Recognizing the key role education plays in gearing up the development of skilled human power, Ethiopia has been aggressively working to ensure access and quality of education. Most importantly, the nation has given due emphasis on mathematics and science education so as to bolster student performance in those subjects.
In connection with this, Dissemination Seminar on Project for Capacity Development for Improving Learning Achievement in Mathematics and Science Education (LAMS) was held recently. On the occasion, Mathematics and Science Improvement Center (MSIC) Director at Ministry of Education (MoE), Belayneh Tefrra said that Ethiopia is making imperative efforts in the field of education. New educational and training policy was developed and being implemented. Besides, quality assurance package was designed and put into practice. Access, equity and quality of education have shown steady improvements as a result.
He further said that Mathematics and Science Strategy has been developed and implemented. However, the quality of education needed additional enhancement efforts because the performance of students in mathematics and science subjects had not yet reached the expected standards. This was partly because teachers still employed teacher-centered teaching methods and students are passive participants in the classroom. Thus, for a better quality improvement in the subjects, the Ethiopian government has taken the initiative to work with the Japanese government on the issue.
MoE and Japan International Cooperation (JICA) implemented a three years project titled ‘Strengthening Mathematics and Science Education in Ethiopia’ (SMASEE) between 2011 and 2014 to improve mathematics and science lessons for Grade 7 and 8 through In-Service Teacher Training (INSET). SMASEE successfully built an effective INSET system and trained 2,300 teachers in different states.
At the end of SMASEE, it was found that some teachers are reluctant to apply the new teaching approach in the classroom because the national Primary School Leaving Certificate Exam consists of conventional items that test only knowledge and memory. These teachers did not feel the pressure to improve their lessons. It became clear that SMASEE alone was not enough to improve learning outcomes in mathematics and science, so other institutional issues should be simultaneously addressed.
MoE in collaboration with JICA implemented the three year project on capacity development for improving Learning Achievements in Mathematics and Science Education (LAMS) during the reported period.
LAMS project aimed at maintaining quality of curriculum to improve student achievement in mathematics and science education at target grades is enhanced. The project stakeholders are JICA, Ministry of Education of Ethiopia and agencies under it, as well as all state education bureaus.
Expected outputs of the project were enhanced capacity of subject working group members, development of item pools for grades 7 and 8, sample item pools for grades 4 and 10, enhanced capacity of item writers for item banks, workbooks for grades 7 and 8, assessment session modules for INSET, action plan to utilize the developed materials, he said.
But the gains of the project include ten workshops of enhanced capacity development, item setting and workbook were conducted over the three –year project period. In addition, enhanced capacity of the subject working group members has been significantly improved. Almost all participants (97.3) per cent indicated that the LAMS training workshops have made significant impacts on their skills and confidence of setting good test items.
He further indicated that item pools for grades 7 and 8, sample item pools for grade 4 and 10 have been constructed. All subject working groups have accomplished the target number of items (1000- each) for grades 7 and 8. For grades 4 and 10 over 200 items per subject were developed. Through the ten workshops a total of 12, 042 question items were developed.
Capacity of personnel who worked on the item banks has been enhanced along with fellow working groups. Most of the training participants viewed the training as valuable and said it impacted their item development skills and their – efficiency positively. A study shows that no significant improvement regarding consistency, he said.
JICA Ethiopia Office ,Chief Representative Ken Yamada said that as development partner of the ministry of education, JICA is closely working to enhance the quality of basic mathematics and science education through implementing successive technical cooperation programs. LAMS project which was implemented for the last three years to improve assessment of learning outcome in mathematics and science education is a case in point to show JICA’S continuous commitment to its share to improve basic education in Ethiopia .
He further said that during the project period More than 35 professional including senior officials attended training in Japan to achieve outputs of LAMS project. The training was successfully conducted for relevant senior officials education bureaus. “I believe the training and exposure in Japan provided an immense experience which can be contextualized and utilized in disseminating the outcome of LAMS in Ethiopia .” MoE has very good reputation in successfully scaling up best practice from JICA projects, he added .
According to JICA document, the purpose of its cooperation in Ethiopia's education sector is to improve the accessibility to secondary education and to strengthen the quality of education for all students in the country. By working with the federal government, JICA has undergone many projects in educational capacity building for both teachers and school directors. The Project for Strengthening Mathematics and Science Education in Ethiopia (SMASEE) started in 2011 with the objective to build the capacity of grade 7 & 8 mathematics and science teachers through a series of trainings.
The goal is that once the teachers are trained they can implement more practical, proactive academic activities in the classroom that will improve the quality of education for all students. A unique aspect of the project includes using locally available resources for educational materials and experiments. The project works with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education and national educational trainers to change the educational system's paradigm from the typical "chalk and talk" approach to a more student-centered approach.
The project was scheduled to end in 2014 and its goal was that each teacher would be fully trained and equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to conduct more interactive mathematics and science classes.
BY ALAZAR SHIFERAW