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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 11, no. 38 (October 17, 2003).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c October 17, 2003
Allures and illusions of modernity : technology and educational reform in Egypt / Mark Warschauer.
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
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1 of 23 A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass College of Education Arizona State University Copyright is retained by the first or sole author, who grants right of first publication to the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES EPAA is a project of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education Volume 11 Number 38October 17, 2003ISSN 1068-2341The Allures and Illusions of Modernity: Technology and Educational Reform in Egypt Mark Warschauer University of California, IrvineCitation: Warschauer, M., (2003, October 17). The A llures and Illusions of Modernity: Technology and Educational Reform in Egypt. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 11 (38).Retrieved [Date] from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v11n38/.AbstractMuch of the research to date on educational technol ogy has focused on its implementation in wealthy countries. Yet instructional technology has a special allure in th e developing world, where it holds the promise not just of impro ving schools but also of hastening modernization. This article exami nes a national educational technology effort in Egypt, illuminatin g the contradictions between the rhetoric of reform and t he reality of school practices. The analysis points to underlying political, cultural, and economic factors that constrain attem pts to improve Egyptian schooling with technology. Educational technology has always been about much m ore than improving learning. In the eyes of many proponents, it has be en about transforming learning -overcoming traditional educational appr oaches and supplanting them
2 of 23 with revolutionary new paradigms of teaching, learn ing, and schooling. The flashy new machine in the classroomÂ—whether the fil m projector or the television or the computerÂ—has represented the pinn acle of modernity in the eyes of its supporters, whether from the government the business sector, or academia.Larry Cuban (1986) has done an excellent job of chr onicling AmericaÂ’s 100-year love affair with gleaming new machines in the class room, from the radio to the computer lab. Each era has experienced the same cyc le of bold promises followed by erratic and disappointing diffusion, wi th the technology eventually finding a small niche on the margins of the educati onal process. Where education has changed in the process, it has been i n the elite schools of the well-to-do that were disposed to reform in the firs t place (Cuban, 1986; 1993b). Now the cycle begins again, with the introduction o f the computer and the Internet. There has certainly been no shortage of b old claims about how computers will revolutionize the classroom, transfo rming the teacher from the stereotypic sage on the stage to the new and equally stereotypic guide on the side (Knapp & Glenn, 1996; Means, 1998; Mehlinger, 1996 ; Sandholtz, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1997; Starr, 1996). Learners wi ll become autonomous and goal-directed, classrooms will become centers of co llaborative, critical inquiry, and technology will have finally transformed school s to match the needs of the information society (see, for example, Starr, 1996) Research to date, however, makes such claims questi onable. Most studies show that the use of computers tends to amplify wha tever prior approaches and processes were already occurring in classrooms, rat her than transform them (e.g., Warschauer, 1999; 2000). For example, a rece ntly completed four-year national US study of Â“network scienceÂ” Â– in which l earners from throughout the world collect and share scientific data over the In ternet Â– found that the projects tended to trivialize rather than transform learning unless they were based on teacher-led practices of scientific inquiry in the individual classrooms (Feldman, Konold, & Coulter, 2000).In fairness, it is too early to judge the lasting i mpact of computer and Internet technology in the classroom. Many people believe th at the computer and Internet have a more direct relationship to fundame ntal changes in human communication and cognition (see Harnad, 1991) and the overall organization of the economy and society (see Castells, 1996; 199 7; 1998) than did previous technologies such as television or film. Thus even those who have taken a hardheaded and realistic look at computers in the c lassroom, such as Becker (2000; 1982) believe that under the right condition s it may facilitate educational reform (Becker, 2000). Perhaps the best that can be said about this is that the jury is still out.Not surprisingly, the discussion to date of educati onal technology has taken a USand Euro-centric viewpoint. The penetration of information and communication technologies (ICT) in most of the res t of the world is much lower, whether in the office, the shop floor, or th e classroom. With only a small elite having computer access, and the majority of t heir citizens living on a few dollars a day (United Nations Development Programme 2000), the developing
3 of 23 countries in South Asia, Africa, and Latin America have not yet been able to fill their classrooms with computers and Internet connec tions. However, the lack of modern technology does much to heighten its allure in the developing world. There is much discussion of the p otential of new technologies to help countries leapfrog out of underdevelopment. Just as Germany and JapanÂ—with their infrastructure destroyed after Wor ld War IIÂ—used a completely new infrastructure to catch up to or eve n leap ahead of other capitalist countries in efficiency of production, m any believe that the least developed countries can now make use of information and communications technologies to skip over stages of development (se e discussion in Singh, 1999). And indeed, it is precisely those countries that have been able to make effective use of information technologies, such as Singapore, Korea, and Taiwan, which have most recently progressed from un derdevelopment to the ranks of the wealthier countries. For developing na tions, information technology thus holds the allure of allowing rapid entry to mo dernity. A number of developing and middle-income countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa are now beginning to experiment with inf ormation technology in the classroom. With the price of computers and telecomm unications falling, and schooling in many countries badly needing improveme nt, developing countries have great incentive to try to integrate new techno logies and new approaches (Osin, 1998). To date, though, little research or a nalysis has been published on why or how developing countries are attempting to m ake use of technology in schooling, or what the results have been. The few e xceptions to date have for the most part been descriptions of model projects s upported by international donor agencies (e.g., Calderoni, 1998; Potashnik, 1 996). Though these reports have been helpful, they tend to focus on best pract ices rather than shedding light on actual practices. The lack of broader and more in-depth analysis of educational technology practices in developing coun tries can unfortunately lead to a situation whereby educators in