SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS SECONDARY EDUCATION IN ETHIOPIA

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1 SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS SECONDARY EDUCATION IN ETHIOPIA An Option paper presented at the Technical Workshop on Science and Mathematics Secondary Education in Africa (SEIA) Follow-up Program. Eshetu Asfaw Dilamo Otore Tsfaye Ayele Zinabu Gebremariam January 29 February 06, 2009 Tunis

2 1. BACKGROUND Ethiopia has a population of over 78 million - 85% of which is rural and dependent on rain fed subsistence agriculture. The country is one of the poorest in the world and the government of Ethiopia has recognized that education is the only way out of this very perilous situation. Therefore, it has fully committed itself to expand education at all levels. Since 1997, Ethiopia has embarked on an ambitious Education Sector Development Program (ESDP) with the major objective of improving quality, relevance, equity and efficiency of education, and expanding access with an achievement goal of universal primary education by Presently rapid economic growth is being witnessed in the various sectors of the country. Such an ongoing economic growth of the country demands highly qualified and competent professionals in the field of science and technology. As a result, the government of Ethiopia has placed a great emphasis on the importance of science education as an essential component for development needs of the society. The underlying assumption for this strategy is that science and technology are the bedrocks for the economic growth of the country. To this effect, the primary and secondary school enrollment in Ethiopia has increased by 7 and 3 fold, respectively in the last 15 years or so (see Table I). In its unprecedented expansion of Higher education the total enrollment of University students has raised from 17, 000 in 1991 to over 200,000 in 2008 over ten fold increase in about a decade and half. Given the magnitude of the increase in primary education on one hand, and the expansion of higher education on the other, secondary education in Ethiopia holds a very pivotal position. It absorbs the young children that come out of the primary education and produces competent young boys and girls for Higher Education. Moreover, the country has recognized that the development of the country very much depends on the development of science and technology, and hence on Science and Mathematics education. Ethiopia has recently designed a strategy through which 70% of the university enrollment would be in science and technology. This scenario has created a unique and challenging situation whereby Science and Mathematics (S&M) secondary education is put to the spotlight. On the other hand S&M secondary education faces numerous challenges that call for immediate improvements. The objective of this short paper is to present some analysis of the status of S&M secondary education in Ethiopia and suggest options that will lead to improvement. Table 1. Enrollments of students at all levels of Education in1991 and 2007 Levels Enrollment in 1991 Enrollment in 2007 Boys Girls Total Boys Girls Total Primary 1,200, ,242 2,063,635 7,582,158 6,418,573 14,000,731 Secondary 256, , , , ,621 1,393,865 TVET 2,506 61,415 62, ,557 Higher Education 15, , ,221 41, ,304 2

3 Present Status of Science and Mathematics Secondary Education in Ethiopia The Ethiopian education system consists of two cycles of primary education; two years of general secondary education followed by either University preparatory program or Technical Vocational Education & Training (TVET) (see structure in Fig. 1). Mathematics is offered separately all the way from KG through secondary schools, and science is given as environmental science (integrated form) in the first cycle of primary (Grades 1 to 4). However, it is offered as integrated science in Grades 5 & 6, and separately as Biology, Chemistry and Physics thereafter. Age Grade/ Year 23 V IV III II I TVET Level - 5 TVET Level - 4 TVET Level- 3 TVET Level - 2 TVET Level KG Fig.1 The Structure of the Ethiopian Education System Science education in Ethiopia is believed to suffer from lack of qualified teachers, shortage of teaching material and equipment, etc. and Mathematics education has had a bad reputation because many students do not like the subject and many students find it difficult. Findings of National Learning Assessment carried out every four years show that student performance in S&M is very low. It is also believed that failure in Science and Mathematics contributes to repeating class years and eventually leads to dropping out of school. The root causes of these problems were indicated in the recent need assessment and 3

