Reprinted from Wedding, D., & Stevens, M. J. (Eds). (2009). Psychology: IUPsyS Global Resource (Edition 2009) [CD-ROM]. International Journal of Psychology, 44 (Suppl. 1), "Origins" section.
Psychology in Egypt
Ramadan A. Ahmed
Menoufia University, Egypt
The field of psychology has not been alien to the Muslim and Arab world. The statement of H. Ebbinghaus, “Psychology has a long past, but only a short history” (Caudle, 1994, p. 135) is very much applicable to this part of the world. In ancient times, the Egyptians had already formed many psychological — philosophical ideas about phenomena such as delusions, dreams, epilepsy, hysteria, and how to treat some mental — physical abnormalities (Girges, 1967). Caudle (1994, p. 135) wrote, “One of the earliest known documents dealing, in part, with psychological issues is the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, named for the first Westerner who owned it. This Egyptian document, which dates back to perhaps 3000 B.C., describes behavioral effects of head injuries, and the brain and its convolutions. Its author, a surgeon, may have recognized in a primitive way that the brain controls behavior, a notion that became lost for thousands of years.” In the middle ages, Muslim scholars (e.g., Al-Kindi [Abou-Yousef Yaqoub, 796–873]; Al-Farabi [Abou-Nasr Mohammed Ibn-Tarkhan, 870–950]; Ibn-Al-Heitham (Al-Hassan Ibn-Al-Hussein, 965–1039); Ibn Sina or Avicenna [Abou-Ali Al-Hussein, 980–1037], Al-Ghazzali [Abou-Hamed, 1058–1111]; Al-Damiri [Kamal el-Din Mohammed Ibn Moussa, 1341–1405]; and Ibn Khaldoun [Abdel-Rahman Ibn Mohammed Al-Hadrami, 1332–1406]) developed more or less scientific ideas concerning a wide variety of topics that mostly belong to psychology as it is known today (Ahmed, 1992, 2002). Moreover, the first hospital established in Cairo in the 9th century (similar to those built in Damascus and Baghdad at the same time) included a separate section for mentally ill patients who were provided medication and care by the state. The first mental hospital in the Arab world and Africa was established in Cairo in 1880.
Psychology as a coherent and separate scientific discipline appeared in Egypt, and the entire Arab world, at the turn of the 20th century. Among some early writings published was The Doctor’s Approach to Insanity by the Egyptian physician Soliman Nagaty in 1891 (Ahmed, 1992). Psychology was taught for the first time in 1908 in Egypt at Cairo University, the oldest secular university in the Arab world. Since the discipline’s establishment as a minor subject included philosophy and sociology, some books on psychology were published from 1908 through the early 1930s (Farag, 1987).
In 1929, the Egyptian government invited a Swiss educator, E. Claparéde, to visit Egypt in order to review the national system of preuniversity education, and to submit recommendations for its improvement. Claparéde administered the Stanford–Binet Test of intelligence and some other tests to a large sample of Egyptian schoolboys. The tests had been translated into Arabic and administered by an Egyptian team led by Ismail M. Al-Qubbani and Abdel-Aziz H. El-Koussy. (A very early attempt to adopt a scale for intelligence in Egypt was made by the Egyptian physician Hassan Omar in 1928, who translated and adopted the Binet Scale for Intelligence into the Arabic language.) The report, submitted by Claparéde upon completion, stated that his mission was of educational value, permitting Egyptian scholars to gain exposure to modern psychological concepts (Soueif & Ahmed, 2001). Claparéde’s report emphasized the importance of improving the educational system by implementing psychological and educational sciences in Egypt. Most significantly, Claparéde recommended that an advanced institute of higher education be established to train candidates for secondary school teaching. This institute was soon founded a
s the College of Education at Ain Shams University, which had three important impacts on psychology and education in Egypt and other Arab countries:
- Development of a curriculum pertinent to educational psychology and to mental health
- Creation of a clinic for remedial teaching
- Academics at a level that produced distinguished graduates who were sent abroad (to the United Kingdom, especially) to obtain Ph.D.s in educational psychology (Meleika, 1997; Soueif & Ahmed, 2001)
Psychology as a science started in Egypt in the mid-1930s when the first Egyptian pioneers in psychology returned home after they earned their degrees in England (e.g., Abdel-Aziz H. El-Koussy in 1934) and in France (e.g., Ahmed E. Rageh in 1938, Yousef Mourad in 1940, and Mustapha Zewar in 1942). Rageh was the first Egyptian and Arab psychologist to obtain a Ph.D. in industrial psychology, El-Koussy discovered the “K” factor (i.e., the spatial factor, named after El-Koussy) in 1934, and M. Zewar was the first Arabic psychoanalyst with a medical and psychological background. These pioneers had a great impact on the development of psychology and education, not only in Egypt but throughout the Arab world (Abou-Hatab, 1992; El-Koussy, 1935; Farag, 1987). As a result of their efforts
- Many Egyptian graduate students were sent abroad to France, Britain, and, later, the United States, whereas others obtained their degrees locally.
