22 September 2017

Ethiopia: Refreshing the Dynamic Educational System

It is well known that education is the lifeline of our society and an educated citizenry, educated youths are the best guarantees of sustained development and progress of the country. Ethiopia is now in a state of transformation in many respects, and it is imperative that, today's youth should be prepared in a manner that can sustain the pace of advancement the society is undergoing with ever increasing preparation and training. Hence, the curriculum of some years ago, albeit revised in line with the most recent advancements, must always be checked and made to adapt to the ongoing pace of development and transformation.

As the society transforms, the generation must be armed with the equally advanced knowledge and technical know how of the day. Our schools and our teachers as well must be updated and that is what is being discussed and undertaken these days amongst school communities.

Teachers through out the country are now engaged in extended discussions on the major challenges that they face in the administration of education, and how we are supposed to cope with them. Teachers are the key actors in the teaching learning process, in the creation of a citizenry that are conscious of the trajectory of the country and know about what challenges the country faces in its multiple national and international engagements. They must know the exact situation of the society and what they continue to face on a daily basis and deal with it.

Teachers are the creators of the leaders of tomorrow and there is this generational relay of duties and responsibilities. Such transition can only be carried out smoothly and guaranteed to succeed only if we take sufficient care in identifying our problems along the way, anticipate them, if and when we can and figure out the most appropriate and effective remedies. There is no room for surprise and there should not be the occasion to be exposed to dangers that threaten the matrix of our society.

Ethiopia is a country with a multiplicity of interest groups, a plurality of nations, nationalities and peoples, a country full of diversities of all types and natures. Our educational outlook, our books, our methods of instruction must take into account all these sensitive facets and realities.

There is no room for 'one size fits all' outlook and no room for intolerance of the diverse. There are no monolithic, permanent solutions to problems and the educational system needs to be a reflection of such continuously dynamic reality. It must live up to such diversity and heterogeneity.

That is why it is basic to focus on the way education is imparted, the way the curriculum is conceived and drafted, and how it is applied. The approach and the philosophy that carve the minds of these millions of youths that are the adults of tomorrow are fundamental. It is at a very early age that certain frames of mind are made; among the basic theories and concepts that students must grow with are their sensitivity for nature and the conservation of the environment, their sensitivity for hygiene and medical issues, their sensitivity for tolerance and acceptance of other people's opinions, beliefs and ideas. They need to learn how to respect others and appreciate the values of others; and not rush to judgment or dismiss others' ideas as worthless, nurturing only on their own ideas.

In a society like ours, we need to build up on our diversity as strength rather than weakness, and not strive to cancel diversities in the name of 'forced unity'. There is need for consensus on overall direction of where the country is bound and how to attain such targets, such as the GTP aims. But this can only be done on the basis of accepting diversity in our outlook and have or develop consensus on the need to grow and transform through hard and concerted work. We know that there are no shortcuts to attain high level of development; and every one must be convinced of this and work on what unites us as a nation rather than focus on what may divide us. Personal interests must not make us lose sight of the bigger picture, the one that defines our existence.

Our natural differences are there to stay and cannot be suppressed by force, because they are deep. What we need to tell the current young generation is that we need to capitalize on our diversity and celebrate it, and not discourage or dismiss or even disparage diversity.

Diversity is beauty, diversity is strength, and in that sense we must consider ourselves as lucky because we can never be a monotonous nation with everything or everybody the same or taken for granted.

Our federal system must be the basis of celebration of our diversity because every entity has its own way of administering itself in an autonomous manner, diverse but equal.

Hence, the educational system is here key because it creates the mentality of the kids and nurtures them. If they are imparted to respect others in their diversity, there will be no room for intolerance and fanaticism against diversity. It becomes natural for them to live with it without any surprises when they grow to adulthood. Whatever decisions they are bound to make will take into account such reality. Gone are the days when there were 'first class citizens' and 'second class citizens', and if there are residuals of such mentality today, they should be fought and eradicated completely, condemned and cursed.

Once there were racial classifications in many societies around the world such as the Republic of South Africa in the apartheid system and the pre-1960s USA and the colonized countries in Africa. Those days are now gone for good. There is no return to the past.

Equality among peoples is one of the bases of modern society, equality before the law, and equality of opportunities. The same is true here where all nations, nationalities and peoples are equal and are treated equally before the law; and this is true in terms of resource allocation and planning by government. This is true in terms of self administration. The constitution guarantees it.

This concept is very important to be deeply embedded in the psyche of the youths from the very beginning. Other concepts to be introduced at a very early age is the rejection of corruption and corrupt practices.

Corruption, nepotism, rent seeking and related evil facets of administration should be well understood and banned from the firmaments of the youths so that it is out of question to resort to it. It should be despised, rejected, and loathed.

Students who copy exam results from other students, students who do not do their homework themselves and rely on others, and students who do not actively and confidently participate in class activities will not be good citizens later on. They will have some psychological constraints from developing their full potential. In a world that is transformed thanks to the technological breakthroughs, we need to instruct our youths to make the best youth of these gadgets, and the issue of equality of gender and how to avoid gender stereotypes must also be a priority of our studies at an early age.

Gender bias as ethnicity or nationality or religious bias must be confronted and fought, defeated at an early age. These are issues that must be settled soon.

The discussions and deliberations that teachers will hold these days will have several agenda; but it is clear that these above stated issues are among the core ones. How do we go about incorporating all these serious national issues in our teaching learning process and how do we fight various forms of bias that are hard to die as they have been part and parcel of a society that has a long history of negative attitudes to certain ideas and mentality.

The point to make is that the past system of values has now completely changed and there is no space for authoritarianism nor dictatorship. People are now free and there is an air of freedom everywhere at every level. People are not disrupted from thinking their own way, use their own local language and celebrate their own values, but this should be mainstreamed and given high value and celebrated. That is why our day to day method of study must heed these superior values that characterize our nation, our country. If we want to have a strong country growing fast and eliminating poverty and ignorance from our society, we need to carve simple but strict rules to be respected that prepare the ground for the future society. The maturity of our mentality today guarantees the peace and fast growth of tomorrow. And it should all begin at the elementary level where children are white papers. The earlier they are indoctrinated and formed the better for the successive engagements.

Understanding one another is key in any endeavor. A house with solid foundation is bound to last long and endure. A house that is made on shallow foundation does not last and is shaky.

Teachers have immense responsibility of carving the future generation and they need to be well armed so that they can execute their duties properly and efficiently. The same dose of responsibility lies on the part of parents as well and they too need to be well aware of what is going on with their kids and their education. The stakes are too high to be taken lightly and we need to be firm in these duties. All stakeholders must work hard together to save the future and the country but also in a wider perspective the planet itself.

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