Vol. 23, No. 4
A. S. Shoukry
Chemical Education in Egypt
The Egyptian Chemical Society
Chemistry in the Eyes of the Society and Young Students
The Egyptian National IUPAC Committees Action Steps
Systemic Approach in Teaching Chemistry
Chemistry has been practiced in Egypt since the time of the Pharaohs.
Then, the practice of chemistry was limited to priests and aimed at
serving kings and rulers of the country. The practice of chemistry on
a broader scale and the teaching of chemistry in Egypt are relatively
recent phenomena. Increased national chemical activities began by the
end of the 19th century with the establishment of several governmental
laboratories for chemical analysis and quality control of raw materials,
water, industrial products, and several other imported or locally produced
items. Such laboratories served governments and decision-makers by helping
to regulate and enforce the import, export, and safe use of items.
Chemical Education in Egypt
Higher education in Egypt began effectively in the early 20th century
with the establishment in 1908 of the first university at Cairo, the
Egyptian University, which was nongovernmental and was concerned mainly
with arts. By 1925, the first governmental university, Cairo University,
was founded. It replaced the Egyptian University and had faculties for
arts, sciences, medicine, pharmacy, law, and other disciplines.
The chemistry department of the Faculty of Science at Cairo University
was established according to the highest international standards. Teaching
methods practiced there have stemmed from the pioneering achievements
of the Leibig Teaching Laboratory in Germany during the late 19th century.
Prof. Schonberg from Germany was the head of the chemistry department
at Cairo University until the mid-1950s. It is noteworthy that the implementation
of micro-methods in teaching chemistry, which seemingly is thought to
be a modern invention (or, rather, reinvention) was fully established
in Cairo at the time of the foundation of the chemistry department about
1924. This fact is well documented in a book by Prof. Egerton C. Grey,
who was then a professor of chemistry at the Government Medical School
in Cairo. The preface of his book (Practical Chemistry by Micro-Methods,
W. Heffer & Sons, Ltd., Cambridge, England, 1925) advocates widespread
teaching of elementary physical chemistry, qualitative analysis, volumetric
analysis, and organic chemistry using micro-methods.
Dr. Ahmed Zewail, 1999 Nobel Prize
The second university in Egypt was founded at Alexandria in 1942. The
chemistry department of Alexandria University was established on the
basis of a strong link with high-level international institutes. Prof.
Flaschentrager from Germany was Professor of Biochemistry at Alexandria
University from the mid-1940s until the late 1950s. The 1999 Nobel Prize
winner in chemistry, Prof. Dr. Ahmed Zewail, was a graduate of the Alexandria
University Chemistry Department, and he was also awarded his M.Sc. degree
at this university.
Ain-Shams University was established in 1950. Prof.
Mostafa El Sayed, the nanostructured systems pioneer and another possible
Nobel Prize candidate, is a graduate. Assuit University (1957), as
well as several regional universities at Mansoura and Tanta (1969),
at Zagazig and Menia (1974), and others, were founded during a period
of rapid expansion of chemistry education in Egypt. By 1964, Al Azhar
University also had a Faculty of Science. At present, the 13 governmental
universities in Egypt have about 2 million students. About 30% of
university students are enrolled in chemistry courses.
In addition to the governmental universities, there are the American
University in Cairo and two recently established private universities
at Sixth of October City near Cairo. The necessity for new universities
is dictated by increasing population and the resulting overcrowding
in existing universities, a situation that usually has a negative effect
on the quality of higher education.
Chemistry instruction takes place in several faculties. Chemistry departments
deal mainly with basic chemistry and its applications. In faculties
of medicine and veterinary medicine, teaching focuses on biochemistry
and vital biochemical processes. Pharmaceutical chemistry departments
teach chemistry of drugs and pharmaceuticals. Chemical engineering is
given in faculties of engineering. Soil chemistry, pesticide chemistry,
and food chemistry are principal disciplines in faculties of agriculture.
Chemistry departments are provided with labo ratories for practical
chemical education and with libraries that contain relevant periodicals
and scientific books. Information technology is now being introduced
in all phases of teaching to enhance students educational resources
through information and research networks. Distance learning has recently
been introduced in Egypt through the Nile Sat Television System, which
covers all educational stages.
The Egyptian Chemical Society
The Egyptian Chemical Society (ECS) was established in 1928 and is
a member of the Society of Arab Chemists. It strives to foster chemical
research connections among chemists and chemical engineers locally and
regionally. It also encourages cooperation in the exchange of knowledge
and ideas. The ECS publishes the Egyptian Journal of Chemistry, which
appears bimonthly and features original research in different fields
of pure and applied chemistry. The ECS sponsors the Egyptian Chemical
Conference, which is held regularly every three years and covers different
fields of chemistry. The society gives support to young chemists through
effective cultural and scientific programs that include lectures, meetings,
seminars, and scientific visits covering various aspects of chemistry
and chemical industry.
