Almishkat Centre for Research, Egypt
This website was created to promote the work of Almishkat, an independent, non-commercial institution devoted to advancing knowledge on contemporary Egypt, and Arab countries. The site included their published research in the social sciences, with an emphasis on human development. The last published paper was dated 2001.
Recently I discovered that the domain was available, so I bought it with the goal of recreating as much of its original content as possible from archived pages. Perusing the site I soon realized the number of pages in the archived published papers was enormous, so I have only included a small sampling. One of my goals was to prevent someone else from purchasing the domain and re-purposing the site for something that had nothing in common with the original almishkat.org website.
Now my expertise happens to be in search engine optimization and web development, so I am very aware of the performance of websites in Google's search results. I work for an agency that is constantly on the lookout for poor performing sites where our approach can make a difference. At the same time, we keep tabs on sites that are hugely successful so we can learn from the techniques they are using. I also happen to be a huge Batman fan. So I was very exited to find a website that was selling Batman shirts and hoodies that appeared to be floundering in the search. It was very clear to me that this site had the best online selection of Batman t shirts and the best detailed displays of all their Batman products. We contacted this company only to learn that the owners were themselves seos and that they had just made a huge change to their system! We followed their progress for several weeks and sure enough, they began to move up in the search incredibly fast and they now own the #1 spot for many very valuable terms. But we could not figure out what they were doing, and they were certainly not going to share their secrets with a competitor. This brings me back to Almishkat, which we discovered and loved for very different reasons. Although the site was not performing well, their content was compelling and I probably view it in a very different way from most visitors - this is not a site that sells products, but exclusively provides information. Unlike the Batman site, we understand the issues here and will make some effort to get this site performing - stay tuned. I believe that the information on the Almishkat.org archived pages is still important and should remain available online, and will eventually rank well for meaningful searches.
Nader Fergany Director, Almishkat Centre for Research (ACR), Egypt
Founded in October 1992, Almishkat is an independent, non-commercial institution devoted to advancing knowledge on contemporary Egypt, and Arab countries, through research in the social sciences, with emphasis on human development. Fields of research emphasis include: knowledge acquisition (education/learning and research/development), employment, governance and welfare (poverty).
Almishkat's activity is motivated by its research agenda. Collaborative research ventures on items on the research agenda of the Centre are welcome. In cases that rank high on the research agenda, Almishkat draws on limited resources to contribute to the cost. A number of research projects, mostly with Arab and international organisations, have provided necessary financial support to the Centre.
Almishkat recognises the critical need for basing social science research on high-quality data sets and gives priority to producing such data sets through rigorous field surveys in areas on which information are generally lacking.
Almishkat is keen on making the results of research undertaken available to professional circles as well as the general public, in both Arabic and English.
Technical reports on research projects, normally produced in limited numbers, are generally made available to interested professionals free of charge.
For the general public, however, abridged versions of the technical reports on research projects to be published through a reputed publisher with a solid distribution network. Almishkat bears the entire cost of publication to enable the publisher to sell the resulting booklets at a subsidised price calculated to just cover the distribution cost.
**In Arabic, Almishkat means an alcove in a wall in which a lamp is kept
LIST OF PUBLICATIONS
Egyptians and politics, analysis of an opinion poll (79 p) Sep. 1995
EGYPTIANS AND POLITICS
ANALYSIS OF AN OPINION POLL
In democratic societies, public opinion is carefully, and continuously, monitored.
Accurate measurement of public opinion is a complex professional activity that has strict scientific requirements. Erroneous measurement of public opinion can result in considerable damage. Wilful distortion of public opinion, however, is a crime of societal proportions (see: Saleh, 1993 and 1994 and Ramzi, 1994).
It is with this understanding, and sense of responsibility, that Al-Ahram Weekly and Almishkat approached the conduct of a quick poll on regional and domestic political issues near the end of 1994.
Though the National Centre for Social and Criminological Research has been taking opinion polls for many years, quick polls on current issues, that are published in the mass media, are not an established institution of Egyptian public life.
In developed countries, availability of computerised national sampling frames, general literacy of the public and efficacy of telephone interviewing make poll-taking rather easy and quite efficient.
By contrast, a statistical infrastructure for quick opinion polls from nationally representative samples is not in place in a country Like Egypt. Rampant illiteracy, the inadequacy of telecommunications networks, as well as the inadvisability of using telephone lines, when these exist, to discuss what is generally considered sensitive matters, complicate poll-taking even further.