- Psychology programs were increased and expanded to cover a variety of topics and approaches.
- Programs for graduate studies (the diploma, M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in psychology) were formed.
- Psychological laboratories were established.
- Some psychological clinics were opened (the first in Cairo in 1934).
- Many psychology books were published in Arabic in Egypt, and a number of research studies were conducted by Egyptian psychologists.
- Several psychological tests were translated into Arabic (e.g., the 1916 Stanford–Binet Test, in the 1930s). Moreover, some indigenous intelligent scales were devised by Al-Qubbani in the early 1930s (Ahmed, 1999).
- The Egyptian Association for Psychological Studies was founded in 1948.
- The first Egyptian journal of psychology, the Journal of Psychology, was published quarterly between 1945 and 1953 under the editorship of Y. Mourad and M. Zewar. The Journal of Psychology attracted well-known Western psychologists such as Sir Cyril Burt from Britain and J. Casneuve from France, who wrote articles originally for the Egyptian Journal of Psychology in English or French. At the same time, the Association of Integrative Psychology was founded, mainly by the psychology staff working at Cairo University (Soueif & Ahmed, 2001; Taha, Kandeel, Mohammed, & Abdel-Fattah, 2003). Close to that time the Association of Nonmedical Psychotherapists headed by a university professor of law, the late Chancellor Mohammed Fathy, was formed. The association launched a strong campaign to call for legalization of the practice of psychotherapy by qualified nonmedical psychologists, and the association’s efforts, along with the support of some physicians, psychiatrists, and political figures, had led finally in 1956 to issuing the required law (Ahmed, 1999).
The 12 state universities and their branch campuses are distributed throughout the country, and thus psychology students can be found in every Egyptian county. However, most psychological services and doctoral-level psychologists, as well as the two Egyptian psychology associations are in larger cities. Psychological services include clinics and psychiatric hospitals, psychological centers in industry, prisons, rehabilitation institutions, and schools, and facilities for the handicapped. These services are predominantly found in Cairo and to a lesser extent in Alexandria and in the Delta and upper Egyptian counties (Ahmed, 1992, 2002; Ahmed & Gielen, 1998; Ibrahim, 1989; Ministry of Defense, 2000; Zahran & Elias, 1989).
Due to the expansion of psychology departments during the last three decades and students’ increased exposure to the field, graduate enrollments in master’s and doctoral programs have grown steadily. Abou-Hatab (1992) estimated the number of psychology graduates from 1958–1986 to be 15,000, with the number of highly qualified M.A. or Ph.D. holders to be 100. By now, an estimated 20,000 psychology graduates and 2000–2200 M.A.s and Ph. D.s are active in Egypt (Ahmed & Gielen, 1998). The ratio of active psychologists is about 3 psychologists per 100,000 people, which, though still markedly inadequate, is the highest of any Arab country.
There are two associations in Egypt. The Egyptian Association for Psychological Studies (EAPS), founded in 1948 in Cairo, is one of the 20 national psychological associations that formed the International Union of Psychological Sciences (IUPsyS) in 1951, and represented Egypt at the IUPsyS until 1964. Eventually, EAPS withdrew from the IUPsyS due to administrative and financial reasons, then in 1987, rejoined IUPsyS. In 2002, membership in the EAPS was around 1200 psychologists who held mostly master’s degrees or doctorates, or both. Most EAPS members are Egyptians, although some members are from other Arab countries. The EAPS is run by a council that consists of nine members elected at the annual meeting. Among the functions of the council are preparing the internal rules and regulations, forming the committees necessary to fulfill the aims of the association, calling ordinary or extraordinary meetings according to rules, and putting into effect the resolutions of the general meeting. The council is elected to a 3-year term by a secret ballot at the annual meeting. Election of one third of the members of the council is held every year.
The EAPS has three categories of membership. Members must be psychology graduates able to contribute to the objectives and resolutions of the association. Fellows must be members of the association for at least 7 years and must make outstanding scientific contributions to psychology or have rendered outstanding services to psychology. Affiliated members must have a university degree and should be interested in psychology and be willing to benefit from the activities of the association.
The second professional association is the Egyptian Psychologists Association (EPA). It was established in the early 1980s and now has more than 1650 academic and nonacademic members. Whereas the EAPS is academically oriented, the EPA tends to be more “practitioner oriented,” and was designed to be a contact point for clinicians (King, 1984). As a result, the relationship between the EAPS and the EPA could be considered complementary rather than competitive.
