Conference name, dates, place

International Conference on Contemporary Development Issues in Ethiopia, August 16-18, 2001, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Document Type


Presentation Date



In Ethiopia the last three decades have been marred with political, social and economic turmoil. These decades have also witnessed a significant decline in the education system of the country. The system has failed miserably to keep up with demand. Among the major contributing factors for the deterioration of the educational system are the growth in enrollment, lack funding for infrastructure and innovation. For example primary school enrollment increased from about 957,300 in 1974/75 to nearly 2,450,000 in 1985/86. (Country Studies, 1996) According to government statistics during the same period primary schools grew from 3,196 to 7,900. These numbers are highly suspect since most of these schools were significantly low in quality and staffed by teachers who had little or no formal training in childhood education. Exasperating the already strained educational system were misguided government policies that lead to the nationalization of private schools, the micromanagement of education forms elementary through college levels and sudden changes in medium of instruction (from Amharic to Oromiffa). Added to these problems is that Ethiopian students will now have to write their examinations for secondary school leaving certificate in the 10th grade instead of two years later. As a result of this change, the 200,000 Grade 10 pupils in the country took school-leaving exams in May 2001. According to the new educational structure, there will be a kindergarten system for children aged 4-6, a primary education from grades 1-8, subdivided into two sections of basic 1-4 and general 5-8 education, a general secondary education from 9-10, a preparatory senior secondary education of two years and a system of vocational and technical education. There are 8,120 primary schools in a country of 62 million people with an enrolment of about three million. Most of these schools are in the urban areas, which have 15 percent of the population. Most of the 1,378 junior and senior secondary schools with an 800,000 enrolment are located in the medium and large towns. There are 17 technical/vocational schools with some 4,000 students. According to observers, "The number of schools, the type and variety of vocations and the quality of training are far below the needs and demands of the country. Most of the 16 special education schools are run by NGOs and are far below the requirements of the community, Most of the schools are ill- equipped and very crowded with over 100 students per class and about 7,000 students per school. Nearly all the senior secondary schools and all the primary schools conduct more than one shift of class. The educational facilities are rudimentary. Most schools have no libraries and adequate laboratories or workshops. The supply and utilization of education technology such as radio, TV, other audio-visuals and computers are virtually non-existent." The effects of such policies would be the next political and economic battlegrounds. Under adverse political, economical, and social conditions how can educated Ethiopians both at home and abroad contribute to the education of the future generations? . Distance education is capable of addressing some of the critical aspects good education in Ethiopia for the following simple reasons: 1. It has the potential to reach a large number of people in very short time 2. It has a built in flexibility that allows targeting specific issues, audiences and in choosing delivery strategy 3. It can be significantly cost effective.