Needless to say that education has its own rewards in terms of creating a better future for individuals and society at large. With improved education, so many other areas, like health, economy, personal attitude and the like are shaped greatly. In short, education has the power to make the world a better place to live.
There are of course plenty of benefits that could be garnered from education. To begin with, primary education is believed to be a gateway to laying the foundation for students' future success.
That is why nations give priority to this level through identifying students inclinations and passion since their early ages. The basic skills which are obtained from elementary schools, are crucial for later days knowledge and invention.
Entering in to elementary school is an initial start for a child to learn his surroundings, develop communication with peers and brings important change in his/her life including independence from parents to some extent.
Students who have gone through an efficient and quality education at their early ages will develop the capacity to withstand challenges that they may encounter in their educational ladders and future careers.
Hence the issue of quality education is not an option rather a mandatory to build competent, responsible and orderly citizens.
In the context of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian government over the last 25 years has made efforts to extend education across all corners of the nation. As a result, more than 28 million students got the access and are attending education in 38,000 public and private schools, as information gathered from the Ministry of Education (MoE) stated.
As this same source indicated, on the last Ethiopian fiscal year alone primary education reached to over 97.6 per cent, while secondary education coverage, which was confined to only some areas for long, has reached 42.5 per cent. In 2015/16 alone over 700,000 students have enrolled into higher education institutions. Including private higher institutions more than 817,000 students have accessed to higher level education, which is currently pushing the figure to nearly one million.
It is clear that higher education is of paramount importance in economic and social development. In this regard, inculcating relevant knowledge and advanced skills enables students gain comprehended skills and knowledge in all aspects.
Higher educational institutions also serve as major research establishment spots that generate, adopt and disseminate knowledge. By giving people access to knowledge and tools for increasing and diversifying their knowledge, these institutions enhance individual's productivity, as well as national capacity and competitiveness.
According to MoE, the introduction of higher education in Ethiopia began in the mid-1960s. However, it is only in the past fifteen years that the higher education has been properly addressed to the wider population due to government’s and development partners’ commitment.
In the past ten years, the government has demonstrated continued commitment to expanding equitable access to quality and relevant higher education, the Ministry released.
Since 2004/05, the number of public higher education institutions has increased, from eight to 36. Private higher education institutions have also expanded and, reaching 99 in total, accommodating around 15 per cent of the total student enrolment until recently.
Even if there are progresses in the proportion of female students enrolment in higher education, there needs to be a further increase. The share of female students at undergraduate enrolment rate in 2015 was 38 per cent with a hopeful progress going on steadily at the moment.
Furthermore, for improving the quality of the teaching and learning process, several initiatives have been implemented. These initiatives include harmonizing of curricula for all of the undergraduate programmes, adopting a modular approach for course delivery and so on. The intention from such improvement moves is to enhance active learning, instituting Quality Assurance and Regulatory offices at each university and equipping libraries and laboratories.
Higher learning institutions have taken steps to improve the relevance of research and technology development for societal and national development needs. They have identified their thematic research areas considering their staff profile, topics of excellence and local needs. In addition, a national forum co chaired by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the MoE has been formed a university-industry linkage to enable the institutions collaborate with industries in their respective development corridors.
One thing that we need to mention at this point is that higher learning institutions are following the 70/30 ratio. Of the total institutions, 70 per cent of the institutions give focus to science, technology, engineering and mathematics whereas 30 per cent for social streams based on the development demand and track of the nation.
Teachers and practitioners of the field commented that there are now the use of state-of-the art technology including high speed internet, instruction through radio and TVs, use of well-equipped laboratories, computer labs and other facilities that are aimed at aiding the teaching learning (instructional) process across the nation.
According to Senior Public Relations Expert in the Ministry, Habtamu Gerbi, more than one million trainees are attending short and long term skills training in nearly 1,000 public and private TVET institutions and colleges this fiscal year. And over 36 public and more than hundred private universities are providing higher education for over 817,000 students now. Moreover, 11 additional universities are now under construction. He added “The number of universities will be over 45 when those universities under construction become operational.”
Some 25 years back the number of universities have been not more than two. He said “Addis Ababa and Haromaya universities had been giving higher education to fewer number of students who scored highest in Ethiopian School Leaving Certificate Examination.”
Ethiopia’s higher education infrastructure has highly developed over the last 15 and plus years. And this rapid growth has come out of a cost, but it is moving forward all the same, the Expert highlighted.
The government of Ethiopia gives much focus to education as it is the best tool to eradicating poverty. “Education is a bullet to kill poverty” the best quote from the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Hence, the government has launched a huge and ambitious education development strategy aimed at cultivating capable citizens who play active role in the economic, social, and political schemes of the country.
Previously universities were merely criticized as being shells. They do not function as universities in helping their surrounding community as they were poorly resourced, and in some cases shoddily built.
State Minister for Higher Education sub-sector with MoE Dr. Samuel Kifle acknowledged that the Ethiopian government is committed to expand higher education in a manner to support the intended sustainable socio-economic development in the country. He said “The Ministry is working with stakes on improving higher learning leadership skill gaps thorough three levels of interventions namely: short-term, mid-term, and long-term plans to narrowing skill gaps in the sector's leadership.”
The State Minister emphasized that higher education institutions need to achieve the mission of developing problem-solving, research-driven, and community service targets. Hence, he added university leaders should revitalize and enhance their skills.
DR. Samuel also added higher education leaders’ commitment plays irreplaceable role to attain the national vision of becoming one among the middle economic income earning status country by 2025. The government is, of course, working to fill the gap towards that end.
As to him, high level leaders’ capacity building at higher education sub-sector is a prime agenda to ensuring higher quality education. Hence the commitment from the side of university leaders and the community is crucial in delivering equitable quality higher education to accelerate the ongoing socio-economic development of the country.
The quality of education is improving from time to time in the nation though still it remains a major concern. Hence, to ensure it, experts in the area suggest the need to have an integrated and joint intervention in assuring quality education.
Education in every sense is one of the fundamental factors of development. No country can achieve sustainable economic development without substantial investment in human capital.
Education enriches people’s understanding of themselves and the world. It improves the quality of their lives and leads to broad economic and social benefits to individuals, the society and beyond.
It also raises people’s productivity and creativity and promotes entrepreneurship and technological advances. In addition it plays a very crucial role in securing economic and social progress through improving fair income distribution.
At the end it is good to acknowledge that the government of Ethiopia has achieved the target set in securing education accessibility at all levels. It has also improved education quality in some areas. But, as it is aforementioned earlier, much remains to be done.
BY YARED GEBREMEDEN