At present, each of the Egyptian associations has its own psychology journal. The EAPS has published the Egyptian Journal of Psychological Studies since September 1991, and its English journal, Arab Psychologist, since 2000, the latter in collaboration with the Arab Association of Psychology (AAP). The EPA has issued its own journal, Psychological Studies, since January 1991. Although the EAPS and the EPA are professional associations, they receive some governmental support and are subject to government inspection and control, especially regarding their financial transactions.
Since 1985, the EAPS has held its annual conferences at an Egyptian university. Such conferences provide an opportunity for Egyptian and Arab psychologists to make contact and present their research. The EAPS’ annual meetings could have a positive effect on the image of psychology among the public and the government. Since 1993, the Arab Conference of Psychology has convened yearly in conjunction with the annual meetings of the EAPS (Ahmed & Gielen, 1998). No tension exists in Egypt between scientists and practitioners in psychology, as most practitioners are basically scientists and it is rare for someone to engage in only psychotherapy. Besides the annual conference of the EAPS, the major activities of both the EAPS and the EPA are lectures and symposia held at least once a month on topics related to psychology or allied disciplines. The EPA is especially interested in offering training programs, particularly on psychological testing, for young psychologists. Moreover, the EPA has established recently an online service to help Egyptian and Arab psychologists locate and use previously published Arab psychology research. At the 6th annual conference of the EAPS in 1990, it was suggested that the AAP be established. During the EAPS’ 9th annual conference in 1993, the General Secretariat of the suggested AAP was formed (Taha et al., 2003), but no further steps have been taken. In Egypt, as in the other Arab countries, psychology faces a lack of recognition by the public. As Melikian (1984, p. 74) has noticed, “Psychology has not left a noticeable impact on industry or government. It has not been recognized as a potential contributor to development planning. Whatever consulting role psychologists have played has been primarily restricted to ministries of education and occasionally ministries of health (and/or social affairs, industry, and interior). However, special education and human services are the areas in which (Egyptian and Arab) psychologists have made a significant impact.”
Studies have also shown that the image of psychology is weak among the general population and government officials, even among psychology students themselves (see Ahmed, 1992; Ahmed & Gielen, 1998; and Soueif, 1978). As a result, the status and role of psychology in relation to other disciplines and professionals (e.g., physicians, psychiatrists, social workers, psychiatric nurses) are not clearly identified. In most cases, psychologists’ status and roles are limited and controlled by other professionals, such as physicians and psychiatrists. Although salaries for psychologists are consistent with those of social workers and teachers, psychologists’ salaries are usually not as high as physicians, psychiatrists, or even psychiatric nurses. It is worth noting that in various work settings, especially in the Ministry of Health, there is a generally congenial relationship between psychologists and psychiatrists, physicians, social workers, and nurses.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
The first department in which psychology was taught was the Department of Philosophy at Cairo University; later, it was taught at the Department of Philosophy and Sociology at Alexandria University, and then at the Department of Psychological and Sociological Studies at Ain Shams University. Separate psychology departments were established in 1974 at Cairo, Alexandria, and Ain Shams Universities (Soueif, 1991).
Soon after they began to teach psychology at Cairo University, the faculty felt the need for students to obtain further training in psychology, especially in research methodology. Consequently, master’s and doctoral programs were initiated in the 1940s. Graduate studies were expanded to include a diploma of clinial psychology at Ain Shams University in 1956 and an applied psychology diploma at Cairo University in 1958. More recently, diplomas for mental health and educational psychology have been established at the College of Education at Ain Shams University that were emulated by colleges of education at other Egyptian universities.
Today Egypt has 12 state universities that offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in psychology: Cairo University, Alexandria University, Ain Shams University, Assuit University, Tanta University, Mansoura University, Zagazig University, Helwan University, Suez Canal University, Menoufia University, Minia University, and the South Valley University. Departments of psychology are housed in different administrative units of universities, and all universities have branch campuses around the country. Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the oldest continuously operating institution of higher religious learning in the world, is not considered a state university though it is public. Al-Azhar University was established in 970 C.E. as a school of Islamic studies and witnessed major changes in the 1960s that permitted modern scientific subjects like psychology to be included in the curriculum. Al-Azhar University currently has psychology and educational psychology departments. Also, the American University in Cairo, established in 1920, has offered courses in psychology for many years, which made it possible for students to minor in psychology while obtaining degrees in other departments in the social sciences (e.g., sociology).
