Educating Egypt: Civic Values and Ideological Struggles, Linda Herrera

Reviewed by Laurie A. Brand

Egypt’s perennially under-resourced educational sector embodies many of the complex challenges facing education policymakers and practitioners. Linda Herrera’s book, based on fieldwork spanning more than three decades, engages some of the most difficult issues facing Egyptian students, parents, teachers, and state officials as this critical sector struggles under the accumulated weight of failed policies promoted by both Egyptian officials and international development “experts.”

Herrera’s book brings together work from a number of previously published articles and chapters. The first half of the book is based on ethnographic research she conducted in 1990-91 for her master’s thesis. Drawing on her research at a public middle school for girls in downtown Cairo, she recounts in alternatingly humorous, angering, and heart-breaking detail the stories of a former villa, clearly past its prime, converted into a school; of teachers—the young, the enthusiastic, the seasoned, the jaded, the cruel, and the corrupt; and of a principal, a determined woman, on a mission of reform. Also central to the story, of course, are the students, the young women whom the system seeks to mold into the kind of future wives and mothers the Egyptian state and society expect. They come from different socioeconomic classes, with varying levels of p

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