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The standards in the Ethiopian education system are as alarming as those in other African countries. The education system in Ethiopia requires one to attend primary school for eight years and four years of secondary school. This includes two years in lower secondary and another two years in upper secondary. Like in a few other countries in Africa, children attending public schools do not pay any tuition fees. However, the children/students buy their own books and stationery in order to facilitate the learning process (Milkias, 2011). This is unlike the neighboring county, Kenya, which provides the children with free education inclusive of free books and stationery. The students must also wear school uniform.
In the year 2008, the government allocated 4.3% of its GDP to the education ministry. This was a drop from the 13% allocated in 1992 (Negash, 2006). However, many of the funds come from non-governmental organizations such as United Nations and USAID, and other donors since the country’s economy cannot sustain all its expenditure. The level of illiteracy continues to decrease and the number of children enrolling every year is encouraging. The expansion of schools and other learning institutions in both the urban and the rural areas continues to cause these tremendous improvements.
The main problem in this education system is funds. Since Ethiopia is a developing country, the majority of the students in schools come from average earning and low-income earners. In order to accommodate the high education demand in the country, the government suggests a maximum of fifty students per teacher (Bekalo & Bangay, 2002). Unfortunately, most, if not all, government schoolteachers teach more than fifty students per class. Some classes have more than sixty-five students. This overcrowding of classes strains the teachers, thus jeopardizing the quality of education. Since the students have to provide their own books and stationery, learning becomes a challenge to the students who cannot afford these facilities. These cases are mostly common in the rural areas (Negash, 2006).
Students experience main exams in the eighth and the tenth grades. These exams take place nationally and so the students are set to compete at a national or regional level. Students in public schools have only two chances to take these exams. If they fail the exams twice, they disqualify from taking the same exam in a public school. The next option is enrolling in a private school. Those students who cannot afford the fees end up dropping out of school. Others get discouraged and search for other means of livelihood without any certificate to show that they attended school.
The government can improve the education level in this system through a number of ways. First, they should allocate more funds to the education department. They can do this by asking for more funds from donors or other non-governmental organizations. Increase in funds will solve many other problems. The government should provide books and stationery to all students. It should also employ more students in order to serve the teacher deficit in most government schools. It should build more classes in the existing schools ad more schools in the areas that have high population in order to solve the overcrowding issue. It should offer more chances for re-sitting the exams. Two chances are too few for many students. Many students pass with the third attempt. This will give hope for those whose only hope of learning is attending public schools (Bekalo & Bangay, 2002).
Ethiopia experiences similar problems as those experienced in other African countries. For the government to solve some of these problems, it needs more funds. However, other problems require other forms of effort. For example, encouraging parents to take their girl child to school requires effort and public awareness on the benefits of educating a girl child. Overall, the system continues to improve the lives of Ethiopians at the turn of every year.