Egypt also has six private universities, one of which — the Sixth of October University — recently established a psychology department in its College of Social Sciences. In addition to bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs, there are a diverse array of diploma programs in psychology (e.g., educational psychology and mental hygiene) (Abou-Hatab, 1992; Farag, 1987). Diplomas are considered to be professional rather than academic degrees. Besides the graduate diploma in educational psychology that is granted by all Egyptian colleges of education, a graduate diploma in applied psychology is offered by the colleges of arts at Cairo and Menoufia universities. The emphasis of this training program, which is the only one of its kind, is clinical application, and students are qualified primarily to perform limited assessment techniques at the request of a physician (King, 1984). The College of Arts at Ain Shams University also offers a graduate diploma in clinical psychology.
Some research centers and institutes offer psychology programs at the master’s and doctoral levels and provide psychological services and facilities to conduct psychological research. Among the centers and institutes that offer graduate programs in psychology is the Institute for Higher Studies on Childhood at Ain Shams University and the Institute for Educational Research and Studies at Cairo University. Other centers that provide research facilities and psychological services are the Center for Childhood, Center for Psychiatric Medicine, and a counseling center at Ain Shams University, the Center for Childhood Handicapped at Al-Azhar University, and the Center for Psychological Research and Studies at Cairo University (Abdel-Fattah, 1998, 1999). The National Center for Social and Criminological Research in Cairo has several research units, including ones that study criminal behavior and public opinion. The National Center has produced important psychological research since its inception in 1956 (e.g., a cannabis consumption longitudinal study and a study investigating the changing role of Egyptian women).
Scores on the secondary school certificate are the only criterion for admission to undergraduate study in psychology at Egyptian universities. It should be mentioned, however, that psychology in Egypt and in other Arab countries is still taught in the colleges of arts or education that generally accept students with lower scores on the secondary school certificate than is typical for colleges of engineering, medicine, and pharmacology. Psychology in Egypt has not been able to attract highscoring students, especially males. Topquality secondary school graduates tend to select more lucrative and prestigious fields of study. Although women form about two thirds or more of the undergraduate student body in psychology at the Egyptian (and Arab) universities, only a few pursue graduate studies. Abou-Hatab (1992) reported that 35% of the psychologists in Egypt are women and that psychology staff are predominantly male. Another possible reason is that psychology is primarily identified with colleges of arts or education where the enrollment of men has declined over the last 30 years.
The full-time undergraduate program in psychology requires 4 years to complete. Undergraduate and graduate curricula in psychology in Egypt are very similar to the American curricula. All courses offered at the undergraduate level and the qualifying years for the master’s and doctoral degrees are compulsory. Undergraduate psychology programs cover areas such as Arabic and English languages, introduction to philosophy, and introduction to sociology as well as psychology courses in biological, cognitive, developmental, history and systems, learning, physiological, social, group dynamics, personality, pathology, assessment, clinical and counseling, criminal, industrial — organizational, educational psychology, research methods and design, and statistics. Most of the psychological texts are in Arabic and very few are in English.
Admission for graduate study in psychology (e.g., diploma, M.A., and Ph.D. programs) in colleges of arts or education require a bachelor’s in psychology with not less than “good” grades and one qualification year in which advanced courses in measurement, research design and statistics, psychology theories, and clinical or counseling psychology are taken. Master’s students must also score above 350 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination before defending their theses. As for the doctorate, some Egyptian universities such as Cairo University require 1 or 2 years of qualification, usually with a clinical orientation, before granting M.A. holders with good grades to enter a doctoral program.
Graduate degrees typically include the special diploma (at some universities 1 year of advanced coursework in psychology is required instead) that requires 1 or 2 years beyond a B.A.; M.A.s and Ph.D.s require, aside from the qualification year(s), a minimum of 1 and 2 years, respectively. Both master’s and doctorates require a thesis in psychology (Abou-Hatab, 1992;Ahmed, 1992, Ahmed & Gielen, 1998; Farag, 1987). The percentage of Egyptian psychologists who have graduate degrees (i.e., the special diploma, M.A., or Ph.D.) is estimated at 10%.
Limited financial aid is only available to master’s and doctoral students in psychology. However, Cairo University has a reciprocal program with the Ministry of Health, whereby B.A. students are hired to work in Ministry hospitals if they are concurrently enrolled at the university in a 1-year Diploma of Applied Psychology program. During and after this diploma, students are eligible for scholarships through the Ministry that allow them to continue their studies (King, 1984). No more than 10 students are enrolled in this program each year; however, to date, nearly 400 students have completed this special diploma.
Since 1974, most psychology departments at Egyptian state universities have been distinct and separate units located in either colleges of arts or education, with the exception of the Institute for Higher Studies on Childhood at Ain Shams University, where graduate programs in psychology and sociology are offered in a merged department.
The following state universities train most Egyptian psychologists: Cairo University, Ain Shams University, and, to a lesser extent, Alexandria University. The universities at Cairo and Ain Shams could be considered as the most outstanding due to the number of the faculty and staff, quality of teaching, number of published studies, equipment, and training and research facilities.
