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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 18, 2008

Mrs. Bush's Remarks on the Egyptian Education Initiative at the World Economic Forum
National Congress Center
Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt

photos  Photos

11:30 A.M. (Local)

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much, Mr. Wong. And thanks to all of you here. I'm so happy to be here to learn more about the Egyptian Education Initiative and what you all are doing to use technology to improve education at all levels.

Special thanks to Mrs. Mubarak for inviting me to attend this two-year anniversary meeting. I want to acknowledge all the ministers that are here with us today, but especially the Minister of Education. Thank you very much for being with us and joining us here. Thank you to our ambassador, Ambassador Margaret Scobey, who's joined us as well, and to Dr. Schwab, our host. Thank you very much for putting on this great forum.

Mrs. Laura Bush speaks at the Egyptian Education Initiative meeting Sunday, May 18, 2008, at the World Economic Forum – International Congress Centre in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Mrs. Bush told her audience, "Advances in technology and global communication are opening new markets and expanding opportunities for people around the world. The Egyptian Education Initiative recognizes that improved education is the key to taking advantage of these opportunities." White House photo by Shealah Craighead Advances in technology and global communication are opening new markets and expanding opportunities for people around the world. The Egyptian Education Initiative recognizes that improved education is the key to taking advantage of these opportunities. EEI is bringing technology into Egypt's classrooms to create a new generation of 21st century learners. Congratulations to Mrs. Mubarak and to the Egyptian government for your leadership in this multi-stakeholder partnership.

EEI is one of several efforts that distinguish Egypt as a leader for education reform. Egypt is now implementing an innovative education strategy developed in coordination with individual citizens, the Ministry of Education, and eight international donors. It's taking steps to decentralize the decision making so that local stakeholders, including parents, are empowered to play a greater role in their children's education. And the Egyptian parliament has passed landmark Accreditation and Teacher Cadre Laws that promise to raise standards and improve teacher quality.

Mrs. Mubarak has been a powerful leader on issues that are especially important to me: literacy and advancing women's and girls' education. Egypt has more than doubled its female literacy rate in the last 30 years. And a recent education study by the World Bank noted the historic speed with which Egypt's gender gap in basic education is closing.

The United States is proud to partner with the government of Egypt to support its education goals, including the expansion of technology in schools. Last October, USAID launched the $21.5 million Technology for Improved Learning Outcomes activity in Egypt. This initiative -- known as TILO -- will provide IT equipment and training to around 200 primary and preparatory schools in seven governorates.

TILO should be a great complement to EEI. TILO is designed to help students think critically and apply knowledge to real-life situations. The project's objectives are coordinated to the Ministry of Education's standards for student learning in three domains: computer literacy skills, higher-order critical thinking skills, and active learning, problem solving and cooperative learning skills. TILO will also transform 85 experimental preparatory schools into laboratories for technological innovation under Egypt's "Smart School" Initiative.

This morning I visited Fayrouz Experimental School here to highlight another new partnership between Egypt and the United States -- and this one is my favorite -- it's called the Big Read. The Big Read was developed in the United States by the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The Big Read provides citizens with the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their communities featuring innovative reading programs and compelling resources for discussing outstanding literature. To date, the Big Read has reached more than 300 communities across the United States, and it features an educational library of 22 classics in American literature.

Now the Big Read will go international with the "Big Read Egypt/U.S." Through this "Big Read," Egyptians will read some of America's classic literature, and at the same time, Americans in American communities will learn more about Egypt by reading one of your greatest novels by the Nobel Prize-winning writer Naguib Mahfouz, "The Thief and the Dogs." This exchange will help inspire a love of literature in Egyptians and Americans while laying the groundwork for future collaboration between our nations. Our partners in the "Big Read Egypt/U.S." are the United States State Department, the Library of Alexandria, the American University in Cairo, and some Egyptian publishers who are publishing "To Kill a Mockingbird," John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," and Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451," translating into Egyptian Arabic for the Egyptian students and Egyptian communities to read.

I'm looking forward to reading "The Thief and the Dogs" as my very next book, and then to visiting United States communities as they read this classic of Egyptian literature.

Mrs. Mubarak, thank you for your friendship. Thank you for championing international partnerships, which benefit both our nations. The Egyptian Education Initiative is a model for progress and Egyptional* reform. I'm also always thrilled to hear about your "Reading for All" summer reading program. And the United States is pleased to partner with you as we advance -- educate tomorrow's leaders and pave the way for a more peaceful and prosperous world.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

END 11:37 A.M. (Local)


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