4 curriculum evaluation studies which relate to teachers and students complaints on the existing S&M curricula. The findings suggest that:- The existing curriculum encourages passive learning, There is grave shortage of facilities Class sizes are often large (up to 120) that make learning inconvenient Mathematics and Science are perceived as rather difficult subjects Most of the contents are not presented in their simple forms and are beyond the understanding level of students. Moreover, they do not reflect local values and culture Continuous assessment methods and active learning are not given enough emphases. The current national examinations do not encourage competition among students and do not add quality because the grading system is Norm Referenced. These and other related problems have resulted in very high rates of failure in S&M subjects contributing significantly to drop out rates. Reform Initiatives of Ethiopian Secondary Education under Development and Implementation In order to address the problems, the Ethiopian Education System is going through reforms, as part of the Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) initiative that all sectors in the country are going through) which are on piloting phase momentarily to be fully implemented by the end of At the same time there is the education reform initiative going on. This education reform mainly focuses on improving the quality of education at all levels. To this end a program called General Education Quality Improvement Program (GEQIP) supported by the World Bank - is developed and its first phase is under implementation. This program focuses on:- (i) Curriculum, Textbooks and Assessment and Inspection; (ii) Teacher Development Program (TDP), including English Language Quality Improvement Program (ELQIP); (iii) School Improvement Program (SIP), including school grants; (iv) Management and Administration Program (MAP), including Education Management Information System (EMIS) and (v) Program Coordination, including monitoring and evaluation activities. The contribution of the reform to the science and mathematics curriculum so far include:- Competency based approach New syllabus format have been developed Minimum Learning Competency (MLC) is organized into themes or competency areas Contents reduced and simplified New contents introduced Active learning methods designed Qualitative learning and peer instruction has been included Overarching issues are integrated Scientific enquiry and life skills have been included These changes are believed to bring about positive long-term impacts on Science and Mathematics Secondary Education. 4

5 2. GOALS In light of the shortcoming discussed in the preceding section the following goals, set for the next five years proposed to avert the situation. 2.1 Maths and Science Secondary Education should be geared towards producing students with the following graduate profiles:- the necessary background in science and mathematics that would enable them to pursue technical vocational training and/or university education in the country or abroad; knowledge and skills in science and mathematics that would enable them to join the world of work or take the opportunity of entrepreneurship after some kind of short term training; the appropriate level of science and technology literacy to make them citizens that are capable of thinking critically to solve basic scientific problems and responsible for their environment; 2.2 In order to attain these graduate profiles the following actions will be taken with respect to curriculum, teaching/learning, assessment, etc. Improve the quality of training program by revising teacher education curricula at least once in the following five years after the initial curriculum development exercise. Establish in-service training institution at federal level to enhance S&M teachers professional development. Develop new pedagogical approaches to improve science and mathematics instruction in the schools. Update existing curriculum and teachers learning methods with contemporary knowledge and technology. The present Norm Referenced grading system in National Examinations shall be changed to Criterion Referenced The existing teacher education curriculum shall be improved to suit the changes made in the school curriculum Pre-service S&M Teacher Education Quality Improvement program shall be implemented with respect to:- Selection of Teacher Candidates Practicum Experience for Teacher Candidates Module Development Higher Diploma Programme (HDP) English Language Improvement Centres (ELICs) Alternative Basic Education (ABE) 2.6. In-service S&M Teacher Education Quality Improvement shall be implemented with respect to:- Continuous Professional Development (CPD) English Language Quality Improvement Programme (ELQIP) Upgrading Teachers and Teacher Licensing and Re-licensing 5

6 % of the students who pass the Ethiopian Higher Education Entrance Qualifying Examination will join the field of science, maths and technology, and the achievement of the students (in mathematics and science) will be improved by 75% at the end of CONSTRAINTS While Science and Mathematics instruction in secondary schools in Ethiopia is of such a critical importance and the goals (delineated in the foregoing section) are forceful, the gaps that exist are considerable. The main areas of limitation relate to:- the image of mathematics in the Ethiopian society curriculum at large and especially the way in which S&M is taught inadequate teaching/learning materials including scientific equipment Looking at these limitations in further details depicts the following scenario:- 3.1 Student performance is much below what is expected with respect to knowledge, skills and attitude. One major cause of this shortcoming is assumed to be the attitudes of students themselves, teachers and the public (especially parents) at large. Students believe that S&M education requires special natural talents that are not normally acquired through learning. Many teachers claim that they are among those few lucky ones who were born with the capacity to do S&M. The public has upheld this belief and children are not normally encouraged to study S&M despites the fact that these subjects lead students to major professions like Medicine, Engineering, ICT, etc. This problem has not been addressed for a long time. 3.2 The present Ethiopian curriculum for S&M is not well-organized (not integrated vertically and horizontally). Therefore, the need for vertical and horizontal integration of S&M curriculum is at the forefront of the measures to be taken. 3.3 The current S&M instruction in the Ethiopian secondary education does not promote active learning and hence encourages rote learning although student centered active learning is a strong policy directive. The major impediment has been the fact that the teachers themselves were not educated through active learning and/or have not been trained to practice it. 3.4 Curriculum revision is not properly done - most of the time it is done haphazardly within a short time. 3.5 Teacher Education in S&M has lagged behind the expansion efforts and many of the teachers lack the content. 3.6 Proper teaching/learning materials including text books, equipment, etc. are not available or are not used when available because of lack of preparation on the side of the teachers. The text books are mostly learner unfriendly and there is lack of capacity for preparing improved teaching material. Although these shortcomings have been recognized and the government of Ethiopia has put the proper policy directives to address the problems, it has been difficult to fully resolve the problems because of 6

