Conference name, dates, place

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

Document Type


Presentation Date



This paper examines the challenges and promises that accompanied the introduction of modern education into two non-modern societies. The study is motivated by an interest to fathom some of the causes and sources of Ethiopia’s multifaceted social and economic problems. Taking as its point of departure the view that, over the long run, evolutionary progress of societies should be the norm, the study seeks to identify the impediments that have blocked such a normal pace of progress in Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s early experience in building up its education system is compared and contrasted with that of Japan’s. The roles played by several factors in the modernization experiences of the two countries are identified and analyzed. The roots of Ethiopia’s problems are shown to go back centuries. Mistakes of both omission and commission had been made at critical junctures in the country’s history. In recognition of the cumulative and debilitating impacts that these mistakes have had on the country, the study takes a hard look at the roles of institutions and the quality of national leadership during the formative years of modern Ethiopia. The paper concludes with a personal reflection on the nature of the modernization dilemma that the country presently faces.