Quality, Access in Education Diverge



In the past few years, Ethiopian children enjoyed the better accessibility of schools in three to four kilometres radius from their living areas, the ideal primary school coverage overreaching 100pc. This expansion, however, seems not to be serving the purpose in the creation of the future, rather end up being the hallmark of quality thirst. Experts argue that with little attention for basic skills, creative elements and paradoxical curricula, it will become harder to see fruits in days ahead, reports YARED TSEGAYE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.


Tesfamichael Zewdu is a 24-year-old graduate of English Language & Literature from Addis Abeba University. Having graduated last year, he has found a teaching job at one of the private schools in the capital, where he teaches English to fifth and sixth graders.

Already, he is disillusioned by the education system.  He believes that most of his pupils are not driven, and they are doing a disservice by the education system.

“It is hard to say that the students have been properly schooled before reaching these levels,” he says. “I may be new to the teaching profession, but it has not been hard to gauge that the drive for creativity and learning has not been instilled in them.”

Tesfamichael’s views echo the findings of a recent report released by the Global Partnership for Education under the World Bank Group. Focused on the first cycle of primary education, which is up to the fourth grade where students are expected to have functional literacy skills, the report finds that there is a weak level of transition to the next education cycle.

Of the number of students who enter grade-one, only 60pc were able to enter secondary level education. The Ministry of Education’s (MoE) figures also show low enrollment rates that stands at 30pc, according to 2017 data.

The culprits are absent and unqualified teachers and lack of data-supported learning, the report says. Around 22pc of teachers intentionally miss classes, and eighth-grade teachers’ grasp of mathematics is below the required levels, the report adds.

The World Bank’s report shows that although primary and secondary education enrollment has quadrupled in the past two decades, quality remains an issue to be addressed.

The government’s figure tells a similar tale. Repetition in primary schools – grades one to eight – has increased from 4.9pc in 2009 to 7.2pc in 2016/17. Dropout rates have also increased, reaching 11.65pc in primary schools.

This is despite improved accessibility to education. There are 28 million children in around 38,000 schools and half a million teachers and support staff. Enrolment at all levels has improved substantially.

The primary level gross enrollment ratio (GER) – the number of children that have enrolled regardless of age as a proportion of official school age, which in Ethiopia is between seven and 14 years old – has increased from 83pc almost a decade ago to 140.8pc last year.

“We have made huge investments in improving education’s accessibility thus far. But now we should look closer at the quality at every level of the system,” Tilaye Gete (PhD), Minister of Education, told a gathering at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN-ECA) two weeks ago.

The Ministry is on its fifth edition of Education Sector Development Programme (ESDP), which will expire in 2020. The education sector’s share of the current federal budget accounts for about 43 billion Br.

About 18pc of students drop out at an early age with only about 60pc attending high schools, according to a report conducted by the Education Global Practice of the World Bank.

“These dropouts are concerning, with developing regions having lagged behind,” says Birhanu Moreda, General Education Development director-general at the Ministry. “This has been an issue regarding pre-primary enrollment.”

For an education expert, Belay Hagos (PhD), director of the Institute of Educational Research at the Addis Abeba University, the issue of quality is a symptom of an education system that has not progressed with time.

“The system does not differentiate between ‘learning to read’ and ‘reading to learn’. The system has been unable to produce students with a reading culture,” he says.

Although the World Bank’s report emphasised the situation of the primary education system, it acknowledges that there are similar problems in the secondary levels too.

Samuel Workneh, a 31-year-old geography teacher of seniors at Dagmawi Menelik II school, attests to this.

“I have been in this profession for the past decade, and I still have a hard time understanding the education system – it is uncoordinated,” he says. “For instance, the geography textbook has data that has not been updated since 2009.”

Students such as Nardos Elias, a 12th grader at Hill Side School, one of the 1,631 private schools in Addis Abeba, of which 919 are private kindergartens, does not disagree.

“The curriculum is not inviting, and it barely encourages us to want to join college,” Nardos says.

The Oromia Region Educational Bureau is another one facing such challenges. This year, it has evaluated 3,348 schools in 336 districts and found that 85.5pc of them were below the minimum standard in terms of quality, including teachers proficiency, educational materials and peer-to-peer learning modality, according to Ephrem Tessema, deputy head of the Bureau. These were part of the 16,500 schools, 14,000 of which are primary, that the region has for an estimated 10 million people.

At the national level, only 0.064pc of the schools scored over 90 points.

“We need 60 billion Birr to roll out the quality packages the schools need,” Ephrem told Fortune.

A national quality education roadmap for a 15-year strategy is being drawn up and is expected to complete in two years. This has also been accompanied by the revision of the current curricula.

“There will be mandatory revisions of the current curricula. Research should guide the gaps in basic quality education delivery,” Birhanu says. “Quality is a policy-issue for us.”

In trying to address such issues, the Ministry of Science & Technology (MoST) introduced a virtual library for use in secondary level education in keeping with the Education Ministry’s curricula in physics, chemistry and biology recently.

Likewise, last month, a  total of 454 million dollars was pledged to Ethiopia to improve the quality of education. It was made by six donors, where 300 million dollars came from the  International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank.

It was part of a support to the General Education Quality Improvement Program for Equity (GEQIP-P) that will be implemented from 2018 to 2022.

“The curricula should be changed at the primary cycle of education to one that includes fewer subjects and focuses on basic skills such as reading and writing,” says Belay. “It should also be necessary for teachers to have pedagogical training.”



By YARED TSEGAYE
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER

Published on Jun 30,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 948]


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