believe it should be offered more frequently at AUC in order to expose students to the dynamics of education in Egypt, what makes it efficient or not, and most importantly, to let them know that there are many ways in which one can introduce reform in education.
_All images are hyperlinked to their original sources.