One of the main objectives of the ECS is to raise awareness of the
importance of chemistry and to improve its general public image. The
ECS is engaged in the development of programs with the aim "to enhance
the public appreciation of chemistry and its positive contribution to
Chemistry in the Eyes of the Society and Young
In August 1999, the French Delegation, on behalf of the French Chemical
Society at the IUPAC General Assembly in Berlin, Germany, presented
a paper concerning the considerable changes in chemistry that have occurred
during the last ten years. The image of the chemical industry has been
blurred by mergers and scissions and globalization of the activities
of multinational companies. These changes will have consequences in
the education that young people will need in order to be of use in the
future and to get jobs. One attitude would be to say that we do not
have to worry about this development, because the market will bring
about the appropriate solution. This may have been true before the World
Trade Organization (WTO), General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT),
and trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS), but
|Cost-effective appliances for educative small-scale
school chemistry experimentation. Courtesty M. K. El-Marsafy,
S. Abdel-Moezz, and F. Ebeid, Chemistry Department, Faculty of
Education, Ain Shams University, Roxy Cairo, Egypt.
The Egyptian National IUPAC Committees Action
We concentrate on the bad image that chemistry has in the publics
and the students eyes, in spite of the industrious and costly
attempts that have been made to improve matters. In this respect, we
are trying to
promote the "Egyptian experiment", which we think still has a long
way to go.
Systemic Approach in Teaching Chemistry
Our main concern is the students. First priority are those between
the ages of 1014, and second are the undergraduates.
Prof. Fahmy of Egypt and Prof. J. J. Lagowski of the University of
Texas, Austin, Texas, USA, started a campaign to replace the linear
approach to teaching chemistry with a systemic one in 1997, and the
results presented at the IUPAC Committee on Teaching of Chemistry (CTC)
meeting in Berlin in August 1999 were encouraging.
A keynote lecture by Prof. Fahmy during the 16th International
Conference on Chemical Education (16th ICCE) in
Budapest, Hungary in August 2000 presented applications of the systemic
approach to teaching and learning organic chemistry for the 21st century.
Another important innovation for raising the interest of young students
is the design of simple, safe, and practical chemistry kits that all
students can afford. This concept was introduced by Dr. M. K. El-Marsafy,
the R&D manager of El-Nasr Pharmaceutical Chemicals Company, in
1975 during the 28th IUPAC General Assembly at Madrid,
Spain. He succeeded in producing a compact chemistry kit and managed
to market it to most of the secondary schools in Egypt, thanks to the
support of the Minister of Education, Prof. Mostafa Kamal Helmy, and
a team of well-trained chemists for promotion and after-sale services.
Unfortunately, this success persuaded private sector companies to produce
lower quality and cheaper kits, without having the means and experience
to service their products.
Other similar approaches were presented during the 16th ICCE as follows:
- "Hands-on practical chemistry for all", J. D. Bradley, Department
of Chemistry, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South
- "Development of microscale chemistry during the last ten years in
China", N. H. Zou, Hongzhou Teachers College, 310012 Hangzhou, China
- "Small-scale laboratory for high school chemistry", K. Ogino, K.
Shoji, K. Kon, T. Tajima, and T. Fujikawa, Japan
Dr. El-Marsafy and his colleagues at the Faculty of Education, Ain
Shams University, demonstrated cost-effective appliances for educative
small-scale school chemistry experimentation during the 15 th
International Conference on Chemical Education (15th ICCE), sponsored
by IUPAC and UNESCO and organized by the Chemistry Department, Faculty
of Science, at Ain Shams University, 914 August 1998. This concept
has also been presented internationally on several occasions, including
at a conference organized by the Wisconsin Institute of Chemical Education
in August 1996.
The trend toward cost-effective chemistry has been very much in focus
in various chemistry education institutes in Egypt since 1924. The approach
has been tested over a 10-year period at the Faculty of Education in
Ain Shams University, with emphasis on two basic features, as follows:
- Students are required to procure and pay for all microscale appliances.
The appliances include a simple two-pan balance and 1-ml syringes
for quantitative experimentation, as well as vials and plastic dropper
bottles to substitute for all conventional glassware in laboratory
- Students are instructed to perform all the experiments and to submit
detailed reports, including written results of their experimentation.
EGERTON CHARLES GREY,
D.Sc., F.I.C., M.R.C.S.
Professor of Chemistry,
Government Medical School,
W. HEFFER & SONS LTD
Prof. Greys book (at right) is of great relevance in bringing
into focus the historical perspective of the modern trend of advocating
the practice of these micro-methods internationally.
The preface of his book is prescient
in its advocacy of small-scale chemical experiments as a pedagogical
of a book Microscale Chemistry, published by the Royal Society
of Chemistry (UK) in 1977, reinforces the value of these techniques,
which are being promoted vigorously now by IUPACs CTC
by Dr. A. S. Shoukry, Chairman
of the Egyptian National Committee for IUPAC.
8 Osman Abdel Hafeez Street, 2nd District,
Nasr City, Cairo 11371, Egypt
E-mail: [email protected]