Lecturing is the most frequent pedagogical method used to teach psychology at Egyptian universities. Class size reflects the increasing number of students enrolled and the ever-worsening ratio of the number of students to the number of instructors (Soueif & Ahmed, 2001). Psychology taught at the Egyptian universities, as in most of Arab universities, tends to emphasize theory rather than research and practice. Moreover, some advanced fields, such as animal behavior, mathematical psychology, neuropsychology, psycholinguistics, and psychopharmacology are not included in the curriculum. Psychological education and training in Egypt, especially at the undergraduate level is relatively general. Specialization at the graduate level depends on the nature of the thesis.
Books are the most preferred resource in teaching psychology at Egyptian universities, with journals taking a secondary role. Computer hardware and software, along with Web and distance-learning capabilities, are used very rarely at the undergraduate level, and these resources are not widely available; therefore, they have little impact at the graduate level. Translated psychometric tests predominate (Ahmed, 1997, 1999). However, several attempts have been made to construct indigenous tests, particularly of personality.
Several textbooks that cover almost all traditional domains of psychology have been published during the last 60 years. At Cairo and Ain Shams Universities, Egypt’s finest institutions of higher education, some standard and influential texts in psychology have been authored in clinical, industrial, and social psychology, as well as in psychological measurement and statistics. Examples are Mustapha I. Soueif’s (1985) edited book, A Source Book in Clinical Psychology, and the 7-volume book, Readings in Social Psychology in the Arab Countries, edited by Lewis, K., Meleika (1965–2002). In addition, some psychology journals are published in Egypt, such as the Egyptian Journal of Psychological Studies (published by the EAPS),Psychological Studies (published by the EAP), and the Arab Psychologist (published by the EAPS and the AAP). All three journals publish articles in both Arabic and English. The Journal of Psychology, published by the General Egyptian Book Organization since 1987, features articles in Arabic only. The Counseling Center at Ain Shams University publishes the Journal of Psychological Counseling. Most colleges of arts and education in Egypt have local outlets publishing scientific research in psychology. Recently, the preparation of dictionaries and encyclopedias in psychology and psychoanalysis has received attention (Taha et al., 2003). A bachelor’s degree in psychology is considered to be sufficient by all government departments for the degree holder to work as a psychologist. The Ministry of Health, however, encourages psychologists to obtain the graduate diploma at Cairo University after they have been appointed; as previously noted, this degree is very clinically oriented.
To engage in the professional practice of psychology in Egypt, a doctorate in any field of psychology is required in addition to a license. If the individual has a Ph.D. and is a faculty member at an Egyptian university, the license is automatic. A Ph.D. without a faculty appointment may apply to take a licensing examination, after which the application would be reviewed by a committee of nine persons from the Ministry of Health (including a legal advisor, a professor of neurology, and a professor of psychiatry from Cairo University), and a license may then be granted. However, to date, no one has ever been granted a license in this way. There is no provision for master’s-level practice except under the auspices of the Ministry of Health program (King, 1984). After an aggressive and widespread campaign that called for legalization of the practice of psychotherapy by qualified nonmedical psychologists, the 1956 law that governed private practice was issued. It should be noted that despite the efforts already mentioned, the number of licensed and qualified nonmedical Egyptian psychologists who currently practice psychotherapy remains insignificant (Ahmed, 1999).
The number of psychologists who have been educated and trained outside of Egypt is generally small and represents approximately 5–10% of all psychologists working at Egyptian universities. This figure has gradually decreased over the last two decades for several reasons. First, according to Egyptian law, only master’s-degree holders who are working at a state university can be sent abroad to earn their doctorate. Second, there is greater opportunity today than ever before to obtain advanced degrees from Egyptian universities. Third, economic hardships have led to a reduced number of psychology students (and other students in the humanities and social sciences) who would be able to study abroad.
Continuing education, including attending conferences and participating in workshops, is important to Egyptian psychologists working at universities; however, due to the limited budget and funding for such activities, as well as language barriers, the number of Egyptian psychologists who attend international and regional conferences and workshops is quite small.
SCOPE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL PRACTICE
In the early 1990s, the EAPS and the EPA joined forces to design a code of ethics to govern and regulate the activities of Egyptian psychologists. Efforts were undertaken to ensure that the code, derived from that of the American Psychological Association, would be suitable for Egyptian culture and balance the needs of Egyptian society with the growing internationalization of psychology. In 1995, and on the occasion of the 11th annual meeting of the EAPS, the first Egyptian, and Arab, code of ethics for psychologists was approved (Taha et al., 2003); however, no further steps have been taken to implement this code or to establish a mechanism for the adjudication of ethical violations.
