Prioritizing activities to ensure quality of education
Tigrai Online, Jan. 15, 2018
Kalamino especial high school in Tigrai Ethiopia
Getacahew Mekuria is a retired teacher and director who had served in various schools from primary to preparatory schools. He said the education system in Ethiopia has been going through various opportunities and changes. According to him, the promising changes observed in the education sector include provision of computer-assisted education and application of IT to various education activities including distance classes.
He reckoned the time he got employed in the Ministry of Education during the Regime of Haile-Silasse. There were no sufficient schools to citizens nor expansion and purchase education facilities to the broad masses. The few schools at that time had served to educate the sons and daughters of the nobility and families known for their knighthood. Most of the sons and daughters of rural Ethiopia were illiterate. They were spending their life following the tails of their cattle.
Getachew said some changes were observed during the reactionary regime of Derg. It attempted to make schools open to people. However, it was very insignificant to save millions of people from illiteracy and backwardness. Derg had tried to expand basic numeracy and literacy through campaigns like ‘meserete timihirt’. However, it did not bring sizable change in expansion of primary and secondary schools
During that time, in terms of the spatial distribution of primary education, the disparity among regions was very high. Despite some efforts during the Derg period, widespread of illiteracy and ignorance was an overall problem of the society. Opportunities for high school education and technical and vocational trainings were limited to big towns, while higher education institutions were found only in very few areas and they were overcrowded.
However, the progress observed regarding basic education was almost standstill. The people who had got the chance to be educated were the ones living in towns and rural kebeles living closer to towns. Overall, the education system during derg regime could not save millions of children in rural areas from backwardness and illiteracy.
According to him, the time closer to his retirement has saw the emergence of EPRDF and big stride in the education sector. Currently, all rural areas that were once inaccessible and neglected have at least one primary and secondary schools in their vicinity. Students that were used to travel long distances even for a day has now got the chance to be educated in their locality. Accessibility has helped them to save their time, money and labor and focus on their lessons.
Twenty two years ago Ethiopian government launched a huge and ambitious development strategy that called for “the cultivation of citizens with an all-round education” capable of playing a conscious and active role in the economic, social, and political life of the country.
Since then, particularly, primary and junior secondary schools have expanded explosively and students can enjoy primary education in their respective villages. Now lack of basic education related to literacy and numeracy has become thing of the past. Every child in every kebele is able to attend education in the nearby locality.
Now the only thing that has been missed is quality of education. It is believed that quality of education did not go a breast of the tremendous endeavor being exerted to expand it. It is being witnessed in the life of students who had graduated from various colleges.
These graduates are not real problem solvers without any irony. They have no specifically known capacity of entrepreneurship and hence they sit by (dare to say languish) and wait for decent jobs from government (employment opportunities) to come to them, which are meager and inaccessible .
Depending upon the specific areas on which one may focus, quality education may be defined from several perspectives on which one may focus. Scholars on education seem to agree on the basic tenets of quality education to include efficiency, effectiveness and equity in education.
Quality of education presupposes a number of factors including correlation with national development objectives, generation of capable learners who are problem solvers, entrepreneurs, well-educated and ready to alleviate the problems of the community. It also implies the existence of facilities, contents and learning environments that are capable to scale up quality of education.
Quality improvement is tightly correlated with changing the lives of learners in real life. This issue, in turn, is associated with content and instruction which involves the selection of context close to daily life of students; it equips them with the capacity of problem solving and they can potentially solve problems they encounter in real life.
Currently, Ethiopia has significant amount of educated youth. The number of universities has grown to 44 down from less than ten decades before. These universities are educating over 150,000 students every year, which by itself is many times greater than the enrollment capacity of the country years before.
Ethiopia has been working to expand education and enhance its accessibility for over two decades. And its effort has resulted in sizeable change in generating educated human power. And what it has accomplished so far , related to expansion of education, is commendable. However, now, many scholars and curriculum designer experts and academicians are stating their belief that the country has to make paradigm shift and it should solely focus on boosting the quality of education.
Education service has been expanding commendably, but documents witness that expansion has not been accompanied by employment of sufficient and capable staffing and budgeting of resources used to enhance quality of the sector even, some say, it has become difficult to introduce BPR to teachers who are toiling at poorly paid school environment, where supplementing their incomes is impossible to the desirable level. Many believe that almost all colleges and universities are suffering from the same disadvantages, though some betterment is being seen towards higher education institutions.
Hence, there are also challenges that need to be addressed, particularly, during the GTP2 period. The problems include shortage of books and essential materials, unavailability of good laboratory and workshops and libraries for students to practically study their lessons.
Cognizant of this very fact, over the past couple of years, the Ministry of Education has issued a nationwide program used to ensure quality of education in all levels of schools, from primary school to higher education institutions. For instance, the Ministry has introduced education quality assurance package that have six programs to be applied in schools.
The package includes school improvement program, refining curriculum and assessment program, improving school management, structure and organization and various programs that embraced teachers’ development, applying IT and offering civic and ethical education.
The Ministry has now launched a program aimed at improving the quality of education thoroughly. It focuses on the creation of a child-friendly teaching-learning environment both in the class rooms and school compounds; application of techniques, inputs and situations used to enhance child-friendly environment in schools.
Similarly, curriculum development and assessment is another major component of education quality improvement package. This development package includes preparation and distribution of text books, manuals, instructional and science tool kits (taking into account the age, needs, experience, maturity and psychological readiness of the students) that are appealing and relevant to all children in the school setting.
The last, but not the least, teachers Development Program is being taken as an important component of quality in the education program. In this program, induction sessions are being readied for new teachers so that they will be able to discharge their duties on equal footing with senior and mentor teachers in the schools. In addition, continuous professional upgrading is systematically arranged to teachers and in several cases on the job trainings are being employed to encourage teachers for higher level of performance.
Over all, the government understands the very fact that expanding educational access at such a fast pace may be exposed to quality problems and dilution in standards. In this regard, currently, nation has turned its effort and attention towards improving quality by judiciously walking on selected routes aimed at reaching targeted goals (of quality). Earlier it has worked on expansion of institutions and accessibility of education now it is undertaking prioritized tasks enhance quality.
Nation believes the prospects for quality education in Ethiopia depend upon the achievements of the overall development pace of the country. Improving quality of education is a process and cannot be achieved in a fixed period of time or only through directives issued by the government. Hence, all stakeholders should do their part to raise the quality of education in Ethiopia.
Meditating only about students in rooms and their bums on seats has already passed. It is high time for the country to improve the quality of its education and the entire education system. Now the government is fast moving forward to correct quality failures encountered in the education sector, though enhancing quality of education is not a kind of marathon that can be finalized in hours. Hence, nation is calling on all stakeholders of the sector to contribute their own and effect remarkable change in the quality of education.
Getachew believes that tremendous activities have been carried out to expand accessibility of schools and higher education institutions. And, he said, using what has been achieved so far, nation has to move forward to improve quality of education. The activities that have been carried out until to date may help catalyze more development in the education sector. And hopes are great, as to him, to realize quality in the sphere of education.