those countries uncritically mimic the practices (or what they may falsely believe to be t he practices) of wealthy countries, without proper regard to local condition s and circumstances, thus worsening rather than solving problems. Such counte rproductive approaches are heightened by the fears of being left behind in the information revolution (see discussion in Agre, 1997).To help overcome this lack of information on educat ional technology in the developing world, I carried out a three-year qualit ative study in Egypt. Though, as in any such study, the findings apply in particu lar to the situation under investigation, Egypt represents an excellent exampl e of a society poised on the edge between underdevelopment and modernity (see, f or example, New and Old: A Survey of Egypt, 1999).The study focused on the policies and practices of integrating technology in education in governmental K-12 schools, under the l eadership of the Egyptian Ministry of Education. The overall unit of analysis for this study is the governmental K-12 educational sector in Egypt. Wher e relevant, I also consider data from other educational units in Egypt, includi ng K-12 private schools, governmental and private universities, and non-gove rnmental community technology centers. Data sources for the study incl uded the following:
4 of 23 Participant observation : I engaged in participation-observation continuously for three years, from 1998-2001, while I was involved in a donor-funded educational project in Egypt. During t his time, I participated in efforts to plan, implement, and evaluate technol ogy-based interventions in Egyptian schools and inservice and pre-service t eacher education programs. My participation included attendance at m eetings of Ministry of Education bodies, international donor and implement ation agencies, and Egyptian non-governmental organizations, as well as attendance at and participation in in-service and preservice teacher training programs. It also included professional visits to 25 Egyptian primary preparatory (i.e., middle), and secondary schools located in rural and urban areas throughout the country and to colleges of education in 10 Egyptian universities, and participation in meetings and tra ining sessions among Egyptian educators. I took notes during these visit s and sessions and afterwards typed them up in personal and profession al reports. Finally, I have participated in various electronic discussion forums of Egyptian educators focused on use of technology in education 1. Interviews and focus groups : I conducted approximately 100 individual interviews with Ministry of Education (MOE) officia ls, business leaders, representatives of non-governmental organizations, parents, and students. I also organized about ten focus group me etings of six-to-ten K-12 teachers and faculty members at colleges of ed ucation to discuss the integration of technology in classrooms and pro grams. I took notes during these interviews and focus group meetings an d typed them in personal and professional reports following the int erviews and meetings. The interviews and focus groups were organized with in the context of my work in Egypt and addressed issues related to acces s to technology at educational sites, skill and knowledge level of edu cators, and goals and objectives of using technology with students and in professional development programs. 2. Analysis of documents I have collected and analyzed a wide array of documents and reports issued by the Egyptian govern ment and MOE, donor agencies, and non-governmental bodies. While the majority of these are in print, they also include electronic do cuments, such as Websites of MOE bodies and schools. 3. The study draws on critical approaches to research on infusion of information and communication technologies (Warschauer, 1998). A critical theory of technology (see Feenberg, 1991) distinguishes itsel f from both determinist approaches (which view technology as of necessity h aving a positive or negative impact) and instrumental approaches (which view technology as a valueless tool which can be deployed toward any end ), and critical approaches. (Determinist approaches are alternatively referred to as substantive approaches or autonomous approaches (see, for examp le, the work of Ellul, 1980). Instrumental approaches are alternatively re ferred to as neutralist approaches and are often backed by technologists; s ee discussion in Shallis (1984).) Both determinist and instrumental approach es are seen as downplaying the embednesses of social, political, e conomic, and culture factors in technologies, which shape (but do not determine) how technologies are deployed. In a critical approach, technology is vie wed as a site of struggle, and
5 of 23 investigations of technology implementation seek to uncover underlying power relations that shape how technology is used, simila rly, for example, to how critical literacy studies seek to uncover the under lying power relations framing literacy practices (e.g., Street, 1984; 1993).In reporting on the study, I will focus on three as pects: (1) the discourses of technology-based educational reform, (2) the practi ces of educational technology, and (3) the social context of education and technology which helps explain the (mis)match between discourse and practi ce. First, though, I will briefly introduce some necessary background informa tion on Egypt.Egypt at the Turn of the MillenniumI decided to conduct this study during my first wee k in Egypt, as I stood on the banks of the Nile and took in the Cairo landscape. Across the Nile, I saw the glimmering towers of the World Trade Center, includ ing some of the fanciest stores, restaurants, and offices of modern Egypt. L ooking down, though, I also saw a poor family of eight who lived in three tiny boats by the bank of the Nile. Thin and poorly clothed, this family apparently spe nt their days and nights on a couple of tiny canoes no longer than a fishing pole Yet, as I looked down, I saw a shiny object in the center boat, and, upon lookin g more closely, I realized it was a battery-operated television. Even this impove rished family living in tiny canoes on a highly-polluted river was grasping at m odernization through media. This contrast within contrasts was an excellent int roduction to me of Egypt today. Egypt is rushing toward modernization, while at the same time modernization must conform itself to the centuriesold ways of life of Egyptian society.The use of technology in education in Egypt is situ ated in a broader social and educational reform movement that dates to the early 1990s. In 1992, the Egyptian government, backed by the World Bank and I nternational Monetary Fund-backed structural adjustment program, launched an ambitious structural adjustment program (Korayem, 1997). The ongoing pro gram seeks to transform the previously stagnant, insular semi-socialist eco nomy inherited from the Nasser era into a modern, transparent, and efficien t economy that can compete in a global market (Galal, 1995; Sachs, 1996). The reform process has shown some positive results; EgyptÂ’s gross national produ ct grew on an average of 5.4% annually from 1995-2000 (based on data availab le from the World Bank, available at http://devdata.worldbank.org/data-quer y/), up from an average of 1.5% in 1990-1995 (Galal, 1995). This growth has br ought Egypt from the ranks of the least developed countries up to the lower me dium-development countries, ranking at 119 out of 174 countries acco rding to the United Nations Development ProgrammeÂ’s Human Development Index, wi th a gross domestic product of $3041 per person (GDP is calculated by t he UNDP according to purchasing power parity i.e., how many equivalent goods can actually be purchased in a country), an average life expectancy of 66.7 years, and an infant mortality rate of 6.9% (United Nations Development Programme, 2000). In spite of some areas of improvement, Egypt is sti ll troubled by high rates of poverty, reflected by a low literacy rate and poor public health in urban and rural areas, and the financial structures of the state ar e far from being fully reformed