Obstacles facing accurate measurement of public opinion in a country like Egypt go, however, beyond the “technical” problems mentioned above to important conceptual issues.
In societies where educational attainment is poor, minds are subject to the pervasive influence of one-sided mass media, and effective political participation is penalised, social consciousness tends to be feeble and one should not expect people to hold strong, logically-articulated, opinions.
In such a society, it is probably more accurate to speak of public sentiment rather than opinion.
Dynamics of employment creation and destruction Egypt, 1990-1995, Research notes 11 (20 p) Jan. 1998
The growth of poverty in Egypt, Research notes 12 (23 p) Jan. 1998
THE GROWTH OF POVERTY IN EGYPT
I EMPLOYMENT STRUCTURE
II CHANGE IN EMPLOYMENT 1990-1995
III CHANGE IN EMPLOYMENT RELATED TO OUTPUT GROWTH
Towards poverty eradication in the Sudan: An analysis of human capability failure and a foundation for a strategy (90 p) Apr. 1998
TOWARDS POVERTY ERADICATION IN THE SUDAN
AN ANALYSIS OF HUMAN CAPABILITY FAILURE
AND A FOUNDATION FOR A STRATEGY
The Sudan Poverty Study(SPS) was proposed and funded by UNDP-Khartoum to help inform the emphasis of its present programme cycle on poverty alleviation. This emphasis meets with the high priority accorded to eradication of poverty in the Comprehensive National Strategy (CNS). The study was implemented by the ILO through a TSS1 arrangement.
Work on the SPS started effectively in December 1996. At that time, the latest information on poverty in the Sudan were based on the 1992 Poverty Baseline Survey (PBS), sponsored by UNICEF and the Social Solidarity Fund, and carried out by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) which was then more than four years old and falls short of the requirements of a rigorous poverty assessment.
I POVERTY AND STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT, 1990-1995
II THE LONG VIEW
III TOWARDS A STRATEGY FOR POVERTY ERADICATION
Impact of the Proposal Labour Law on Labour Market Flexibility and Social Conditions in Egypt: A Preliminary Assessment (19 p) Jun. 1998
Human capital accumulation and development: Arab Countries at the close of the 20th century (36 p) Jul. 1998
Human capital and economic performance in Egypt (62 p) Aug. 1998
The Challenge of full employment in Arab Countries (20 p) Oct. 1998
Informal Economic Activity and Structural Adjustment in the Arab Countries, Application to the Case of Egypt (23 p) Dec. 1998
Science and Research for Development in the Arab Region (57 p) Feb. 1999
Science, technology and research, less developed countries in a globalising world
The benevolent view of science revolves around the accumulation of knowledge in order to improve the human condition.
Research is the human endeavour meant to further this mission of science. Through research, science aims at description, explanation (or understanding) and, some claim, prediction of natural and human phenomena.
Technology is the "solutions" part of the scientific endeavour. Previously, technology was thought of as the application of scientific knowledge to solve problems humanity faces. Currently, it is considered to be grounded in close interaction of knowledge with human industry, in the widest sense.
This paper attempts the (over) ambitious task of a unified treatment of science, including the practice of "science" in the social and societal spheres of human existence. The inclusion of "the social sciences" in a general treatment of science is rather unusual, and especially difficult. Social sciences are often considered "soft"- if not outright non-science- compared to the "hard" physical or natural sciences.
In addition, if science includes "social science", what is "social technology"? For that concept we propose the know-how of societal betterment. In particular, of the quest for progress in less developed countries: development.
Finally, aspects considered peculiar to a certain sub-domain of "science", particularly the social, will be pointed out.
The benevolent view of science is, to be sure, not universal. Three quarters of a century ago, Bertrand Russell (1924) sounded a different view:
"I am compelled to fear that science will be used to promote the power of dominant groups."
Near the end of this treatise, he even intoned:
"... science threatens to cause the destruction of our civilisation."
It is interesting to note that Russell did not confine himself to the "physical" sciences but also included in the analysis the "anthropological" ones. More recently, in the West, writings- by scientists- with titles such as: "Is science failing society?" are not uncommon.
Both views of science, the benevolent and the malevolent, do hold aspects of truth. Science, perhaps more often than not, has been exploited to further the interests of dominant powers. But history also tells us that science has contributed to empowering the weak.