Of the many contributions of Egyptian psychologists to theory, the most prominent are Abdel-Aziz H. El-Koussy’s three-dimensional model of intellect, Yousef Mourad’s theory of development, Ahmed Z. Saleh’s theory of learning, Fouad E. El-Sayed’s hierarchical model of intelligence, Ramzia El-Ghrib’s dimensional model of practical ability, Mustapha I. Soueif’s theories on creative thinking and personality, and Fouad A. Abou-Hatab’s four-dimensional model of cognitive processing. Unfortunately, with the exception of Soueif’s and Abou-Hatab’s work, these theoretical formulations have received little attention outside of the Arab world (Abou-Hatab, 1984, 1992).
Egyptian and Arab psychologists have published widely over the last 60 years, including articles in the following areas: social, personality, cognition, educational, psychopathology, women’s issues, substance abuse, children’s drawings, aging, delinquency and criminal behavior, crosscultural comparisons, measurement, developmental, religion, history of psychology, counseling, reading, psycholinguistics, experimental, physiological, and physiological psychology (Ahmed, 1992, 1998; Ahmed & Gielen, 1998).
Although it is not possible to review all of the psychological studies conducted in various domains of the discipline in the past six decades, several avenues of research deserve mention:
- The standardization of psychometric instruments, adapted from the West, has been an important research interest of Egyptian psychologists since the early 1930s. At that time, Al-Qubbani and El-Koussy were active in the translation, validation, and standardization of many tests, mainly of intelligence, and compiled Egyptian norms for the appropriate interpretations of test scores. Their work, as well as the construction of indigenous psychometric instruments, is being continued today (Abou-Hatab, 1992, 1993, 1996; Ahmed, 1992, 1997, 1999, 2002; Ahmed & Gielen, 1998; Meleika, 1997).
- From the early 1960s to the present, Egyptian psychologists have attempted to replicate studies cross-culturally. These studies include investigations of attitudes, childhood development, creativity, moral development, personality, and psychopathology (Ahmed, 1992, 2002; Ahmed & Gielen, 1998; Soueif & Ahmed, 2001). Soueif (1998b, p. 581) concluded, “By and large, cross-cultural research seems to be one of the few truly promising areas of research among Arab (and Egyptian) psychologists.”
- Finally, there are programs of research that address the changes taking place in Egyptian culture and society. For example, many interdisciplinary studies have been undertaken in response to the recent rise in cannabis consumption. One of these was a 35-year project at Cairo University on variables that have lead to and maintained cannabis use in recent years, and many interdisciplinary studies have been conducted to explore the various aspects of the problem (Ahmed, 1992, 1997, 2002; Ahmed & Gielen, 1998; British Journal of Addiction, 1988; Soueif, 1998a, 1998b, 2001;Soueif & Ahmed, 2001). The project has inspired other Egyptian and Arab psychologists to investigate and respond to the problem of substance abuse. Modernization and women’s issues have also received wide attention from Egyptian researchers (Abou-Hatab, 1992; Farag, 1987).
The last three decades have witnessed a growing trend in Arab psychology, especially in Egyptian psychology, to relate the discipline to Islam. Some psychologists have focused on the contributions of the early Arab and Muslim scholars to psychology, whereas others have tried to recast psychology in a distinctly Islamic framework (Abou-Hatab, 1988; Ahmed, 1992). Such efforts are taking place in other Islamic countries like Pakistan (Ahmed & Gielen, 1998). However, it is too early to evaluate the impact of these changes (Ahmed, 2002).
Several attempts have been made to identify and define the services offered by psychologists in Egypt. Soueif (1958)pioneered this effort by delineating the role of clinical psychologists in psychiatric clinics. Abdel-Rahman, Abdella, and Mesieha (2002), Al-Sabwah (1996), and Zahran and Elias (1989) conceptualized the role of school psychologists in preuniversity educational settings. Soliman and Ibrahim (1998) discussed the academic qualifications necessary for psychological counselors in Egypt in light of the 21st century’s challenges, present and future. Finally, Hamza (1987) and Ibrahim (1989) have shed some light on the role of psychologists in the Ministry of Industry, specifically in the Authority for Productivity and Vocational Training, and in the Ministry of Labor, respectively.
Psychology graduates in Egypt and in many Arab countries have difficulties finding employment because of their lack of qualifications and the lack of awareness in the public and private sectors of psychology’s importance. Only in the oil-producing Arab states do psychology graduates have a relatively good opportunity to work in the field (Ahmed, 1992; Ahmed & Gielen, 1998).