6 of 23 or stable (Institute of National Planning, 1998; Ne w and old: A survey of Egypt, 1999). The structural adjustment program thus conti nues with the goal of modernizing the economy, overcoming social exclusio n and poverty, and bring Egypt to the economic level of middle-income countr ies such as Malaysia and eventually to that of newly-industrialized countrie s such as Korea. In no other arena is the need for institutional ref orm and social inclusion greater than in education. There is wide consensus among bo th educators (e.g., Jarrar & Massialas, 1992; Tawila, Lloyd, Bensch, & Wassef, 2000) and economists (e.g., Bartsch, 1995; Fergany, 1998) about the poor performance of Egyptian schools, even when compared to that of other develo ping countries (Birdsall & Lesley, 1999). Problems identified include large cl ass sizes, often exceeding 45 students per class in urban schools; poorly trained teachers with low wages and status; and a centralized, test-driven curriculum f ocusing on rote memorization of unimportant material (Jarrar & Massialas, 1992; Ministry of Education, 1993; Tawila et al., 2000). These problems are reflected in a $2 billion private-tutoring industry that is half the size of government expend itures on public education (see discussion in Birdsall & Lesley, 1999). In eff ect, teachers have a disincentive to teach well, since they earn for mor e than their governmental salary by tutoring their own students privately to make up for what they failed to learn in school.The expense and low quality of education have contr ibuted to a high dropout rate in primary school (Fergany, Farmaz, & Wissa, 1 996) and a corresponding low rate of adult literacy (53.7% overall and only 41.8% of women, United Nations Development Programme, 2000). They also lea d to a low-skill level and employment potential among those who complete schoo l; two studies claim that high school graduates in Egypt who donÂ’t go on to u niversity have less earning potential than people who have only partially compl eted primary school (Bartsch, 1995; Fergany, 1998).The problems of education in Egypt are systemic and stem from a wide variety of causes, including the poor state of education fo llowing the era of British colonial influence, the rapid population growth rat e which overwhelms limited resources, and the priorities of the previous Nasse rist system which emphasized the quantity of schools rather than thei r quality (Jarrar & Massialas, 1992). Also of note is the limited demand for educa tion, at least in the past, due to the poor-performing Nasserist economy (Birdsall & Lesley, 1999). With economic reform and growth major governmental prior ities, there is now widespread recognition in Egypt that poor-performin g schools are a drag on socio-economic development and that educational cha nge is critical. ICT in EgyptThe other major contextual factor shaping technolog y use in education is the general growth and role of information and communic ation technologies (ICT) in Egypt today. Egypt began emphasizing the adaptation and integration of ICT in the early 1990s. Expansion of ICT is viewed as crit ical for modernizing production, distribution, and marketing efforts and thus assisting Egypt in competing successfully in the global market (Mintz, 1999). Egyptian government and business leaders also hope that the information technology sector will
7 of 23 become an important industry in its own regard, and they often point to India and Israel as models that they would hope to emulat e. Egypt has thus placed major emphasis on ICT, and Egypt is reputed to be o ne of the fastest growing ICT markets in the world. New communications media in Egypt include the Internet, mobile telephony, and digital satellite t elevision. The Internet The Internet was first introduced to Egypt in 199 3, when a small university network was established (Information tec hnology in Egypt, 1998). Commercial Internet use began three years later and has developed with more government support and less censorship than in many other Mideast countries, reaching a total of some 600,000 Internet users by 2001 (NUA, 2003), representing about 1% of the population. The growth of the Internet in Egypt is constrained by economic factors in a country where per capita income is roughly $120 per month (World Bank, 2001). This is compounded by the fact that local telephone calls cost $1-$3 an hour, maki ng frequent Internet use expensive even for the small middle class. Low tele density rates Â– 6% nationally (United Nations Development Programme, 2000) and on ly 2% in rural areas (Badawi, 2000, July)-mean that people do not have telephones to log on, and only about 1% of the population own computers (Unit ed Nations Development Programme, 2000). The Internet is thus inaccessible to EgyptÂ’s poor, and even many in the small middle class must resort to copin g mechanisms, such as sharing Internet accounts or using Internet cafs.Economics is not the only factor restricting access to the Internet. Other major factors are the high illiteracy rate and language u sage. The Internet largely arose in Egypt in English-language milieu, includin g the countryÂ’s small high-tech and international and foreign business se ctors, and to this day common standards of Arabic language computing and c ommunications have not been reached. That means that the vast majority of Web sites and computer-mediated communication is conducted in Eng lish (Warschauer, Refaat, & Zohry, 2000). This presents less of a pro blem for the Egyptian elite, many of who have studied in English medium schools and can thus read and write the language as well as Arabic. However, Engl ish is taught very poorly in public schools, so the vast majority of the people do not know it at all. Wireless telephony Egypt has also tried to extend its new media thro ugh wireless telephony. The number of lines grew to mor e than 1 million in four years (El-Nawawy, 2000), thus swamping Internet gro wth. The higher rate of wireless telephone use compared to Internet use is due to a variety of reasons, including language (telephone communication is done in Arabic), initial investment (a wireless phone is much less expensive than a computer), and the familiarity of phone use. Wireless telephony penetr ation has reportedly tripled again from 2000 to 2002 to reach three million line s (Arab Communication Consult, 2002), or about five percent of the popula tion. Satellite television Finally, the government has invested heavily in t he development and launching of two digital television satellites, Nilesat 101 and Nilesat 102, with some 180 stations, as another med ium of high-tech communications. Nilesat is designed to serve develo pmental goals through its emphasis on educational program (see discussion bel ow). Nevertheless, with reception requiring not only a television and satel lite, but also a $400 digital
