By Solomon Dibaba
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 education presupposes a number of factors including correlation with national development objectives, learners who are healthy, well-nourished and ready to participate and learn through the support of families and community members.
It also implies the existence of facilities, contents, learning environments that are healthy, safe, protective and gender-sensitive and child centred. A short survey of Ethiopia’s nationwide efforts to ascertain quality education at primary and secondary education level may be assessed as a case in point.
The introduction of modern education in Ethiopia dates back to over 100 years of the country’s history. Despite the relatively longer years of dissemination of formal and informal education, the country’s educational super structure was entangled with complex problems of policy framework, relevance, quality, accessibility and gender equity.
Furthermore, prior to 1994, the country’s education system lacked clear goals and directions. Policies and strategies set for the sector were not streamlined and mainstreamed with the development needs of the country and suffered from poor planning, low quality as well as over politicization and ideological manipulation. Inadequate facilities, insufficient training of teachers, overcrowded classes, shortage of books and other teaching materials, all indicate the low quality of education provided.
In terms of the spatial distribution of primary education, the disparity among regions was very high. Despite some efforts during the Derg period, widespread illiteracy and numeracy was an overall problem of the society. Opportunities for high school education and technical and vocational training were limited to big towns. Higher education institutions were found only in very few areas. They were overcrowded and their capacity to conduct researches was very low.
Mindful of the disparities in the education sector in Ethiopian and remaining cognizant of the shortfalls and loopholes in the entire system, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has placed great importance on education and recognized it as a significant tool for development needs of the country.
Thus in 1994 the government issued an education and training policy that envisaged the development perspectives of the nation.
The policy emphasized on the development of problem solving capacity in the content of education, curriculum structure and approach, focusing on the acquisition of scientific knowledge and practicum.
By way of ensuring the successful implementation of the policy and its strategies, a five-year Education Sector Development Programme (ESDP I) was initiated, prepared and implemented between 1997-2002 years. ESDPI has aimed to improve quality of education, expand access with special emphasis on primary education in rural areas as well as the promotion of education for girls. Increase access to educational opportunities at primary level, to achieve universal primary education by 2015.
ESDP II has also been prepared as a continuation of ESDP I for the period 2003-2005 with the aim to ensure quality education a sustainable manner. The government set the year 2015 as a goal for achieving good quality primary education in the proper context of the Millennium Development Goals. Later on, the Ministry of Education embarked on the ESDP-III and SDP 1V based on the experience of the implementation of the previous strategies.
The overall goals of ESDP-III were in line with priorities of PRSP (Poverty Reduction Policy and Strategy of the Ethiopian Government) and the Millennium Development Goals, i.e. good quality universal primary education by 2015, meeting qualitative and quantitative demand for manpower, etc.
Over the past couple of years, The Ministry of Education of the FDRE issued a nationwide programme for ensuring quality education in Ethiopian primary schools by introducing six major quality assurance packages which included school improvement programme, curriculum and assessment programme, school management, structure and organization, teachers’ development programme, information technology programme and civic and ethical education programme. The Ministry has now launched General Education Quality Improvement Programme (GEQIP).
School Improvement Programme which is one of the six quality assurance programmes being implemented in elementary and secondary schools of the nation focuses on the creation of a child friendly learning environment both in the class rooms and school compounds. Use of talking words, talking walls, talking rooms, talking compound and child friendly green areas in schools.
Classroom display of models, pictures, graphs and letter – word- picture association models starting from class floor with real model objects like mini- shops, mini-library, first aid kits, hand washing, mirror, weekly active learner photo display according to subject corners for instance for mathematics, language, aesthetics, student teacher ratio, student class ratio and other subjects. Teacher-student ratio, class- student ratio, book-student ratio, water points, gender desegregated wash rooms, and play grounds as well as the pedagogical competitiveness of teachers.
Another major component of education quality Improvement Programme is Curriculum Development and Assessment. Quality improvement implies the correlation of the subject matter with life and vice versa. This is content and instruction which involves the selection of context based content close to daily life of the students enabling them to solve the problems they encounter.
Curriculum development includes preparation and distribution of child friendly text books, manuals, instructional and science tool kits, the curriculum development for school children at first and second cycle primary schools need to take into account the age, needs, experience, maturity and psychological readiness of the students.
School Management, Structure and Organization in quality education imply the formation of a leadership body starting from woreda education office.
Committees composed of representatives who are chairpersons of committees including quality assurance committee, quality audit committee, academic education competition committee, extra-curricular education committee, curriculum committee, procurement committee, tender committee, examination and evaluation committees are established at each school. Members of the parent – teacher associations, representatives of school supervisors association and kebele education and training board members are duly included in a typical school management committee.
Teachers Development Programme is another important component of the quality education programme. In this programme, induction sessions are organized for new teachers so that they will be able to accomplish their duties on equal footing with senior and experienced teachers in the schools who have been teaching in the schools for several years. Continuous professional upgrading is systematically arranged to teachers and in several cases on job trainings and granting of scholarships have been used to encourage teachers with higher level of performance.
Information Technology Programme is an important component of the quality education programme at Ethiopian primary schools. School children in many primary schools in Ethiopia have already started to use mini media facilities and desktop computers.
Civics and Ethical Education Programme as part of quality education is designed to enable students to become responsible citizens who can actively participate in the nation building process of the country. The programme was introduced to help students understand and act on their constitutional obligations and understand the basic development policies of the country from early age.
It is undoubtedly clear that the government and peoples of Ethiopia have attained remarkable and globally acclaimed results in the education sector. However, there are challenges that need to be addressed particularly during the GTP2 period. The following are a few of such challenges.
In many of the secondary schools in the country, extremely critical subjects in natural and physical sciences including mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry are taught in English. Unfortunately most of the teachers and students lack proper level of mastering English as an instructional media. In many cases teachers are forced to translate important concepts into Amharic doing a sever disservice to the essence of the concept under discussion.
Most of the schools built particularly in the urban centres may take pride in their long service but fail to become environmentally friendly learning centres. They are located in areas that seriously obstruct the teaching/learning process.
Lack of good governance throughout the schools and institutes of higher learning in the country are jeopardizing the promotion of quality education.
A number of foreign oriented events held in schools that are culturally incompatible with Ethiopian way of life can distract students from their regular studies by making them focus on side events like Halloween, mother’s day, father’s day, valentine day etc. need to be handled properly and checked for their appropriateness and relevance.
The rate of school drop-outs have been markedly reduced but due to environmental phenomena like El – Nino and La – Nina, children may be forced to stay at home due to drought induced food shortage. This is a current challenge that needs to be addressed.
The prospects for quality education in Ethiopia depend upon the achievements of the overall development pace of the country. Quality education is a process and cannot be achieved in a fixed period of time or only through directives issued by the government. All stakeholders should do their part in promoting education of the best quality in Ethiopia.
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