Just to give you a taste, here is a 1-minute video of pedestrians crossing a street in Cairo (I actually think that this is right at the hotel I was staying at). At night, just think of the same scene with many of the cars and buses without headlights:
Okay, now to science. In one of my conversations here in Cairo, I was told that high school students here are increasingly moving from science and to the humanities (science here means the path to becoming a doctor or an engineer). Well, on the one hand this may be an interesting development and will lead to a large number of poets, novelists, and artists. But it was suggested that one of the reason is that many students find sciences hard and boring (a killer combination), and want to get into advertising or a similar industry. This was just one conversation - nevertheless I found that intriguing. I was wondering, why advertising? After all, medicine and engineering have traditionally been the safer paths for a career. I don't know. It is possible that the new television and mobile phone market is not yet saturated, and there is still plenty of room for advertising. We are seeing a similar market in Pakistan as well. So if this trend of science to humanities is correct, then perhaps it is a consequence of globalization and the opening up of markets in places like Egypt, and the fact that such jobs are lucrative and perhaps more glamorous. But of course, this is just a guess.
But then I ran into an article just last week that voiced a similar about the shift from science to humanities in Egypt:
A growing trend among Egyptian students to shun science in favour of the humanities is placing the scientific future of the country of 80 million people in peril, according to a recent study. Research and development specialist numbers and journal publication outputs are dropping.
"Increasing numbers of secondary school students major in literary subjects and avoid scientific subjects for fear that they might not obtain high scores to attend prestigious faculties if they majored in science," said the study titled The Future of Science and Mathemtics Education in Egypt.
Conducted by Sahar Abdel Gayed, a researcher at the Future Studies Centre of the Egyptian government, the study cited an "exodus" of students to humanities faculties in Egypt since 2000. "This trend has produced a set of negative results, which augur ill for the future of scientific research in Egypt," Abdel Gayed warned.
According to her, the number of research and development specialists has dropped to 493 per million in Egypt, compared to 7,992 per million in Finland, 2,434 per million in South Korea and 1,012 per million in Tunisia, another North African Arab country.
I tried to find an online copy of the study, The Future of Science and Mathematics Education in Egypt, but couldn't find it. If anyone has access to it, let me know. The blame is again on the way sciences are taught in schools, and the other is on job competition:
Ali Habeesh, chair of the Scientific Professions Association, a non-governmental union, put the blame on science curricula and teachers.
"I have aPhD degree in science. But I do not like physics and maths, though they are the basis of science, and that is because of the physics and maths teachers at my secondary school," he told the semi-official newspaper Al Akhbar recently.
Another reason in his opinion was the tight job market in Egypt. "Vacancies available in the local job market are those based on having a good command of foreign languages and computer literacy. This situation discourages students from attending science faculties where studies need a lot of effort," he said.
"A medical professional, for example, earns very little compared to an employee at a multinational company."
Again, if this trend is a real trend then I will be surprised if Egypt is the only country experiencing it. I would be curious to know if this perception also exists in other places, in particular in other developing countries. Read the full article here.