8 of 23 receiver, Nilesat is believed to have very few subs cribers to date (Sakr, 1999). In summary, then though new information and communi cations media have grown rapidly, they remain accessible only to a few percent of the Egyptian population. The urban and rural poor in most need o f access to information and communication resources are excluded from the new m edia. It is not surprising that in Egypt, as elsewhere, i nformation and communication technologies are being used principally by those wi th money. This reflects the natural amplifying affect of the ICT throughout the world: those with financial, human, and social capital have better access to ICT which they can use to further enhance their financial, human, and social capital. And indeed, no matter how well motivated the Egyptian government o r private sector were, there is no way they could instantaneously put comp uter, Internet connections, mobile telephones, and satellite televisions in the homes of Egyptians poor. Nevertheless, at an institutional level, government s can deploy ICT to serve broader developmental goals. In Egypt, the main sec tor in which Egypt has attempted to deploy ICT for broader development pur poses is education. The discourses of technology-based educational reform, and their practices, will now be discussed.Discourses of Technology-Based ReformThe Government of Egypt believes that it has found a perfect combination in technology and educational reform. It has an ambiti ous and expensive plan to use ICT to help overcome the countryÂ’s educational problems while simultaneously preparing a technologically-skilled workforce to meet the demands of the 21st century.The Ministry of Education (MOE) initiated its natio nal plan for the technological development of education in 1994. A special unit wi thin the MOE, called the Technology Development Center (TDC) was formed shor tly thereafter to coordinate the MOEÂ’s effort to infuse technology in to schools. The goals of the national technology in education p lan have been laid out in a number of publications issued by in the name of the TDC (e.g., Technology Development Center, 1997), the MOE (e.g., Ministry of Education, 1999), and the Minister of Education, Dr. Hussein Kamel Bahaa El Din (e.g., Bahaa El Din, 1997). These publications adopt the rhetoric of glo balization, modernization, and reform, with a focus on three areas. First, the re is the discourse of technology-based economic competition : As noted by the TDC (1997), The whole world is undergoing an overwhelming techn ological revolution in information, electronics, computers, and communication. This revolution will widen the gap b etween the developed and underdeveloped countries. Those who m aster science and technology and manage information will survive, those who do not will perish, at least economically. Egyp t must race against time so that it can jump on the wagon of th e elite of the developed world before it is to late (p. 79).
9 of 23 The TDC goes on to explain that only through the in fusion of modern technology in schools can this economic challenge b e met. Following on the heels of economic competition is t he discourse of educational transformation As Bahaa El Din (1997) writes, This emphasis [on technology] will have a transform ative effect on education.Â…The information explosion has changed ed ucation from a mode of memorization of a certain amount of knowl edge to one in which students are expected to research and apply t he knowledge they acquire to various life situations. Education will change from one that focuses on memorization to one that focuse s on research, analysis, identification of relationships in the da ta, and potential application. A sub-component of the discourse of educational tra nsformation is that of autonomous learning. In MOE publications, multimed ia laboratories, compact discs, the Internet, videoconference fiber optic ne tworks, virtual reality, and electronic libraries will all provide learning reso urces so that students can engage in learner-centered experimentation, experie ntial learning, and critical thinking (Bahaa El Din, 1997; Technology Developmen t Center, 1997). Finally, the technology plans also emphasize equal opportunity for all. Distance education efforts, backed by the deployment of mobi le technology caravans, are intended to bring educational resources to underser ved students and thus bolster basic education and literacy (Technology De velopment Center, 1997). The Government of Egypt (GOE) and MOE have assemble d an impressive array of resources toward meeting these goals, incl uding more than 600 full-time staff working for the TDC. The major tech nology projects involve computers and the Internet, satellite television, a nd video conferencing. Computers and Internet : The TDC has placed multimedia rooms in all secondary and preparatory (i.e., middle) schools in Egypt and many primary schools. These rooms have 2-3 high-end computers, L CD devices for projecting from a computer to a screen, collections of educati onal software, and access to the Internet. These rooms are to be resources areas for teachers who can bring in their classes on a sign-up basis. Much of the sc hool curriculum has been transferred to CD format for use in these multimedi a rooms. In addition to the multimedia rooms, secondary sch ools also have computer laboratories with 10-15 DOS or Windows computers. T hese courses are used for teaching an elective subject course called Â“com putingÂ” which is designed to cover basic operation and programming skills.Satellite Television : Ten of the Nilesat television stations have been dedicated to educational program. Ministry of Education staff are creating educational television programs for seven of these stations bas ed on the national curriculum. (The other three stations have been ded icated to the Ministry of Higher Education). Televisions, satellites, and dig ital receivers have been installed in the above-mentioned multimedia rooms i n approximately ten
10 of 23 thousand schools to facilitate access to the progra mming. Videoconferencing Facilities : A national multipoint videoconference facility has been established, with videoconference training centers of 100-200 seats in each of EgyptÂ’s 27 governorates. The facilities are principally used for national teacher training programs and for national communic ations between Ministry of Education staff. The facilities allow participants in these programs to project from any site to all the other sites.Practices of Educational TechnologyThe funds spent on information and communication te chnology represent a major investment for a developing country. What the n are the results of this investment, and how do they match the MOEÂ’s lofty g oals for technology in education? Unfortunately, results to date are unsa tisfactory in all areas. Technology has been thrust on top of a mostly dysfu nctional system, rather than used to help transform that system. The Techno logy Development Center itself is an add-on to the Ministry of Education th at grabs up a huge portion of Ministry resources but appears to coordinate poorly with other sections of the Ministry, such as the departments of secondary or b asic education or the department for inservice training. Serious problems have emerged in each of the three program areas:Computers and InternetThe computers in the multimedia rooms, with 2-3 com puters per school, seem to be spread too thin to make any difference. In an y case, the rooms are often locked up, as local school authorities donÂ’t want t o suffer the risk of having expensive equipment damaged. Classroom visitors re presenting donor agencies usually are given a special showcase prese ntation in a computer room. But, during those same visits, when I inspect ed the use logs, it was clear that many of the multimedia rooms in the schools I visited are rarely used outside of these formal visits. This phenomenon has frequently been reported often in the press. As one article (PCs and teacher s omitted from new computer science curriculum, 2000) exclaimed, Primary School teacher Hasnaa el-Hefnawi is enraged by the decision to introduce the computer science curricul umÂ…The ministry has repeatedly tooted its own horn about how many c omputers it has supplied to schools. Â“DoesnÂ’t the minister real ize that these computers are kept in school warehouses like antiqu es or used merely for decorationÂ” she mused (p. 2). This sentiment was echoed by a teacher on an e-mail list of Egyptian educators, who complained about the technology gatekeepers at his own school, Â“And the good people know only how to unplug and cover it to protect the computer from dust so as not to be damaged.