Ethiopia is well on its way to achieving primary education for all, a target of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG).
During 2009 and 2010 the Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) for primary school reached 95.9 percent and during the same year the Net Enrolment Rate (NER) stood at 89.3 per cent. Even though work is being done to expand access to education in the country, 58 percent of the population remains illiterate. The problem doesn’t end there, though the numbers of those enrolled in primary schools is very high, the education students receive remains of very low quality, making the increase in enrollment pointless.
On June 30th, 2011, Initiative Africa a non-profit organization was awarded over 10 million birr for a project called “Support to Quality Education for All.” Twenty sub grantees were also awarded through a competitive process. The panel discussion and an exhibition, which were well attended with over 1000 attendants and visitors were held on Thursday October 25, 2012 at the National Theater to discuss the quality of education and learn of the activities undertaken by the grantees. The event was also a platform for the sub grantees to show how they have used their grant money to better education in their respective areas of operation.
Project “Support to Quality Education for All” focused on three dimensions; improving the content knowledge of teachers, and the performance of students in mathematics and science, reducing the lack of environmental awareness by establishing green schools, supporting marginalized groups like girls and those with disabilities in accessing education and employment.
“The recent package that allows 70 percent of students to pursue natural science fields in higher education, while 30 percent pursue social science fields, has proven to be effective. The focus on science and mathematics is very important because it is vital for the development of a country. In order for students to be interested in those subjects they need to be given quality education,” said Dilamo Otore, head of Addis Ababa Education Bureau.
In her intervention, Anneka Knutsson, Head Development Cooperation of the Swedish Embassy, noted the importance of education for breaking the cycle of poverty, and stressed the need to fight poverty with education. No educated country is poor, she said and added that an educated country will demand good governance and accountability from its elected officials. That is why, she said that the Swedish government has been keen to support such programs which can make a difference in reducing poverty.
It was stated that some of the key problems facing primary and secondary math education in Ethiopia include a lack of motivated teachers, lack of availability of teaching aids and learning facilities, and not enough training for teachers.
The panel discussion focused on areas of management and leadership in schools, systematic approaches to quality education, opening the door to quality science education, using Information Communication Technology (ICT) for quality teaching and learning, and the reason why there are very few women in the fields of science and technology. Dr. Girma, the panel facilitator, stressed that,basic arithmetic, reading and writing may get you somewhere, but not everywhere. He said that the higher ones educational attainment is, the better the chances of creating opportunities for oneself. And the better the opportunities are, the better people quality of life is. Almost all panelists while acknowledging the number of children with access to education is growing, they said that it is equally vital that students are given an education of good quality. The panelists, in one way or another highlighted the prerequisites for quality education, including qualified and motivated teachers, active learning techniques, a locally-relevant curriculum that captures the interest and enthusiasm of learners, and respect for and engagement with local communities and cultures.
With the support of the Swedish Government Grant, Initiative Africa will continue supporting the important work of facilitating the introduction of quality in Ethiopia.