Education in Ethiopia and Its Emphasis on Diverse Growth


ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — An African country with a population of over 93 million, Ethiopia has expanded tremendously over the past few decades. With over 25 million students enrolled in schools throughout the country, education in Ethiopia has experienced an influx in learners over the past decade.

The nation’s ongoing prioritization of education culminates in its 2016-2020 “Education Sector Plan,” which seeks to improve schooling systems across the country within a four-year span. The plan specifically outlines five primary priorities that the country seeks to uphold.

  1. It hopes to provide equal opportunities and access for all students, including historically marginalized and disadvantaged groups.
  2. It seeks to deliver quality education that meets the needs of all students, regardless of age.
  3. It strives to develop citizens who will contribute successfully to a thriving Ethiopian social, political, economic, and cultural environment.
  4. It emphasizes a desire for promoting effective leadership.
  5. It looks to foster an educational experience wherein students share common values and embrace diversity.

Highlighting the role that education can play for both the economically disadvantaged and socially marginalized individuals, Ethiopia’s educational development focuses specifically on the role of girls and women in schools. Women have experienced a significant growth in representation throughout the schooling system.

While in 2007, only 84.5 percent of girls were enrolled in primary school, this number peaked in 2015, with 97.2 percent enrolled. As evinced, then, by both the educational mantra conveyed in the “Education Sector Plan” and their continual growth for education in women, the nation embodies and embraces diversity in schooling.

Furthermore, while Ethiopia does not constitutionally mandate free and compulsory education, its legal system advocates for the rights of students. By requiring 6 years of free education, the nation manages to ensure that all of its citizens are imbued with at least primary education such that they can succeed.

While this number suggests that the country can still make strides toward ensuring access to education beyond the primary years, the numbers suggest that students continue their education at a fairly high rate. As of 2014, 4.2 million Ethiopian children were enrolled in middle school, and 638,000 were enrolled in high school.

Functioning under an 8-2-2 system, students spend the vast majority of their time enrolled in primary school. Only two years of middle school and two years of high school are incorporated into the educational system in Ethiopia. Although an interesting system, it ultimately has proven challenging. At the moment, only 39 percent of Ethiopian citizens maintain a capability to read, rendering it one of the nations with the lowest literacy rates in the world.

Likewise, in terms of accessibility, children living in urban areas maintain higher degrees of educational advancement and improvement. For students living in poverty, the cultural transition toward education, which tends to appeal predominantly to the middle class, can prove challenging.

Indeed, education in Ethiopia struggles with a significant imbalance between urban, middle-class students and poor, rural students. This disparity, again, is one which their “Education Sector Plan” seeks to address.

For those students who do decide to pursue tertiary education, a number of universities and colleges exist in the nation. The oldest, founded in 1950, is Addis Ababa University (AAU). Educating over 48,000 students, AAU is located in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

The university boasts providing its students with the opportunities to study social sciences, humanities, journalism, business, economics, law, education, natural and computational sciences, veterinary medicine, health sciences and art.

Ultimately, then, it is incumbent upon the global community to continue to provide education in Ethiopia with the support it needs to thrive. Only then can the individuals living in this bustling, vibrant country experience the sustained improvement and global success guaranteed by schooling and education.

Emily Chazen

Photo: Flickr


About Author

Emily Chazen

Emily writes for The Borgen Project from Haverford, PA. Her academic interests include English, religion, ethics, the criminal justice system, psychology, anthropology, and sociology. Emily's grandmother is a Cuban refugee, and her grandfather is a Holocaust survivor. Because of this, she is extremely interested in how ethical leadership and dedication can allow us to better the communities we live in and those around the world!

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