Â”During my visits to schools, when students did use these multimedia rooms, they usually sat and watched the teacher lecturing, as usual, but this time with the aid of a CD for presentation. The CDs themselve s contain the exact same
11 of 23 material as the textbooks, transferred to a new med ium, with little attention given to principles of interactivity or participato ry learning. Teachers who attempt to use the computers in more creative ways, even by making their own Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint files, have told me that they were warned that any activity other than using the Minis try-provided software is prohibited so as to protect against viruses.Meanwhile, the laboratories of 10-15 computers are used for a course in basic computer literacy, which focuses for the most part on mastering DOS (or, in some cases, Windows) commands. Teachers of that cla ss, as of other classes, told me that they are not allowed to depart from th e prepared curriculum, nor are they prepared to do so based on knowledge, back ground, or training. The laboratories themselves, which could potentially of fer a site for creative hands-on use by students in other subjects or after school, are generally forbidden to be used for anything other than the sp ecified computer literacy courses, at least in the schools that I visited.Finally, Internet access is routed by telephone via MOE Offices to ensure better control. This necessitates a double-connection proc ess that rarely functions. In any case, in the schools that I visited, only the o fficial in charge of the multimedia room was given the Internet account info rmation, and neither classroom teachers nor students were allowed to acc ess the Internet independently.Satellite Television The MOE rushed to transfer its entire curriculum to satellite television programming, similar to how it transferred the curr iculum to CD format. In Egypt, the textbook is the curriculum, so this has too often meant simply converting an unappealing textbook into a similarly unappealing t elevision program. Scriptwriters with more creative ideas have had the ir efforts rejected by the directors who are under pressure to develop an enor mous amount of television material in a short amount of time. In any case, educational programming on satellite television appears to be rarely viewed, s ince relatively few people have bought a digital receiver at home and there is litt le reason to interrupt a class to bring students into a crowded television room to wa tch the same material that is found in their book.Interactive VideoconferencingThe videoconference centers are used for teacher tr aining, but the trainings that I have observed and heard about were more often bas ed on lengthy talking head lectures from Cairo rather than real interacti on. Scheduled videoconference trainings are frequently interrupte d when the system breaks down or when top Ministry officials take over the s ystem to communicate with subordinates around the country or to showcase the facilities to international visitors.The ineffective use of videoconferencing parallels a broader problem with teacher training in new technology. Such training i s generally reserved for the
12 of 23 school computer specialists, and is generally limit ed to computer operations. The computer specialists have had no training in as sisting teachers to make use of computers in teaching. Teachers themselves k now little about either the pedagogy of instructional technology or even basic computer operations. As one university lecturer explained to me, Â“we have t he hardware, we have the software, but we lack the humanware .Â” The problems with educational technology in Egypt a re widely known and are reported frequently in the press (e.g., PCs and tea chers omitted from new computer science curriculum, 2000). The ill-suited expenditures on technologyÂ—with the emphasis on hardware and softwa re and inattention to promoting effective use of technology by skilled pr actitioners--serve to deepen public cynicism for the government and the Ministry of Education. Educational Reform?How then do these efforts stack up against EgyptÂ’s developmental goals of modernization, educational reform, and social inclu sion? Though modernization and reform are the raison dÂ’tre of using technology in schools, the funds spent on technology have not served that purpose. Basic s teps, such as using e-mail networks to facilitate coordination among teachers, have been ignored, in favor of high-profile but ill-suited expenditures. The Mi nistry rushes from one high-tech scheme to another, in recent years, rushi ng to transfer content to CD-ROMs, digital satellite television programs, and streaming video. In all cases, the content remains more or less the same, a nd the instruction is top-down, without engaging the type of interaction and inquiry among teachers and learners that the Ministry itself says is neces sary for educational improvement (see, for example, Bahaa El Din 1997). The same top-down hierarchy permeates the TDC as other sections of th e Ministry, giving classroom teachersÂ—let alone studentsÂ—little opportunity to e xercise independent initiative.In short, the curriculum, the exams, the teaching m ethods, and the need for expensive private tutoring have all remained the sa me. On a few occasions, ICT provides an alternate delivery mechanism, but the m ethods and content and approach to education have not substantially change d. ICT has not appeared to contribute in any meaningful way to reform and mode rnization of education. There is also concern that ICT expenditures could b e deepening social inequality. A major hindrance to EgyptÂ’s developmen t is its unequal education system, and the resulting poor human capital develo pment among the urban and rural poor, especially rural girls. The high ra te of illiteracy in Egypt, especially among girls, is a major brake on develop ment. Economists and development specialists believe that EgyptÂ’s educat ional expenditures are skewed to the well-off, and that Egypt spends an in sufficient amount of its overall education pie on basic education and litera cy promotion (Birdsall & Lesley, 1999; Institute of National Planning, 1998)Not surprisingly, the investments in ICT have done little to overcome this bias and have likely worsened it. EgyptÂ’s investment in ICT, as in other countries, goes to those sectors best able to absorb it. When Egypt needs to be investing
