Ethiopia is marking World Tourism Day both at the national and regional level with the hope of reinvigorating the nation's tourism industry decapitated by the advent of COVID-19 virus in the world.
Modern tourism is not only about traveling for amusement or adventure. The range of advantages from tourism is not even limited to generating foreign currency that this country badly needs. Tourism also encompasses tours with the objective of promoting cross cultural educational tours targeting young students and their instructors across the world.
Education is not just going by the book or listening to lectures in classes or seminar rooms. If students from the neighboring countries visit Ethiopia or if Ethiopian students pay educational visits, they would not only start to count the countries they have visited but will have a broader opportunity to understand and report on who people beyond their territories live and work, the scope of their culture and history and more.
Educational tours are not limited to travels beyond the territories of Ethiopia. Domestic tourism could be blended with theoretical studies that are provided from lectures in class giving students thee chance to verify their theoretical knowledge in practical real life experience. Ethiopia's natural biodiversity provides an excellent research area for students pursuing specific subjects like plant sciences, zoology, geology and several other areas while students of social sciences including history can be fascinated by their findings on such educational trips that would help them to beef up their knowledge on any subject matter. Ethiopia's natural and social sciences suffer from being highly theoretical and bookish local educational tours could help to fill the gap.
Ethiopia's 50 universities can benefit from exchange of educational that could be arranged with their counterparts across the world. Exchange of educational visits between Ethiopian public universities and universities around the world could be arranged by exploiting sabbatical leaves provided to professors and researchers in Ethiopia and institutes of higher learning abroad. For instance the relationship that was established between the Ethiopian government and the American Point Four Program resulted in the establishment of the former Haromaya College of Agriculture through a mentoring program from Oklahoma State University.
Promoting educational tourism provides an excellent opportunity for enhancing quality teaching and learning process in Ethiopia. It would help our public and private universities as well as secondary and elementary schools to tune in their education programs with international standards while they will also contribute to international catalogue of academic and research programs.
How can the above mentioned suggestions take off? I have the opinion that all the universities in Ethiopia need to get into academic exchange programs with other universities in other African countries while similar protocols could be signed between Ethiopian universities in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
It is to be stressed that education is universal and needs to be promoted through reciprocal educational tour operations that could bring about multiple benefits for all institutions who participate in such programs. In a world that is plagued with multiple sets of protectionism, unfounded biases, conflicts and wars, educational tourism could play a pacifying role in the midst of groundless animosities between countries.
Educational tourism will help to reestablish anew the friendship and solidarity between Ethiopia and many countries around the world, promoting mutual respect and amicable people to people relations.
Ethiopian universities have all the capacity to establish a national coordinating body that can facilitate the startup of multiple university exchange programs that are well planned and supported by the government and concerned sector offices. Foreign relations sections of universities can establish funds for a reward system to encourage outstanding or well preforming students to pay visits to various universities abroad.
For elementary and secondary schools in Ethiopia, targeted educational tours and visits need to be part of a compulsory practical education that children should receive during their elementary and secondary education levels. This is particularly important inn helping students to make decisions on their future career.
Planning is an important component of well-targeted educational tourism as a value adding process to make education as a lifelong memorable activity that needs to be conducted. On the other hand such tours need to be documented in such a way that they could be instrumental in augmenting for gaps in practical demonstration of theoretical lectures.
Educational tourism that is arranged for students in regular schools and universities will enable them to have access to traditional skills and knowledge in rural Ethiopia and will give them an opportunity to blend modern and traditional skills practiced by farmers and rural craftsmen to make researches on technologies that can be utilized in rural Ethiopia.
One can conclude that the comparative advantages that Ethiopia has in promoting educational tourism is at its infancy and needs to be exploited through a sustained national coordination among all stakeholders.