INTERVIEW – British Council Egypt’s Exam Head: Working towards “forging a path of progress for the future”

In recent interview, we shine the spotlight on Fakhar Jaffery, Director of Examination Services at the British Council in Egypt. He has been at the British Council for almost 10 years and within his role leads a large operation of a geographically-dispersed team consisting of over 55 members. Prior to his current role Fakhar was Director of Business Development in Pakistan for the British Council as well as Deputy Country Manager of Operations for the British Council in Nigeria. Fakhar’s experience began in the UK when we worked across a number of brands including Royal Mail and Sainsbury’s.

Could you briefly explain the role of the British Council globally and in Egypt?

The British Council plays a significant role globally as the UK’s cultural and educational organisation. Our mission is to build understanding, connections, and trust between people in the UK and across the world. In Egypt, we work with a wide array of stakeholders including Ministries of Education and Higher Education, schools delivering UK qualifications, universities, students, teachers, and parents. For UK international school qualifications, the British Council works as a custodian of the quality and integrity of the eco-system. Our work in maintaining the integrity of the assessments system for UK international school qualifications is what gives confidence to universities, ministries, and parents regarding the fairness of the system. Our work with the school leaders and teachers to improve the teaching standards equips teachers to deliver the UK curriculum with confidence and competence. We handle the entire examination process with the utmost confidentiality and security, ensuring the integrity of the exam system. Our commitment is rooted in creating a positive and fair examination experience for all candidates. Through our diverse range of programmes and initiatives, we aim to build trust, understanding, and opportunities between people and institutions worldwide, fostering lasting connections and promoting positive change on a global scale.

As for our role in Egypt, we work in line with Egypt’s pursuit to nurture its young population, enhance competitiveness, and foster international engagement. The British Council is a trusted organisation with a remarkable presence spanning over 85 years. We possess a profound understanding of Egyptian society and have an unwavering commitment to education and training, where we play a pivotal role in driving excellence and staying at the forefront of advancements and trends in the ever-evolving education sector. By staying informed about the ever-evolving education landscape, we equip our Partner Schools and students with the most relevant information and resources. We aim to ensure they are well-prepared and knowledgeable, ready to navigate the dynamic global education arena.

As a trusted authority on UK international school qualifications, the British Council assumes the crucial role of a bridge between the Ministry of Education and UK awarding bodies. Our primary objective is to facilitate seamless communication and foster collaboration between these entities. By promoting the exchange of essential information, we ensure that both parties work towards mutual goals, forging a path of progress for the future.

Kindly elaborate on the role of the British Council in exam delivery.

The role of the British Council in exam delivery is to facilitate examinations for students and to provide a positive and equitable examination experience. By choosing to take an exam with us, students can improve their employment prospects and increase their opportunities for further education in Egypt or abroad. We offer internationally recognised exams, such as the IELTS (International Language Testing System) exams, which is the leading English language proficiency test, as well as exams for UK international school qualifications at various levels.

To create an environment that promotes success, the British Council also offers various support measures for students during their examinations. These measures include utilising our extensive experience in delivering high-quality exams and ensuring that our personnel meet the standards set by the British Council and the exam boards. We also have qualified examiners who have received training and accreditation from exam boards.

For students taking the IELTS test, they have a vast number of free resources available to them including complimentary access to Road to IELTS, an online self-study resource specifically designed for IELTS test takers. Furthermore, we provide support for teachers and learners of English through our TeachingEnglish and LearnEnglish websites.

How many British Council Partner Schools are in Egypt?

British Council is proud to partner with nearly 200 schools delivering the UK’s school curriculum, details of which can be found on our website. We support the professional development of school leaders and teachers in these schools to ensure that students in these schools have the best chance of success and get the grades they want for their educational progression to universities at home and abroad. Over 800 school leaders and over 6000 teachers benefitted from our professional development courses and support during the last 12 months.

Does the Examinations Service Department have any collaborations with governmental or non-governmental Egyptian institutions?

As the trusted partner of the Ministry of Education and Technical Training, we work in close coordination and collaboration with the ministry stakeholders to ensure that schools are supported in the best possible manner and that the ministry’s oversight over the ecosystem is maintained.

We also work very closely with other important stakeholders such as the Supreme Council of Universities to facilitate candidates who seek admission at Egyptian universities.

How does the British Council support their Partner Schools in Egypt?

At the core of our commitment is our belief in supporting our Partner Schools in elevating their levels of education. We work closely with our Partner Schools to provide a variety of inclusive services to teachers, school leaders, students, and parents. Our collaborative efforts extend to partnering with exam awarding boards, representing our partner schools’ interests.

We aim to ensure that students are not only academically prepared but also equipped with the essential 21st-century skills necessary in today’s global marketplace. We strive to foster a comprehensive educational experience that empowers students to succeed in their academic pursuits and prepares them for future challenges.

Through our dedicated support and resources, we work hand in hand with Partner Schools to create an environment that nurtures educational excellence, helps students reach their full potential, and empowers them with the skills and competencies needed to flourish in an ever-changing world.

What is your advice to students, fresh graduates, and employees who seek to develop themselves further in their careers?

As a parent of two children studying in a Cairo school, my advice to students in Egypt is the same as it is for my own children. Empathy at the individual level, social responsibility, and discipline will keep you in good stead and will also benefit the social groups you operate in, regardless of your career, background, or achievements to date.

How popular is the UK as a study destination for Egyptian students?

The UK is one of the most popular study destinations for Egyptian students. Several formal surveys show that Egyptian students see UK universities as centres of excellence. UK universities also see Egypt as a key partner and recognize the richness of cultural diversity that Egyptian students bring. In line with the government’s Vision 2030 to establish Egypt as an educational hub, several UK universities recently visited Cairo. Several UK universities have already established partnerships with local universities. Nearly 25,000 Egyptian students are studying for UK university courses in Egypt.

This pursuit for excellence, whether by studying in the UK or with universities at home that have partnered with UK universities, starts with the solid educational foundation that UK schools qualifications provide. British Council is proud to partner with nearly 200 schools that build this foundation for Egyptian students.

What do you hope to achieve in the next year with the British Council in Egypt?

In the future, we are committed to maintaining a strong relationship with our Partner Schools, actively listening to their feedback, and promptly taking action when necessary. By staying close to our partners, we ensure that their needs and concerns are effectively addressed.

Furthermore, we advocate for the best interests of our Partner Schools, representing them before key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Education, UK Awarding Bodies, and the wider community. We strive to ensure that their voices are heard, and their interests are protected.

In line with our dedication to continuous improvement, we will consistently expand and enhance our range of value-added services. Our goal is to provide our partners with a broader array of offerings, enabling them to access even more valuable resources and support.

You have previously worked as Director of Business Development for the British Council in Pakistan and a Deputy Country Manager of Operations for the British Council in Nigeria. From your own observation, could you tell us the core difference between these markets in terms of studying and skill development?

Let us discuss the similarities among the three countries, as there are numerous aspects to celebrate. All three nations exhibit comparable dynamics and possess vibrant, culturally rich societies. Additionally, they share similar demographics, particularly in terms of their youth, which is sometimes referred to as a “Youth Bulge.” The aspirations and ambitions of the younger generation in all three countries are alike. These aspirations are fuelled by their access to information, which has been made possible by the digital revolution that has occurred over the past decade. In today’s highly competitive world, the youth in these three countries are focused on carving out a niche for themselves, both individually and collectively. It is also heartening to observe that they aspire to see their societies progress alongside their personal growth.

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