A World Economic Forum report reveals that Egypt is the worst country in the world when it comes to the quality of primary education. The Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014 assessed the competitiveness landscape of 148 economies and provides insight into the drivers of their productivity and prosperity.
The report, which is based on the WEF's Global Competitiveness Indicator, ranks Egypt at the 118th position overall, a full 11 places lower than last year. The Global Competitiveness Indicator is an aggregate of 114 indicators grouped under 12 categories of "drivers of productivity and prosperity," including institutions, financial markets, technological readiness, and health and education, among others, writes Mohamed El Dahshan of Foreign Policy's Transitions.
Egypt is at the bottom among almost all other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It is far behind Qatar and the UAE, which are among the top 20 most competitive nations. Egypt is also behind the rest of North Africa, including Morocco at 77th, Tunisia at 83rd, and Algeria at 100th. Only Yemen ranks lower at 145th.
Naturally there is more to the Egypt section of the report than the dismal statistics on elementary education, but that was the ranking that drew the most attention from the media and the public. Extremes, whether best or worst, have a particular appeal. And while every Egyptian knows that elementary education is rather abysmal, it was a shock to see just how low it scored compared to the rest of the developed, developing, and underdeveloped world.
The particular data point quickly became a matter of public conversation. However, the Egyptian state did not release a public statement.
Even though we well know that the government monitors such rankings closely in the event there might be something to brag about. But there's clearly no chance of that here, so they seem to have opted for silence instead, El Dahshan writes.
But some government officials, behind closed doors, could be heard casting aspersions on the report's methodology. The Competitiveness Report's methodology relies on a mix of objective data gathered from international and local statistical sources as well as well on surveys the report's authors conduct within each country.
The survey respondents are not experts in all of the fields they are asked about: topics can range from business facilities and primary education, to the risk of terrorism. So respondents are sharing their more-or-less-educated impressions.
While the sample is large enough to drown out any particularly biased opinion, it does not take into account the generalized demoralization of a country in crisis or an economic downturn, which would drive responses even farther below a more objective perception.
In the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) report, Egypt ranked 38th out of 48 countries in the 2007 edition of the test. Also, there are many other alarming areas where Egypt lands at the bottom of the rankings, as it ranks in the bottom 10% of the planet in labor market efficiency.
Egypt's poor rankings in areas like talent retention, where Egypt ranks 133rd, and redundancy and employment termination expenses, where it scores 136th, suggest that labor regulation will top any serious reformer's agenda.
The report offers a few recommendations for change. It points out how the country's relatively high fiscal deficit and public debt are weighing down on the macroeconomic environment.