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Ethiopia has received recognition for its efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) regarding universal primary school enrolment. Although the country’s achievement in the education sector has been commendable, several challenges still remain. One of these challenges that have now started to receive attention is the quality of education that students are receiving. This challenge goes hand-in-hand with mass enrolment of students in schools where there aren’t enough qualified teachers, materials or a suitable environment for the teaching and learning process.
Some have suggested that a system of mass enrolment without proper and concrete plan to effectively educate students does more harm than good.
“When there is mass enrolment for the sake of enrolment, and when due attention is not given to standards, the result will be a generation of uneducated ‘educated’ people. This means, millions of birr have been invested to mold the minds of the youth to achieve mediocrity, but even mediocrity would be a huge achievement,” said a teacher who requested anonymity.
The problem with education begins at primary school and extends to higher education institutions. It is a cycle that repeats itself.
“Students that pass through such a flawed system where the control and evaluating mechanisms are not effective, will move on to study and receive their degree, Masters degree or even their PhD, but their ability to perform as professionals or their ability to compete with others will be nonexistent. And the unfortunate reality is, these people will go on to teach those below them and the only thing they are able to teach is what the system has taught them when they were in school. It is a vicious cycle.”
Many say that the issue of quality education has brought higher institutions like universities to its knees. These institutions are no longer places of knowledge that are supposed to produce well trained and skilled professionals by any standard.
“When I joined Addis Ababa University as a first year student, I was excited beyond anything. During my high school years I did not feel as though my limits had been tested enough and I wanted to find something more and that is what I expected to get at the University. But after a few months, I can honestly say my ambitions were completely shattered,” said Selam Bekele, a second year student at Addis Ababa University.
Usually, it is the public schools that come under fire regarding quality and standards. Students that go to these schools are thought to be from low income families that can’t afford private school fees. On the other hand, for those who can afford it, private schools have been a safe haven for their children. When compared to public schools, private schools offered better standards, albeit for much more money. But now, many complain that as school fees for private education soar, the quality is falling.
“Nowadays, the perception that a private education is better than a public one is fading. Sure, there are some private schools that still respect standards but the majority of them are performing well below average. I would say government schools are better at this point,” said another teacher who teaches at one of the private schools in Addis. He said that the system does not encourage excellence in students, other than the exceptional ones who succeed because of their own efforts, most almost never reach their potential to become something great.
As the situation garners more attention, it remains to be the hope of many parents and students that schools will start to function according to standard and provide worthwhile education that will help both individuals and the country.