13 of 23 more in rural, primary education, ITC spending is s kewed toward universities and secondary schools, which are located disproport ionately in urban areas. With a mean years of schooling rate of 5.0 years (F ergany, 1998), much of the population never reaches the secondary schools that are absorbing the technological resources. A new effort to provide co mputers to university students at below-market prices is laudable on pape r but will also put computing resources in the hands of those who can most afford them on their own. The expensive videoconferencing centers are based in go vernmental capital cities and draw money away from other types of school-base d teacher training programs that could be spread more equitably around the country. In sum, the vast majority of spending on ICT is apparently goin g toward secondary and higher urban education, rather than toward improved primary rural education that could help combat illiteracy in Egypt.In addition, an emphasis on ICT in education has te nded to privilege the use of English over Arabic. Whereas textbooks available in Egyptian schools are all available in Arabic, much computing in Egypt takes place in English Â– due to English language computer science terms, English op erating systems, English resources on the Internet, etc. (Warschauer et al., 2002). An increased emphasis on EnglishÂ—including the introduction of E nglish in primary schoolsÂ—has thus far borne little fruit (due to a l ack of trained teachers, overcrowded classrooms, etc.), but has disadvantage d those students in rural primary schools who now have less time and opportun ity to work toward gaining literacy in Arabic.The Social Context of Educational Reform and Techno logyIt is not surprising that EgyptÂ’s educational techn ology effort has fallen short of its goals. Countries such as the United States, tha t have been spending a great deal more money on educational computing for a much longer period of time, are still far from getting it right. The learning c urve for intelligent use of technology is a long and steep one, and there is no reason to expect Egypt to outperform other countries in this regard.However, it is worth analyzing the Egyptian case in more detail to interpret the social context of educational technology difficulti es. This may shed light on the broader issue mentioned at the beginning of this ar ticle as to whether the infusion of technology constitutes a lever for refo rm. I believe the evidence of this study strongly suppo rts the socialization view articulated by Cuban (1986; 1993a; 1993b) and other s (e.g., Spindler, 1974) that gives priority emphasis to the broader social shaping role of schools. According to this view, deeply-held cultural belief s about the nature of knowledge, how teaching should occur, and how child ren should learn steer policymakers and teachers toward certain forms of i nstruction, and that these forms of instruction are guided by the broader role of the schools to "inculcate into children the prevailing social norms, values, and behaviors that will prepare them for economic, social, and political participat ion in the larger culture" (Cuban 1993, p. 249). From this perspective, educat ional reform is not impossible, but tends to be available most often to the more privileged strata of society. Reforms affecting the masses are usually c arried out in fringe ways,
14 of 23 without disrupting the overall socialization functi on of the schools. In this regard, it is useful to explore the broader social context that frames education in Egypt, and see how this framework cons trains educational reform with computers. Three aspects will be examined: the political the cultural, and the economic The Politics of School ReformThe political context of Egypt reflects a strong ca rry-over from the Nasser period, based on authoritarian rule by a military-b acked leadership within a patriotic, nationalist framework (Hinnebusch, 1990) Egyptians enjoy neither freedom of speech, nor freedom of organization, nor freedom of organization and protest. Strikes and demonstrations are disallo wed, those expressing contrary political or religious views are jailed, a nd formation of political parties and non-governmental organizations is restricted (T he Economist Intelligence Unit, 1998-99). The current president, Hosni Mubara k, has been in power since 1981, and the country has been under Emergency Law during the entire time of his rule.What then is the political role of schooling in Egy pt, dating back to the Nasser regime? It is largely to forge a national identity based on mass access to (formally) equal schooling (see Jarrar & Massialas, 1992 for a history of EgyptÂ’s educational policies). Nasser brought huge numbers of children into the Egyptian school system, and construction of new sch ools continues to be a major priority of the current government (and deser vedly so). However, dating back to the days of Nasser, any reform which allowe d differences to emerge in schools, or which lessened the authoritarian hierar chy of the educational system, was highly suspect.TodayÂ’s political leaders, like Nasser, see schooli ng largely from the view of social control. Though the Islamist fundamentalist movement in Egypt is under greater control than it was in the 1990s, Islamist opposition remains a threat to the government, just as it has for the last 50 year s (and, indeed, may grow due to public frustration with regional political event s). In such a climate, a main function of schooling in Egypt, in the eyes of the regime, is to foster pro-government sentiment and to isolate the Egyptia n fundamentalists. Toward this end, the appearance of modernization has proven very attractive. By constantly emphasizing how many computers it has pu t in schools and how advanced its videoconference system is, the governm ent goes on the offensive to show that it represents the future and that it c an compete with the wealthiest countries in the world. However, to actually use this equipment to reshape schooling would pose too much of a threat to a fund amentally conservative institution. So the system Â– beyond the wishes and desires of any particular individual Â– supports a rhetoric of reform without its substance. This is not due to the conspiracy of an elite, but rather due to th e institutional reproduction of an educational and social system similar to that which occurs throughout the world.The Culture of School Reform
15 of 23 For a variety of historical, political, social, eco nomic, and religious reasons, a culture of vertical hierarchy permeates Egypt and t he Arab world. Information is meant to be horded, decisions are made at the top, and rulers maintain power through a complex balance of power techniques. This hierarchical system, which de Atkine (2000) found to be evident in the E gyptian military, also pervades other social systems in the country (see d iscussion in Hudson, 2000). And indeed, an almost militaristic like atmosphere pervades the Ministry of Education, especially as it affects the use of tech nology. All three top leaders of the Technology Development Center are former milita ry generals (none, by the way, with a background in education), and former co rporals, lieutenants, and other officers are found below them. Computers are found on none of their desks, except as monitoring devices, i.e., to obser ve educational videoconferencing sessions organized within the Min istry. The TDC, like other governmental and MOE departments, is hierarchical t o the extreme, with long chains of command, and those at any level but the t op unable to make decisions. For example, on one occasion, I made a s imple request of a teacher to see a copy of the CD that he uses in school. The request was bounced up one level after the