Authoritarianism, education and the limits of political socialisation in Egypt


Posted on IGS Archive: 29 Jan 2020

Originally published in Power and Education | 2019

President al-Sisi has declared 2019 to be the ‘Year of Education’ whereby a National Project is to be launched to reform the education system. These proposed reforms are crucial, yet the politics driving them and their implications for al-Sisi’s regime remains unclear. Discussions surrounding how education is political and can help protect authoritarian regimes have largely been understated in the existing literature. This paper’s objective is to encourage a critical outlook through utilising a Gramscian approach that considers education to be a politically contested domain. This approach views education as a hegemonic apparatus capable of developing consent through politically socialising the populace into accepting certain knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours conducive to the regimes in power. By analysing the education system under Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak, I illustrate the extent to which education has been politicised through its attempts to serve and legitimise their regimes and objectives; and outline the challenges that hindered their abilities to protect their hegemony and assume complete control over education. Questioning the political, economic, and socio-cultural basis on which the Egyptian education system is premised can enable us to avoid reproducing its existing problems, and importantly, reconsider the relationship between politics and education under al-Sisi’s Egypt.