December 8, 2023

Kais Zribi, General Manager Middle East and Africa at Coursera

Soha, a digital marketer and entrepreneur from Egypt, used online learning to develop new skills and increase her income after losing her main source of work during the pandemic. With a background in the visual arts, Soha took classes that weren’t available locally and relied on online training to learn how to run a small business. As pandemic restrictions eased, she began to see the positive impact of her education and was able to secure online work in social media and graphic design.

Soha’s story is a testament to the potential of online learning to create equal opportunities for underserved populations, especially women. According to a report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), increasing women’s access to online education can improve their economic prospects by helping them develop in-demand skills and enter new career paths. The study found that 30% of women studying online in Egypt reported positive career or business outcomes after taking online courses, including finding a new job or promotion, starting a business, or improving work performance. Online education also brings benefits to the larger economy, with one job created in Egypt for every 30 people trained on Coursera.

The new research is part of IFC’s ‘Women and Online Education in Emerging Markets’ report, produced in collaboration with global online education platform Coursera and the European Commission. The study uses data from Coursera to quantify women’s participation in online education, identify challenges to greater participation, and provide recommendations for the public and private sectors to improve lifelong learning opportunities and outcomes for women.

Despite the positive benefits that online learning has for career progression and skill development, Coursera data shows that in 2021 the number of female students enrolled in Egypt reached 31%, a number that has not increased since 2017. This lack of growth is mainly due to the low labor force participation rate and the large gap between men and women in internet access, in fact, adult women in Egypt are 28% less likely than men to have access to the internet.

“Half of Egypt’s university graduates are women, while less than a quarter of these women are part of the workforce,” he said. Cheick-Oumar Sylla, IFC Regional Director for North Africa and the Horn of Africa. “Our study with Coursera shows how online education can help bridge the gap between academic knowledge and professional skills and help women increase their employability.”

Other key finds in Egypt include:

  • Flexibility, security and family responsibilities are the main drivers of online education for women, while simplicity and multiple language options make it more attractive.
    • More than 70% of men and women surveyed cited flexibility as their top reason for choosing online education as a personal preference.
    • Women in Egypt are more likely than men to be motivated to learn online by safety (29% of women, 25% of men), family responsibilities (27% of women, 13% of men) and commuting restrictions (20% of women, 14% of men).
    • Female students in Egypt (over 20%) are more likely than female students in other countries surveyed (India, Mexico and Nigeria) to cite more language options and easier registration as ways to make online learning more attractive.
  • Students with disabilities are well represented in Egypt, but more accessible educational pathways are needed.
    • 21% percent of students surveyed reported some form of disability, compared to an average of 17% in the four countries surveyed (Egypt, India, Mexico and Nigeria).
    • People with disabilities in Egypt have limited access to the Internet. By giving them access to the latest technology and flexible and accessible learning paths, online education can become a safer and more convenient option for them.
  • Most students in Egypt cite affordability as a challenge.
    • More than half (53%) of female online students in Egypt relied on Coursera for scholarship and financial aid for their online education. Women are more likely to rely on free trials than men.
    • More than a quarter of the students surveyed have a household income below the 50th percentile, which is less than 2,000 Egyptian pounds (about US$127), the national minimum wage.
  • Online education can lead to career outcomes and economic gains in Egypt.
    • Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 32% of all surveyed students in Egypt have found a new job, started a business, or improved their work or business performance after taking online courses.
    • In Egypt, for every 30 people trained by Coursera, one new job will be added to the economy. Improved skills and qualifications create new jobs directly through the creation of new businesses. Jobs are also created indirectly through increased consumption and economic activity driven by higher incomes.

Our study shows that providing access to affordable, accessible and flexible learning pathways can help build a competitive and diverse workforce that can contribute to economic development. Governments, businesses and institutions must work closely together to address some of the key issues facing women in Egypt. Public-private partnerships will be essential to unleash women’s full potential and create more opportunities for them.

The study, “Women and Online Education in Emerging Markets,” draws on data from nearly 97 million Coursera students in more than 190 countries, surveys of 9,551 students in Egypt, India, Mexico and Nigeria who have taken at least one course on the platform, and interviews. with more than 70 global students and industry experts.

For more information, you can download the report here.

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