Crossing Countries and Cultures: Egypt and the CDA®

November 21, 2019

Published by CounciLINK on November 21, 2019


Egypt-5Children in Egypt have much in common with their counterparts in the U.S. They’re required to go to school and follow family rules. They like to eat at McDonald’s, watch TV and follow fashion trends. They also fare better in life when they get quality early childhood education. Children in Egypt who attend preschool are less likely to repeat a grade and drop out of school. They have higher test scores, as well as higher incomes as adults. And in 2018, the benefits of ECE inspired Dr. Hasan El Kalla, chancellor of Badr University Cairo (BUC), to partner with the Council for Professional Recognition to bring the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential to Egypt.

The credential plays a vital role in bringing equity to education in Egypt, where the number of children from birth to five years old is expected to grow by nearly a million per year over the next 10 years. As it looks ahead to this demographic boom, the government knows it must meet the need for more ECE, especially among families that are poor or live outside the cities. At the current time, there’s a serious shortage, as the data shows. Sixty-two percent of children who live in urban areas go to preschool while only 32 percent of their rural counterparts do. And 74 percent of wealthy children go to preschool compared to 20 percent of the poor.

An important part of expanding ECE is improving educators’ skills, and the partnership between the Council and BUC has provided a good start. Under the leadership of Dr. Muriel Baskerville, a former Professional Development Specialist™ from the U.S., a pilot program began in the summer of 2018 by training 28 teachers who completed the 10-week CDA course on the BUC campus. Since then the program has continued to grow throughout Egypt and expanded into Ghana in the summer of 2019. The program has now trained nearly 100 teachers, 11 of whom are credentialed. And this month Dr. Valora Washington and other Council executives will visit Cairo to join the El Kalla Foundation in marking the achievements of these first CDAs.

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The program has also trained 14 PD Specialists, seven of whom are now active, and their services will be in growing demand because the CDA program is still expanding. In 2020, the program accepted 30 applicants in Egypt, and recruitment is already underway for winter 2020 training in Ghana. As CDA materials are translated into Arabic and put into digital form, the program should expand even faster and attract applicants who aren’t fluent in English. In short, the program has gone way past the goals Baskerville set out to meet when she first brought the CDA to Egypt.

“When I was hired,” she recalls, “one of my tasks was to improve ECE in the 26 schools Dr. Kalla has in Egypt. I could think of no better way than to equip teachers with the skills and competencies to work with young children. From my experience in the U.S., I knew the value of the CDA in professionalizing the early childhood field, so I suggested we partner with the Council in bringing the CDA to Egypt.”

There were challenges at first, Baskerville admits as she thinks back to the first group that received CDA training. “During the first two weeks, there were a lot of questions and genuine concerns by participants about their ability to go back to their classrooms and implement the skills and competencies they were gaining during the training. None of them had any background or training in early education prior to being employed as teachers of young children. Consequently, most, if not all, of the content of the classes was new to them.”

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But Baskerville did everything she could to increase their comfort by adapting the credential to their country. “We’re contextualizing the CDA to the Egyptian culture and way of life,” she says. “It’s mostly Islamic and this has to be considered. So, for example, there are normally issues around gender and gender roles that we don’t introduce in Egypt. It’s hard to convince parents that boys should play with dolls and girls should play with trains. So, we expose CDA applicants to U.S. training, but we don’t try to promote it because of a lack of cultural or religious acceptance.”

Still, the stress on quality stays the same, and it helps that all the PD Specialists in the program receive CDA training. The purpose of the training, Baskerville explains, is to strengthen their ability to support candidates who are pursuing their CDA, better assess candidates’ skills in early childhood settings and explain the value of the CDA to educators and parents. The training has also helped PD Specialists feel more confident and competent, according to Nevin El-Sharkawi, a PD Specialist at Futures Nasr City, KG Girls, who has often conducted verification visits in Egypt.

“Working as a PD Specialist,” she explains, “has enhanced my coaching skills and expanded my experience in the child development field. I’ve become better at helping teachers manage their classrooms, apply daily routines and rules, and keep children healthy and safe. I’m also more adept at dealing with parents and getting them involved in their children’s education through open house meetings.”

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El-Sharkawi has also seen early childhood settings in Egypt become “safer and friendlier places for children,” she says. “Our educators have improved the children’s literacy skills by having reading corners and show and tell projects. They have integrated different subjects in their lesson plans to expand the children’s knowledge. And most important of all, they’ve moved from teacher-centered learning to learning that centers on children.”

Child-centered learning is now the gold standard of early childhood education in the United States. It’s an approach that focuses on children’s needs and a foundation of the CDA program. It also appeals to educators in Egypt, as candidates say when they talk about the CDA. “I learned more about preschoolers and their social and emotional needs. I recognized many things I didn’t work on before,” one said. Another loved the program so much that she thought “there should be more opportunities for every teacher to take this course.”

And yet another explained exactly why the course worked so well: “It’s amazing; no exams only continuous assessments, teaching children to be creative problem solvers and masters in their native language so they can easily learn a second language. The lessons are based on children’s seven domains of development and emphasize understanding and having fun.”

BUC-2The CDA gives teachers the competence to bring out children’s best, as these testimonials show. The value of the credential crosses countries and cultures because children do have much in common whether they live in Egypt or the U.S. They learn best through quality early childhood education based on problem solving and play. To learn more the CDA program in Egypt, visit BUC.

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