Cairo’s ring-road is awash with hoardings advertising language schools of all descriptions - French, Canadian, British, American or German. You can often glimpse them too – grandiose structures with Grecian pillars implying perhaps that they should be up there, counted amongst the great seats of learning.
Their aspirations are high, but their achievements somewhat less apparent. Designed to attract the burgeoning middle class of Cairo who despair of the national education system, many are new and privately-owned. While some invest considerably in facilities and attracting good staff, they are considered to offer a standard of education acceptable to most expats. Those that do, have a much longer history and, in the main, were specifically set up to cater to foreign embassy and company staff.
There are, traditionally, four schools regularly used by English-speaking expats – British International School Cairo (BISC), Cairo American College (CAC), Maadi British International School (MBIS) and New Cairo British International School (NCBIS). Another is beginning to attract attention due to its results and general ethos and may be a good option for those looking for a more Egyptian experience – the Modern English School (MES). There are also some brand new kids on the block including Malvern College, Egypt and Metropolitan School, Cairo.
Several schools together with parents and staff have moved to 6th October City and other residential developments in the area, attracted by the clean air, pools, gardens and rapidly expanding but less congested infrastructure.
These developments currently house some 600,000 with growth projected to rise to 3 million, in time, probably more of them expats. However, currently the most popular suburbs amongst short-term expats are the other side of town and many are reluctant to relocate or send their children on long bus journeys (can be 30-40 minutes in the morning, an hour in the afternoon, and up to 2 hours after after-school clubs...with the result that some of the younger children in particular don't do them) along what is perceived to be one of Egypt’s most dangerous roads.
This is to the benefit of other international schools in the more established expat suburbs and out-of-town residential developments. With no well-respected English language school remaining in central Cairo, there is a vacuum, forcing parents to accept long journeys for their children out to the suburbs, despite serious misgivings.
Other language schools
The Lycee Francais de Caire is the main school that caters for French speaking children up to French Baccalaureate level (from ages 3-18) and is the centre for Administration. Its premises in central Maadi have a certain charm 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 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 as such attracts Egyptian and international families.
The Irish School with four branches offering a British education.
Pre-schools and nurseries
If you do not choose the pre-school facilities at one of the above, there are various options, which go in and out of favour, with word traveling fast when and if incidents upset. Those currently popular include Small Talk, which has two branches, one near CAC and goes up to Reception Year; the Irish nursery with sections in Dokki and Maadi, and French and English streams; Stepping Stones in Maadi, and the Montessori Nursery, also in Maadi. The Community Services Association (CSA) in Maadi provides a list and, of course, mums’ personal recommendations. Elsewhere, people tend to look in their immediate locale for early years schools.
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 (www.advance-society.org) which caters to children between the ages of 2-21 with autism and related disorders.