Despite the importance of education in the advancement of any nation, it is one of the weakest points in Egypt. In a culture that numbs its children’s capabilities and bound their potentials by only depending on memorization to excel, we end up having a generation that memorizes everything but knows nothing.
The students’ capacity of memorization is their only means to succeed in the education system, the more they memorize, the better are their grades, yet the weaker the caliber. The system unfortunately depends on a very standardized assessment and ignores any chance of mind opening. It doesn’t take into consideration the students’ different interests, strengths or the diverse needs of the learners. It also doesn’t help students understand the depth of what they learn, nor visualize the experiments that might add so much joy to the taught material as well as ease the learning experience.
In an attempt to liberate the learning process in Egypt; a group of young people gave birth to Tahrir Academy in February 2012; an Egyptian tech-powered NGO that aims to be a non-traditional learning destination. As the name suggests, Tahrir academy is an online collaborative learning platform launched as a “revolution against the traditional concept of knowledge”. It aims to revamp the entire education process; be it teachers, students, environment and even the curriculum itself. It is an outcome product of Nabadat Foundation; a non-profit organization that fights poverty, improves education and increases political and human-rights awareness through utilizing technology and Internet. Their mission is to “foster community-based learning by promoting a culture of knowledge-sharing through the power of the Internet,” says Seif Abou Zaid, Nabadat Co-founder and CEO of Tahrir Academy.
The academy provides knowledge and information in an attractive, innovative and accessible manner. It has the goal of becoming the largest video library online, facilitating learning in all fields for everyone in need. The team is working on collecting and preparing a huge virtual library of educational videos covering a wide array of topics for ages 3 to 18 years old and the 18 -35 age bracket as well. The sole purpose of the videos is to ease the learning process and facilitate comprehension of the tough sections in different syllabi. It encourages students to focus on understanding rather than memorizing as well as acquiring the ability to analyze better. As per Abou Zaid, the team wishes that their efforts result in creating a generation of knowledge seekers, critical thinkers and future leaders.
It all started when Wael Ghonim was inspired by Salman Khan; the founder of Khan Academy “khanacademy.org” and wanted to replicate it in Egypt. Ghonim called Abou Zaid and asked him to join the team and build the project. So he laid the foundation for almost everything; including recruiting the team, setting up the operational model and co-creating the strategic plan for the Nabadat Foundation and Tahrir Academy as its main project, taking the project from the ground up.
According to him, the team is a group of active professionals with a vision to make a difference in Egypt. They decided to start where it matters most: education. They chose the name “Nabadat” for the foundation; the Arabic word for “pulses” to reflect their sole purpose.
Tahrir Academy’s philosophy is developed on the belief in open systems that thrive on contributions of all participants. They believe that one of life’s best rewards is sharing knowledge with those who thrive for it. They aspire to share their knowledge with every possible learner at their home whereever they are, even in underprivileged communities.
“We believe that it is very critical for Egypt’s future to empower a new generation of innovative citizens and to encourage them to think critically and act creatively. We believe that education is the most critical mean and is definitely the optimal long-term solution to today’s problems and tomorrow’s challenges. We believe that education is the solution; the way for a better future and the platform for a prosperous society and a developed community,” explains Abou Zaid.
The academy relies on a pool of volunteers from various backgrounds and age groups to design, review and deliver educational audio and visual content. They have published more than 100 educational videos on topics including physics, astronomy, grammar, and even chemical experiments entitled Ma’mal Al ‘Ouloum “Science Lab” for elementary and secondary school students.
According to Abou Zaid, “People are hungry for content and that is why the feedback was beyond expectation”. The launch and the academy has achieved enormous success in a very short time. In just one year, Tahrir Academy achieved unprecedented success reaching more than 3 million views on YouTube and more than 600 thousand fans on facebook with minimal advertising. They also have a robust team of 3500 volunteers who thrive to share their knowledge and pass their learning to a younger generation of learners.
However, the team faces many challenges; the most of which is changing the people’s mindset of putting too much focus on formal education. The culture of getting scores on the exam instead of acquiring real learning and building knowledge is the biggest challenge. People need to go after learning, acquire an understanding rather than depend on standard memorization. To create a big impact in the educational arena and witness a real change will require a lot of time and patience. Persistence is the least expected and passion is a must to keep the team going until they visualize the change they wish to the Egyptian education system.
“Tahrir Academy team has endless hopes. Having so much passion and belief in the importance of what they do, only the sky is their limit. Some of their three-year plan includes producing 5000 videos, as well as reach 100 million views on Youtube channel. They also, “Want to build a sustainable business model to cover Tahrir Academy’s financial needs,” adds Abou Zaid.
Anyone who has knowledge, time, resources or passion for sharing can contribute and volunteer to be part of this amazing team. It is never enough to respect and appreciate such efforts, but always important to give a hand whenever possible. This is one initiative that can change the country’s future and really support many students to learn and enjoy their studies.