Psychology graduates in Egypt join the profession by either providing psychological services to meet the needs of the public or by teaching. Students who graduate with an advanced degree in psychology have essentially two career choices: an academic position at a university or hospital work, in which case they may be hired as psychologists by the Ministries of Defense, Education, Health, Industry, Interior, or Social Affairs. Here, psychologists work in inpatient or outpatient clinics of public hospitals, in institutions serving the aged, juvenile delinquents, or the physically and mentally handicapped, and also in prisons, schools, industry, or the armed forces. Students who graduate from colleges of education are almost certain to move directly into teaching jobs at public intermediate or secondary schools, or, if they obtain a master’s or doctorate, a post at one of the national universities.
The Ministry of Health operates several mental hospitals in Cairo, Alexandria, and Tanta. Some of these are for men only and include separate units for substance-abuse and criminal patients. Psychosis is the main criterion for admission to inpatient care. Private mental hospitals are beginning to appear in Cairo and Alexandria. Finally, most Egyptian universities with colleges of medicine offer some outpatient psychiatric care.
Psychology graduates in Egypt can work in different settings such as hospitals and clinics that belong to the Ministry of Health, provided they obtain higher qualifications after they are appointed, especially the Diploma of Applied Psychology. A number of psychology graduates have joined the Ministry of Education to work as school psychologists; during the last 10 years, the Ministry of Education has hired over 5000 school psychologists to work in intermediate and secondary schools (Soueif & Ahmed, 2001). It is hoped that more psychology graduates will be hired in order to fulfill the Ministry’s plan to assign a psychologist to every intermediate and secondary school in the county. The armed forces in Egypt have benefited from psychological services since the early 1950s (Taha et al., 2003). A significant step in this direction occurred when the Ministry of Defense opened its Psychological Affairs Center in 2000. The center has several units with different tasks and assignments and has recruited a group of highly qualified and well-trained psychologists. Several studies and applied tasks have been carried out since the center was established, including the development of specific job descriptions (Ministry of Defense, 2000). Although few psychology graduates join the ministries of communication and transportation, industry, and interior (where they work as psychologists in the prisons and other rehabilitation institutions), more psychology graduates are hired yearly by the Ministry of Social Affairs to work as psychologists in several units, departments, and institutions that serve especially juvenile delinquents, the elderly, and the physically impaired.
Psychology graduates with excellent grades can join research centers, such as the National Center for Social and Criminological Research. They can also take academic jobs, teaching in departments of psychology, educational psychology, and mental health, where they work as teaching assistants and increase their chances to pursue advanced degrees.
Although the number of psychology graduates working in the aforementioned settings has increased markedly during the last two decades, this number is still not sufficient to meet the needs of the Egyptian population. There is hope that more psychology graduates will be hired in the future. However, psychologists in some work settings have made outstanding contributions. Examples include the Unified Arab Classification of Professions and Jobs that was completed under the auspice of the Ministry of Labor and which represents the first Arab descriptive index of occupations in Egypt (Ibrahim, 1989; Taha et al., 2003). Psychologists have also played a key role over the last 40 years in constructing and validating psychological tests used in the General Authority for Productivity and Vocational Training, Ministry of Industry; these tests are administered in the select of applicants for various occupations (Hamza, 1987).
As in other developing countries, some psychological activities are performed by nonpsychologists. Such activities include psychotherapy, which some physicians, clerics, and indigenous healers practice. Fortunately, such practices are on the decline. Another example can be found in some work settings, such as in the Ministries of Social Affairs and Interior, in which some psychological job functions and services are occasionally carried out by social workers and sociologists.
Since the early 1960s, universities in other Arab countries, especially in the oilproducing states, have hired Egyptian psychologists to work in their psychology departments or in their psychiatric hospitals and mental health clinics. For example, the number of Egyptian psychologists with Ph.D.s who are permanently or temporarily employed by psychology departments in the oil-producing Arab countries may be as high as 50–60% of the total number of the staff at these universities. In addition, some Egyptian psychologists have immigrated to Australia, Canada, France, and the United States.
FUTURE CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS
Several attempts have been made to trace the progress of psychology in Egypt (Abou-Hatab, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997; Ahmed, 1992, 1997, 1999, 2002; Ahmed & Gielen, 1998; Eissoy, 1989; Farag, 1987; King, 1984; Safwat, 1996; Soueif, 1988, 1991;Soueif & Ahmed, 2001). All of these conclude that psychology in Egypt and other Arab countries (Al-Nabolsey, 1999; Khaleefa, 1997) has grown stronger, yet suffers from several shortcomings, much like psychology in other parts of the developing world.
The following points highlight Egyptian psychology’s strengths:
- Psychological literature, written mostly in Arabic by Egyptian authors, has been growing rapidly since the early 1940s, mainly because the subject is taught in Arabic. As a result, many psychological texts have been translated into Arabic. Moreover, many Western psychometric tools have either been translated into Arabic or adapted to suit Egyptian culture. These accomplishments have propagated psychological knowledge throughout the Arab world.