In principle, science holds the promise of emancipation through enlightenment. For this promise to be fulfilled, however, scientists have to act as active members of an "intelligentsia", and sometimes pay a price that can be very heavy indeed in oppressive societies.
Determinants of Child Health in Six Arab Countries: Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (22 p) Apr. 1999
A preliminary analysis based on the Arab Mother and Child Health Survey data sets, 1990/1993 
INTRODUCTION: THE PAPCHILD AND THE AMCHS
The Pan-Arab Project for Child Development (PAPCHILD) endeavours to “diagnose and improve the health and social status of the mother and child through the building of a solid information base” that would “help in determining the problems and thus in identifying priority areas and in planning developmental policies and programmes”.
The flagship of the PAPCHILD is the “Arab Mother and Child Health Survey” (AMCHS). It provides “detailed information on the factors that affect maternal and child’s health and survival: biological, demographic, social, economic and environmental factors”.
The AMCHS has, to date, been implemented in six Arab countries: Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
Reporting on an AMCHS takes the form of a Preliminary Report and a Principal Report summarising the main findings. The two reports normally rely on frequency tabulations and graphs, two statistical tools that cannot adequately accommodate the complexity of multi-faceted socio-economic phenomena such as child and mother’s health.
A subsequent in-depth analysis phase involves a detailed appraisal of the quality of the resulting data sets as well as analytic studies of different aspects of the extensive information provided by the surveys. It is expected that the in-depth analysis phase provide more articulate policy recommendations as well as directions for further research.
Within the framework of the in-depth analysis phase of the AMCHS data sets, analytic studies on the measurement of child health, and its household determinants, have been proposed. The purpose is to take a close look at the health and socio-economic variables of the household context that explain variability in the level of child health, investigate the common features and differences in the analysis of determinants of child health among the six countries and provide a set of recommendations for policy as well as survey design and implementation.
Governance and Social Development, the Case of African Arab-Countries (34 p) Aug. 1999
Assessment of the Unemployment Situation in Egypt, Research notes 13 (28 p) Dec. 1999
Two Crucial Challenges to Human Development in the Arab Region: Government Reform and Knowledge Acquisition (26 p) May 2000
Towards High-Quality Universal Education for Girls in Egypt (23 p)
In a Nutshell
I Essential Features of Gender Differentials in Basic Education
A) Extent of the Gender Gap in Enrolment
B) A Demographic Gift Squandered?!
II Determinants of Exclusion from Basic Education by Gender
A) Basic education in Egypt is Costly and Yields
Poor Labour Market Returns
B) Poverty Retards Enrolment in Basic Education, and Detracts from its
Outcomes, Especially in the Case of Girls
a) On the level of the household
b) On the community level
1) Governorates by rural/urban residence
2) Districts by rural/urban residence
C) The Socio-Cultural and Educational Context.
a) Attitudes Towards Education
b) Reported Reasons for Initial Exclusion and Dropping Out, the Educational context
III Proposals for Closing the Gender Gap in Enrolment, and Ensuring Better Quality in Basic Education
In a Nutshell
High-quality universal basic education for all children in Egypt is not only an essential developmental objective, it is both a basic human right for every child and an international obligation as well. Moreover, exclusion of girls from basic education feeds into the chronic problem of women’s illiteracy.
Nevertheless, powerful impediments stand in the way of attaining this objective. Foremost among these impediments are, in accordance with structural adjustment, weakening government commitment to provide free public services and pursuit of cost-recovery when it does; high and rising costs of education in the context of widespread, and probably mounting, poverty, and low and declining returns to basic education. Lingering, though weakening, socio-cultural biases against equality of women, and by derivation, education of girls, play a role. That schools are rarely attractive to children and often girl-repulsive does not help either.
While Considerable progress has been achieved on the quantitative expansion dimension, basic education is still not universal. Exclusion is higher for girls, particularly in rural areas. In addition, the challenge of quality is proving to be the more daunting.
It goes without saying that basic education could not be universal while some girls remain deprived of their right to it; the last pockets of deprivation from basic education are most surely going to be of girls in deprived rural areas.
Indeed, there is evidence now that attaining high quality universal basic education for girls in Egypt could be the most effective approach for ensuring the wider developmental objective of high quality basic education for all children in the country.