other, with no one lower than t he Vice-Minister of education willing to grant permission. (The Vice-Minister fin ally said yes.) In such an atmosphere, it is not surprising that te chnology serves a purpose of hierarchy and transmission, rather than of horizont al networking (see discussion of this same issue in US education in Hodas, 1993). Though the MOE and TDC adopt the discourse of interactive education, the s pending and support Â– whether on satellite television, or CDs, or top-dow n training via videoconferencing Â– has gone almost entirely to tra nsmission technologies.The Economics of School ReformEgypt, like many developing countries, is highly st ratified, yet that stratification is expressed in a special way. Due to the land reforms and other programs of the Nasser regime, income inequality and land inequality are relatively low. Education inequality, however, is quite high, even when compared to other developing countries. Data gathered by Birdsall and OÂ’Connell (1999) illustrates this point (see table 1). Table 1. Sources of Inequality Across Countries (Gi ni coefficients c. 1990) CountryIncome Inequality Education Inequality Land Inequality Egypt.320.700.480Kenya.544.600.746Jordan.407.615.686Brazil.596.461.852
16 of 23 Indonesia.317.494.556Korea.336.257.351Thailand.515.456.366Source: Birdsall and OÂ’Connel, 1999In other words, control of educationÂ—much more so t han in other countriesÂ—is a principle means by which the well-to-do in Egypt defend their privileged social status. And the social status achieved through educ ation means a great deal in Egypt. It allows people to join the highest paying and most prestigious professions, it is a de facto requirement for setti ng up your own business, and it is a prerequisite for marriage within the elite and thus enjoying the financial and social benefits showered on family members by the E gyptian upper class. The defense of social status through elite educatio n takes place through several means. First, a disproportionate share of funding g oes to university education as opposed to K-12 education (Birdsall & Lesley, 19 99; Fergany, 1998; Institute of National Planning, 1998). Secondly, socioeconomi c privilege is reserved for those who complete the university; as mentioned ear lier, those who graduate secondary school without a university education are actually worse off economically than primary school drop-outs unless t hey choose to work outside Egypt (Bartsch, 1995). Third, access to universitie s Â– and to the most elite departments or programs within the universities Â– i s based on a set of decontextualized school-leaving exams that the weal thy have been preparing for all their lives, through their better private s chools and their expensive private tutoring.This class bias that permeates EgyptÂ’s educational system makes school reform extremely difficult to achieve. The Ministry of Education has attempted to disrupt the testing and private tutoring system for years, but has been continually rebuffed by a powerful elite who have i nvested huge sums in preparing their children to pass the exams and gain access to the elite (see Sarhaddi Nelson, 2001) and who thus have little int erest in seeing such a system overturned.This economic elite who exercise a powerful influen ce over Egyptian politics have little interest in technology-based school ref orm in governmental schools. Their children are already becoming computer-profic ient at home, and for them the schools serve as little more than a sorting sys tem to maintain their class privilege.Meanwhile the poor have little vested interest in d emanding computers in the schools. The struggle of the poor is for decent bas ic education that will allow their children to read and write and compete fairly in society. With class sizes of upwards of 60 in the poor neighborhoods of Cairo, a nd many urban and rural schools lacking basic amenities, the poor have othe r priorities than computers and the Internet in schools, which are widely viewe d as a boondoggle. There is thus no constituency that is fighting hard to refor m schools through infusions of technology.
17 of 23 In summary then, there are powerful political, cult ural, and economic factors motivating the current structure of education in Eg ypt. Large-scale spending on information technology has had little if any impact on changing these factors, and it is unrealistic to expect that it will. The e mphasis on the faade of reform without any substantial changes is evident througho ut the educational system. The Ministry began teaching English in elementary s chool in order to emphasize modernization and ties to the West, but this instru ction has almost no value because the majority of those designated to teach E nglish in primary school know little of the language itself. (Indeed, a comm ittee of Egyptian applied linguistics, several with expertise in the field of English language teaching, recommended against the change to earlier English l anguage education.) The Ministry, at huge expense and often with the suppor t of donor funding, also sends thousands of teachers per year to the United States and Britain to expose them to Western environments and approaches, but makes it difficult for these same teachers to implement any substantia l changes when they return (Warschauer, 2003b). In other words, whether in English teaching, teacher training, or use of technology, a higher pr iority is put on creating the illusion of modernization rather than on actually m odernizing practices. Finally, though beyond the scope of this particular work, the role of donor agencies must also be briefly mentioned. For exampl e, the United States Agency for International Development has long made Egypt one of its largest recipients, principally for global political reason s (Weinbaum, 1986). In too many cases, the US and other donors have poured money in to expensive infrastructure projects in Egypt, including those r elated to technology in education, without paying sufficient attention to h ow technology might actually be best used in local contexts (see discussion in W arschauer, 2003a, 2003b).ConclusionWhile the large gap between rhetoric and reality of technology-based educational reform in Egypt stems in part from poor planning, it is also the logical outcome of powerful socioeconomic factors t hat shape educational policy and practice in Egypt. Though Egyptian offic ials voice the discourses of reform popularized in the West, it is unlikely that they will be widely practiced in Egypt (and, indeed, it is questionable how often th ey are actually practiced in Western countries.) Egypt would do better to draw o n its own social norms in designing educational reform policies. Holliday (19 92; 1994) has demonstrated that the best classroom instruction in Egypt is tea cher-centered, reflecting the social and cultural realities of Egypt rather than the learner-centered environment favored in US graduate schools of educa tion; most Egyptians believe that their educators should organize Â“teach ing spectaclesÂ” featuring top-down instruction rather than Â“learning festival sÂ” based on collaborative project-work (Holliday, 1994, p. 36). If and when e ducational technology begins to make positive headway in Egypt, it will be in a way that is likely very different than a Western-based discourse might suggest. Indee d, the US has its own share of educational problems, and many countries w ith traditions of teacher-centered education, such as Korea, Singapor e, and Taiwan, have shown great success in raising the educational leve l of their students.
