In an attempt to limit the accidents on Cairo’s ring-road, there are no longer hoardings to tempt you, instead there are glimpses of the grandiose structures of some of the international schools, complete with Grecian pillars or modern domes.
The aspirations are high, but the achievements can be less apparent. Designed to attract the burgeoning middle class of Cairo, who despair of the national education system, many international schools are newish and privately-owned. Some have a much longer history and,those, in the main, were specifically set up to cater to foreign embassy and company staff.
Cairo is HUGE, more than 20 million people live here but the neighbourhood options for expats, with families and children to school, are often narrowed to only two, the established district of Maadi and the 21st century permanent encampment in the desert, 6th of October City and its satellites.
In central Cairo, Maadi has always been a draw for foreigners, particularly the areas close to the Nile, as it is wonderfully green and comparatively cool by city standards. It also has the largest choice of international schools, within reach, as well as bars and restaurants.
The Cairo American College is only 10 minutes’ drive away from Maadi as is the expanding nursery and prep, Maadi British International School. Amongst others on the same side of the Nile, with a drive that doesn’t make you reach for the Valium, are American International School, Cairo English School, Malvern College, Metropolitan School Cairo, Modern English School Cairo, New Cairo British International School and the International School of Choueifat, Cairo.
Attracted by the alternative location, away from the central madness, several schools together with parents and staff have moved to 6th of October City or Sheikh Zayed City and other residential developments, built in the desert to the west, attracted by the clean air, pools, gardens and rapidly expanding but less congested infrastructure.
Reaching these schools from Maadi or central Cairo is always something of a nightmare and can take an hour in the afternoon along what is perceived to be one of Egypt’s most dangerous roads. This horror can last up to two hours if children stay for after-school clubs and can lead to some younger children missing out on these, as parents throw in the towel. Slightly less daunting is the journey to El Alsson British and American International School in NewGiza. Anyway, you might prefer to live in a shiny new city, particularly in Al-Motamayez, an Egyptian version of Beverley Hills, with houses (and prices) that can be as eye-catching as the Californian original.
There’s even a group of schools in Sheikh Zayed City, actually called Beverley Hills Schools, which includes German, American and English sections. However, the most respected school out in this new, rather oddly named (after the date of a war starting), City of 6th of October, is the British International School, which, despite its traditional reputation, is definitely, now, more international. The International School of Choueifat City of 6th October is a second branch of the ISC (www.iscchoueifat.sabis.net) network in Egypt and there are also several universities based here.
Other international schools include the Lycée Francais du Caire the oldest foreign school in ‘Le Caire’ and the main school to cater for French speaking children up to French Baccalaureate level. Its premises in central Maadi are visually exciting and it is fed by branches in Heliopolis and Zamalek which provide education from three years to secondary school level (age 10 – 11). All are over-subscribed and notoriously difficult to get into.
The Deutsche Evangelische Oberschule (German School) in Dokki is the best known of a number of German schools in Cairo. It offers similar standards as, and lower fees than, some of the other good foreign language schools and, for this reason, attracts both Egyptian and international families.
Nurseries and kindergartens flourish here, with two of the most popular being Stepping Stones and Small Talks, described as ‘absolutely amazing’ by parents. You also have a choice of Montessori schools, including the central International Montessori Preschool and the Montessori Child’s House Nursery Academy. The long-standing and well-considered Irish School in Giza (30 minutes by car) takes children from nursery up to 11 years old.
For more information on these schools, please go to each school’s individual entry on the GSGI database or The GSGI article 'Best schools in Cairo considered by expats'.
Special Education Needs
The Learning Resource Centre (LRC) was established in 1996 and is now widely considered the leading institution in Egypt catering to children with special needs. LRC invests heavily in training and development and co-operates with cutting-edge international organisations including the Institute of Education, University of London.
It provides educational support services to a number of leading international schools which regularly refer children to it for assessment and individual assistance (some say too readily). Part and full-time specialists from a range of disciplines - psychologists, behavioural therapists, speech and language pathologists, occupational and physical therapists and educational specialists – are also available for individual consultations, although there are waiting lists for some.
LRC is proud of its inter-disciplinary diagnostic approach. A four-step procedure assesses the child’s needs and leads to detailed recommendations and, as necessary, an individual plan of action is drawn up. Support and counselling is provided to children and parents at LRC and through a number of schools and nurseries in Cairo. Parents are impressed by the thoroughness and professionalism of staff and, although some of the services are pricey, they are generally considered to give good value for money.
LRC operates from a house in a leafy residential suburb of Cairo with a small garden and playground. It also clinically supervises the nearby Advance Centre which caters to children between the ages of 2-21 with autism and related disorders.
The choice of schools near Maadi make it an attractive as well as a leafy and civilised place to live and educate your children. Out in the desert, the choice may be smaller but the houses are much more glamourous, the school run is less hair-raising, and you can leave it to the breadwinner to be the only member of the family to suffer behind the wheel, each day.