7 limited finances, shortage of skilled human resources not to mention other problems like lack of media advocacy. 4. PROMISING OPTIONS From the forgoing discussions it is evident that Ethiopia has embarked upon educational reform programs. The promising options should therefore be seen in light of implementing the current reforms as soon as possible and effectively monitoring them as well as setting the foundation for more reform in the future. The latter issue is particularly important considering how long it takes for a full curriculum reform from planning to implementation hence the preparations must start well ahead of time. 4.1 Implementing and monitoring the current reform: The country is going through very intensive and radical reform particularly in the education sector to bring about remarkable changes in the quality of education at all levels. This on going effort should be implemented properly as soon as possible The S&M curricula need to be visited inline with the educational needs of the country and with respect to international standards to maintain the competitiveness of the students in the global market. To this effect, school curriculum development (a review of the Curriculum Framework for Ethiopian Education) is underway and should be continuously monitored along the following lines:- the curriculum should be outcome based (syllabi preparation, minimum learning competency, etc.), more problem solving and related to everyday life. Hence, the curriculum for S&M should be geared towards solving problems rather than learning by rote. active learning should be the main focus of the new curriculum the period allocation for S&M and the total number of subjects taken in secondary schools should be revisited Continuous Assessment (CA) should be promoted and the training of teachers in CA methods should be updated. Various methods of teaching S&M should be introduced New textbooks and teachers guides must be written for the new curriculum as soon as possible by benchmarking international best practices. They should include problem solving activities especially those related to everyday life in Ethiopia, be gender sensitive and relate both to the rural and the urban society. The text books and teachers guides must be written in a student and teacher friendly manner, respectively Continuous Assessment of students which is supposed to be standard pedagogical practice but not practiced properly must be emphasized for S&M education. The existing tradition of regular National Leaning Assessment should be enhanced and maintained The use of ICT in teaching S&M should be intensified including the use of computers, internet and the World Wide Webs and overhead projectors, television and videos, tape recorder/player, etc. ICT can be used for modeling and simulating experiments. Of course, ICT resources such as simulations can be very expensive but can be shared between schools. 7

8 4.2 Setting the foundation for more reform in the future This part of the promising options build on the existing reforms (outlined under 4.1 above) and lay the foundations for a future round of reforms that the country will soon need to make to meet the pressure for increased access to secondary education. It is also possible that some of these options can be implemented during the current reform period A concept paper that puts the options in to perspective should be developed, discussed by experts and be presented to the Ministry of Education. A detailed proposal and action plan should be prepared and be evaluated by high level national/ international experts through a workshop (preferably one similar to SEIA) for submission to donors. The concept paper may include the following policy reforms that prepare the way for expansion:- A change in the S&M courses offered to grade 12 to cater for a wider ability range and for a need to offer some science courses to the social science students. A re-evaluation of the special needs policy. One major element of this exercise would be to develop the policy of attending to the special needs of students who fail to master basic competencies in the expected grades. Re-evaluation of the present National Examination Policy, especially with respect to the need to change the Norm Referenced grading system into Criterion Referenced A re-evaluation of the IT in education policy A re-evaluation of the Science &Technology policy Re-evaluation of the education structure and the National S&M education strategy A national strategic plan for improving S&M instruction would be designed in addition to the on going (in the present reform) general education strategy of the country Mechanisms to link the school curricula and the teacher training curriculum Awareness creation to change the attitudes of teachers, students and the public at large:- encourage schools to run S&M clubs, competitions, fairs and trails a concerted effort must be made to encourage students, especially girls, to consider a career in S&M teaching - should promote career guidance Professional Science & Mathematics Teachers Associations should be established/strengthened and be encouraged to actively involve in curriculum development and evaluation School evaluation mechanisms should be instituted where each school will carry out self evaluation and to report to the community on its performance against the school development and national performance indicators An institution that will set and follow-up the implementation of all issues related to Educational Standards (curriculum materials, teaching/learning environment, equipment, etc.) shall be established (this has been proposed based on the BPR findings). This development would fit with the emerging National Qualifications Framework A national task force, accountable to the Ministry of Education, should be established to over-see all the above activities. 8

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