18 of 23 As for the more general conclusion, this study prov ides support for the work of Cuban and others who emphasize the limited impact o f machines in reforming education. In Egypt, as in the US, technology can p lay a role in remaking education only if an when broader social, political cultural, and economic factors are aligned to make school reform likely. T his does not suggest a fatalistic approach that denies human agency, but i t does imply that technology is something other than a neutral tool that can be deployed toward any ends. It is better to think of information and communication technologies as Â“socio-technical networksÂ” (Kling, 2000, p. 3) that involve complex social relationships and contexts.In other words, those who seek to reshape schools, whether in Egypt, the US, or elsewhere, need to think about not only the tech nology of the classroom, but also the technology of informational capitalism. Gl obalization, post-Fordism industrial relations, and the advent of new communi cations media are changing the context of education in the US, other Western c ountries, and, increasingly, in the developing world. These broader economic shi fts may well introduce a greater demand for a more educated (or differentlyeducated) workforce in Egypt, and there are already signs that the busines s community in Egypt is starting to throw its weight toward educational ref orm for just this reason. Modernization of the educational system in Egypt, a s elsewhere, will come about because influential social forces push for it not because x number of computers have been put in y number of schools. Cha nges in the political economy can result in a context that better support s reform, but even then reform will not happen on its own. Working for educ ational reform requires not machines but rather mobilization Â—that is, the engagement of social actors to press for change, taking into account the relevant political, economic, and cultural contexts that help shape classroom learnin g and teaching.ReferencesAgre, P. (1997). Criando uma cultura da Internet. Revista USP (University of Sao Paulo), 35 112-117. Badawi, A. (2000, July). Telecommunications in Egyp t: Presentation at the US Embassy, Cairo. Bahaa El Din, H. K. (1997). Education and the future Kayoub, Egypt: Al Ahram Commercial Press. Bartsch, U. (1995). Rates of return to investment in education and migr ation in Egypt (Research Notes 9). Cairo: Almishkat Cenre for Researcha and Training. Becker, H. (2000). Who's wired and who's not? The future of children, 10 (2), 44-75 (available at http://www.f utureofchildren.org/cct/cct_03.pdf ). Becker, H. J. (1982). Microcomputers in the classroom: Dreams and realiti es (Report No. 319) Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University, Center for Social Organization of Schools. Becker, H. J. (2000). Findings from the Teaching, L earning, and Computing survye: Is Larry Cuban Right. Educational Policy Analysis Archives, 8 (51). Birdsall, N., & Lesley, O. C. (1999). Globalization, income distribution and education: P utting education to work in Egypt Cairo, Egypt: Egyptian Center for Economic Studie s. Calderoni, J. (1998). Telesecundaria: Using TV to bring education to rura l Mexico (Education and Technology Technical Notes Series 3(2)). Washington DC: World Bank.
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21 of 23 Tawila, S., Lloyd, C. B., Bensch, B. S., & Wassef, H. (2000). The school environment in Egypt: A situational analysis of public preparatory schools Cairo: Population Council. Technology Development Center. (1997). Technology: A tool for developing education in the 21st century Cairo: Ministry of Education. The Economist Intelligence Unit. (1998-99). Country profile: Egypt London, England: Author. United Nations Development Programme. (2000). Human development report 2000 New York: Oxford University Press. Warschauer, M. (1998). Researching technology in TE SOL: Determinist, instrumental, and critical approaches. TESOL Quarterly, 32 (4), 757-761. Warschauer, M. (1999). Electronic literacies: Language, culture, and power in online education Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Warschauer, M. (2000). Technology and school reform : A view from both sides of the track. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8 (4). Retrieved October 1, 2003 from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa /v8n4.html Warschauer, M. (2003a). Technology and social inclusion: Rethinking the dig ital divide Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Warschauer, M. (2003b, April). The rhetoric and reality of aid: A critical look at shared responsibility. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Americ an Educational Research Association, Chicago. Downloaded June 6, 2003 from http://www.gse.uc i.edu/markw/rhetoric.pdf Warschauer, M., El Said, G. R., & Zohry, A. (2002). Language choice online: Globalization and identity in Egypt. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 7 (4). Downloaded January 17, 2003 from http ://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol7/issue4/warschauer. html Weinbaum, M. (1986). Egypt and the politics of U.S. economic aid Boulder, CO: Westview. World Bank. (2001). World development report 200/2001: Attacking povert y Oxford: Oxford University Press.About the AuthorMark Warschauer is Vice Chair and Associate Professor of the Depar tment of Education at the University of California, Irvine a nd the editor of Language Learning & Technology journal. His research focuses on the uses of infor mation and communication technologies with culturally and linguistically diverse learners. His most recent book is Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide (MIT Press, 2003). He can be reached through his W ebsite at http://www.gse.uci.edu/markw. The World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is epaa.asu.edu Editor: Gene V Glass, Arizona State UniversityProduction Assistant: Chris Murrell, Arizona State University General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, email@example.com or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State Un iversity, Tempe, AZ
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