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Unisa online - Ethiopian schooling reflects African situation

Prof Teshome Nekatibeb

“African governments need to restructure education systems to provide equality of opportunity to all children.”

This was one of the concluding statements of Prof Teshome Nekatibeb from the University of Addis Ababa who presented a thought-provoking lecture on Schooling and Inequality: Focus on Learning Achievements and Access in Ethiopia. He was hosted by the College of Graduate Studies.
Prof Nekatibeb examined how the mass expansion of education in Ethiopia resulted in inequality, but he also stressed that the Ethiopian situation was an African situation because the Ethiopian population formed a substantial portion of Africa’s population.

His report demonstrated that there are disparities among sexes, regions, and geographical locations in schooling with reference to access to academic achievement. This finding, he said, was not unique to Ethiopia alone.

Focusing on the Ethiopian situation, Prof Nekatibeb said reasons for the mass expansion are based on the Human Capital Theory, which says that education provides the type of labour force necessary for industrial development and economic growth and required technologies; the Modernisation Theory, which states that society cannot develop until the majority of its population holds modern values and attitudes, and that the socialisation which takes place in schools is of extreme importance; and the Political Theory, which views education as a change agent, and a means for liberation, self-determination and autonomy.

These theories, said Prof Nekatibeb, speak to mass expansion of schooling as the answer, but the very act of expansion has led to inequality. The inequalities faced in Ethiopian schooling range from unequal treatment in terms of curriculum, treatment of sexes and instructional time, disparity in results and learning achievements, disparity in the value of education to life, and the effect on Ethiopian traditional cultures as western culture is valued higher, and unequal treatment based on geographical locations. “There is also political inequality as education for socialisation training of cadres and creation of national consciousness certainly perpetuates or preserves the power of the ruling elite.”

What are some of the possible reasons for the inequality based on the mass expansion of education? According to Prof Nekatibeb, it is the complex context of Ethiopia in terms of ethnic groups, regions, sexes, and locations, historic belief in education for development, and the possible failure to equally address diversity.

In order to address the inequality, Prof Nekatibeb suggested that governments need to have a willingness to understand what exists and the willingness to reform the existing structure. He said there have to be high standards in African schools, and that bad performance has to change. “This goes hand in hand with affording all learners with equal opportunities.”

He said that governments should strive towards equal access to educational facilities, equal treatment of social groups, similar curriculums, and equality in conditions leading to similar attainment, performance and results among social groups equal in benefits from schooling.

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