- Based on a combination of economic, political, and cultural factors, Egypt began in the early 1960s to supply newly established Arab universities with trained professors who fit into the cultural context of other Arab countries with relative ease. Egyptian psychologists are estimated to represent about 70% of the total number of psychologists in the Arab world.
- Egypt has 60 psychology departments that constitute about 56% of all psychology departments in the Arab world. As a result, many Arab psychologists have received their education at Egyptian universities, especially at Cairo and Ain Shams Universities.
- Egyptian psychological research is estimated to constitute more than 70% of the total investigations in psychology in the Arab world. Nearly, 60% of all psychological scales in use in Arab countries were constructed or translated, and standardized, by Egyptian psychologists working in Egypt or employed by Arab universities (Ahmed, 1992; Ahmed & Gielen, 1998; Soueif & Ahmed, 2001).
- Egypt has two very active psychology associations that seek opportunities for collaboration.
The following are the shortcomings that characterize psychology in Egypt and in other Arab countries:
- Egyptian psychologists continue to import Western psychology in typically unsystematic ways. Much of Egyptian psychology, both scientific and professional, reflects the assumptions, theories, methods, instruments, and research results of the West. This epistemological dependence inhibits the creativity in Egyptian psychologists and stifles the emergence of an indigenous psychology. It may also weaken the professional identity of Egyptian psychologists.
- Egyptian psychologists are relatively unaware of the cultural nature of the discipline and have therefore neglected to integrate their national heritage with modern developments in psychology. Much Egyptian and Arab research and practice neglects contemporary cultural and social realities of the region. This has led, among other things, to a psychology lacking in relevance. Moreover, there is a lack of interdisciplinary cooperation that would synthesize the efforts of psychologists with other social scientists. For example, anthropologists tend to have a solid grasp of indigenous realities and often use the participatory research methods in their research. Such contextually sensitive investigatory approaches have been underutilized by Egyptian and Arab psychologists who still favor artificial paper-and-pencil tests.
- Egyptian and Arab psychology is not well-presented in the international arena for several reasons, the most obvious of which is that almost all psychological research here is published in Arabic. In addition, few Egyptian psychologists attend international or regional psychology conferences.
- The healthy development of the discipline is constrained because psychology departments housed in colleges of arts suffer from an inflexible bureaucracy with respect to budgeting and administration. For example, there is no “reliable and well-structured policy for research funding, and the scholarly worth of most ongoing research must remain questionable” (Soueif & Ahmed, 2001, p. 225).
- There is little specialization in Egyptian and Arab psychology (Safwat, 1996). Because most are regulated by the state, psychology departments offer only general psychology programs that produce general psychologists. There are no special tracks or departments for child, clinical, or industrial psychology. Due to the lack of specialization, Egyptian psychologists have experienced serious difficulties in developing and sustaining research and training programs in specific areas of psychology. Once developed, however, these specialty areas could lead to a greater international impact and produce much-needed experts to advance the status of psychology in Egypt.
- Egyptian psychologists have an ambiguous professional identity rooted in the artificially created dichotomy between educational psychologists belonging to institutes or colleges of education and their counterparts working at the colleges of arts.
There is a growing need to establish a psychology that fits more closely with the cultural and social realities of human experience in this area of the world (Khaleefa, 1997). Three factors will help Egyptian and Arab psychology move in this direction (Ahmed & Gielen, 1998):
- The recognition and development of indigenous psychologies. These have been developed in countries such as China, Japan, India, and Mexico.
- The establishment of regional associations and journals for psychology in the Arab world, as in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Oceania. In this context, an “Arab Union of Psychology” would be of great value.
- The gradual decline, via advancements in communications technology, of the dominance of American psychology over psychologies in other regions of the world, coupled with renewed interest in research on issues pertinent to an evolving Egyptian culture and society.
At present, the main challenge for Egyptian psychology is to provide high-quality degree programs in traditional areas of psychology while creating new programs, particularly interdisciplinary ones, that will attract the finest students and faculty members. To do so, it is necessary to evaluate current and potential resources, and build on these assets in order to develop areas of strength that will enhance the visibility of psychology in Egyptian higher education and better serve the nation (Ahmed, 1997, 1999). In addition, Ahmed and Gielen (1998) suggested the foundation of an institute of Arab psychology in Cairo in order to develop effective networks of communication and cooperation between different disciplines across national and cultural borders. The ultimate goal of such an institute would be to establish a culture of creative theorizing, cumulative research, and informed criticism.
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Copyright © 2004 From the Handbook of International Psychology by Michael J. Stevens and Danny Wedding (Eds.). Reproduced by permission of Routledge, a division of Taylor & Francis Group.