Ethiopia: Progressive Education Reform to Radical Change

It was three years ago, on April 2, 2018, Dr. Abiy Ahmed sworn as Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Following several years of protests and instability, along with decades of repressive authoritarian rule, his first few months in office have saw many changes. This change includes human rights reforms and others. Following the reform, thousands of political prisoners have been released; several websites and TV channels were unblocked. Above all, a peace agreement was signed with neighboring Eritrea, and exiled dissidents were invited to return home and struggle peacefully.

The Premier did not waste single time in accelerating the reform movement in all streams. Over the last few years, Ethiopia has embarked on an ambitious reform process to ensure the sustainability of its economic growth and development. On top of this, the education sector has been one among the other sectors that saw reformation.

In fact, starting from the time Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took power in 2018, education has been a foremost priority for the government. Though the concept of reforming the education sector had been a topic of discussion prior to his ascension into power, the reform was initiated in earnest just over a year ago in 2018.

As a starting point for the reforms, the government accepted that previous attempts at educational reform had yielded mixed results.

According to Abebe Chernet, Addis Ababa Education Bureau Communication Affairs Director, the government is pursuing successive sectorial development programs which are helping the nation to fill its skilled man power gaps. The efforts have yielded positive results. Schools have expanded across the country and the number of children attending schools has increased.

However, the education policy functioned for over twenty and plus years could not ensure quality and fulfill the growing demand of the nation’s skilled human power. This was due to more attention was given for quantity instead of quality. Therefore, the new reform could help to gear efforts in shaping the system and ensuring quality at the expense of quantity.

As to Abebe , Ethiopia has policies, programs and strategies which has a potential to speed up changes in every sector. However, there is a shortcoming in implementing those policies and strategies accordingly. This implementation related problem is also resulted from capacity constraints, absence of sufficient resources and other similar reasons. To end this, the reform opens new opportunities to address the ascribed gaps in more structured way.

As Ethiopia aspires to build its productivity in the economic sector, the quality of education should take the epicenter. Several evidences are indicating that the previous infrastructural expansion in the education sector did not lead to the expected results, particularly in ensuring quality. Evidence of this deficit was clear when one comparing educational performance of Ethiopian pupils with their counterparts in low and middle-income countries.

This gap has put a question mark on country’s ambitions to rapid industrialization plans, as rapid industrialization is predicates on the availability of high-skilled and competent manpower that can able to execute activities accordingly. In this regard, quality education is a foundation that can play pivotal role in shuttering skill shortages and knowledge gaps.

The reform, which is introduced by the new government, has opened an opportunity to foster holistic development throughout the nation and will have a key role in producing competent professionals who can compete effectively in the labor market and equipping them with the skills needed to promote sustainable development.

In addition, the reform has a key role in addressing gaps in higher educational institutions which are the main sources of skilled and educated man power.

According to him, the new roadmap is laid upon educational system that prioritizes and promotes indigenous knowledge supports national development goals and encourages civic engagement.

This is a new era where harmonization of higher education with globalization is a must factor. In this regard, higher education reforms at national level do not only benefit individuals; but also have significant role for the nation as well as to the region and the continent.

As part of this undertaking, Addis Ababa City Administration Education Bureau is experiencing several changes that are brought by the reform. Schools have become standardized and students’ performance is also showing progress. School feeding and teachers’ house allowance is also part of this reform.

Leadership in education sector is now headed by skilled experts through merit based system. Capable and professionals are joining the sector. Following the new reform, two boarding schools (girls and boys) are now serving students.

As it was indicate by State Minister Dr. Samuel Kifle, Ministry of Science and Higher Education (MoSHE), the government is pursuing educational policy that fills all sectorial gaps. In this regard, having well educated and practical students is not an option. That is why the nation is putting almost all its energy on the sector.

Indeed, education is a foundation to all sectors. The experiences of economically advanced nations signify that because these countries pursue the best education system, they are leading quality life style. Ethiopia is a growing nation with several economic gaps. Despite its resources, the nation is still suffering from poverty. In this regard, the new education reform is expected to fill those gaps.

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