The most promising approach seems to lie in setting up girl-friendly, community-owned, schools built around child-centred participatory learning with meticulous attention paid to the training of learning facilitators and ensuring significant inputs from civil society.
The community schools project, jointly sponsored by the MOE and UNICEF represent a strong start in this direction.
Perhaps the best strategy to ensure high quality universal basic education for all girls in Egypt is for the community schools project to grow into a national movement parallel to, and competitive with, the government system which would spur the government system to higher levels of quality and girl-friendliness.
Higher Education in Arab Countries; Human Development and Labour Market Requirements (25 p) Jan. 2001
The Ultimate Emancipation of Women in the Minds: Preliminary results of an opinion poll
Research notes 14 (17 p) Mar. 2001
Preliminary Results of an Opinion Poll
Fayza Hassan, Hala Sakr, Christiane Wissa & Mohammed Hakim
I The Meaning of Emancipation
II Preliminary Results
III Poll Instrument
In 1994 Al-Ahram Weekly and Almishkat carried out the first independent opinion poll that dealt with political participation and regional issues.
Al-Ahram Weekly published the preliminary results of that poll on the front page of the last issue of that year (No. 200). Later on, Almishkat published “Egyptians and politics” (Al-Mostakbal Al-Arabi and Almishkat, September 1995) containing a complete analysis of the results of the poll and revealing what was then termed significant “aversion to politics” among Egyptians. The book ended by proposing that opinion polls on political participation be carried out regularly, with a special topic of interest added on in each round.
This Research Note reports the preliminary results of the second Al-Ahram Weekly-Almishkat poll, this time, on the proposal of Ms. Fayza Hassan, on personal affairs, which represents a beginning of conducting polls on specialised topics.
In the year 2000, on the occasion of the Egyptians, society and parliament, were polarised on issues raised by the government sponsored procedural modifications to the personal affairs code which entailed legalising Khul’ (in which a woman files for divorce, abdicates her marital rights- but not the rights of children- and returns to the husband all what he had given her. The judge is enjoined to try to resolve the dispute amicably. If the attempt fails, the judge should rule for divorce. His ruling is not subject to appeal). The preliminary results were published by Al-Ahram Weekly in the special issue commemorating the tenth anniversary of publication (1-7 March 2001).
As with the first poll, Almishkat will publish the complete analysis of the personal affairs poll in the near future.
The results are extremely interesting. As can be seen from the primary results, the poll reveals a very conservative public opinion on personal affairs matters, even among women.
The results are the more shocking when one realises that the poll sample over-represents the educated, Table (1). A shortcoming that will be addressed in the complete analysis.
Without in anyway endorsing the content of the opinions expressed by the respondents in the poll, they tell us that emancipation of women is still a long way off. In this battle, all concerned should be armed with knowledge, and not only good intentions or ideologies. The present activity can be thought of as modest ammunition in the difficult battle for emancipation of women, in the minds.
Director, Almishkat Centre for Research, Egypt
Sample Size Determination
Research notes 15 (7 p) Apr. 2001
Minimum sample size required, in Simple Random Sampling, to ensure a maximum level of error in estimating population probabilities with the indicated levels of confidence.
A (mistaken) belief pervades some social science circles: that a sample, to be “representative”, has to represent a “respectable” proportion of the population to be studied. Percentages such as 10% or 15% circulate without giving any basis. Nothing can be farther from the scientific basis for sample size determination.
In a (large) universe, the ratio of the sample size to the size of the universe bears no statistical significance. In fact it can be practically impossible to study a sample representing even a small proportion of a very large universe.
The sample size depends on a combination of four factors: the extent of variability in the population characteristics under study (the larger the variability, the larger the sample has to be), the extent of detail desired in the sample results as estimates of population characteristics (the higher the degree of detail needed, the larger the sample), the extent of permissible error in sample results as estimates of population characteristics (the lower the level of error that can be tolerated, the larger the sample), and the level of confidence desired in the attainment of the previous features (the higher the level of confidence desired, the larger the sample).
This Research Note presents a method for sample size determination under different combinations of the four above-mentioned factors. Starting from a standard objective of sample surveys; estimation of the distribution of the universe, according to one or more variables, by a corresponding frequency distribution of the sample elements. In the context of a widely used
non-parametric statistical procedure for testing the significance of a frequency distribution derived from a (probability) sample, Chi2, the results are presented in the form of, easily used, table and graphs.