Even though the current system of western higher education was introduced into our country by primarily outsiders, it has never been adequately suited for national growth, both in terms of quality and quantity. Admission prospects were confined to the very few young people who were judged successful based on the discriminatory high school quota system. Placement was determined upon and continues to be, regardless of each young person’s ambitions, dreams, interests, and preferences.
There is a lot of talk about “capacity building” within the Ministry of Education and its branch offices, all the way down to the kebele levels. Among other things, its principles, ideas, and values were excellent if they were aligned with national development goals.
They were not, however, reflected in the objectives and forward drive of the time’s supported, acknowledged, and polished national university and training institutions, the activities of which should have been giving services to their nation in all advanced domains of growth and development.
On the other hand, universities and their affiliates continued to use the Ivory Tower in the same way they had before.
Many of our young people who did not gain placement in higher education institutions after graduating from high school were left out in the cold in unproductive corners of cities and towns across the country with few options. The circumstances make one wonder whether these young people truly failed those one-time school-leaving exams after 12 years of the best education the country could offer.
No wonder we are plagued with illiteracy, abject poverty, disease, and hunger in the middle of untapped wealth and plenty, which is constantly openly envied by outsiders. Why can’t we learn from the experience of other developed countries where we got the concept but not the practice of teaching young people to be self-sufficient and skilled managers of their prospective national growth and development drivers.
In Ethiopia, for example, in competition with European culture, it has been more than a century since Emperor Menilik II established the first railway system at great expense. Nonetheless, Ethiopia’s rail system is underdeveloped in comparison to cities like Paris.
The primary concern at this point is the capacity building of institutional executive leaders, who make a difference in the upbringing of children and youth by preparing them in appropriate methods and techniques of educating them for growth, development, self-reliance, and, as a result, nation-building.
The importance of education in the US has long been neglected in other countries, particularly Ethiopia. Leaders in education must be constantly prepared in a qualitative, sufficient, adequate, and appropriate manner in order to shape children as productive producers of instructional leaders for forward-thinking country builders.
Given the widespread availability of education in our country nowadays, should a master’s degree be regarded as a minimal qualification, given our country’s future in terms of children and adolescents growing up to actively engage in and contribute to growth and development?
Ethiopia’s Minister of Education was given a proposal on the situation of education in the Amhara and Tigray regions. This was largely based on what was learned during the joint mid-term review of the Education Sector Development Program Evaluation mission of the World Bank, relevant United Nations organizations, and other international bodies.
The educational quality of our national schools was unacceptably low and steadily declining. My suggestions emphasized the unfavorable management of teaching and learning that was not reinforced by character development.
This, I believed, was primarily due to classroom teachers being placed in very important positions of institutional executive leadership without any training in professional management [educational administration and supervision]. To make matters worse, they are chosen by their peers.
During my mission exercise in the Amhara region, where my team visited, we were lucky to discover all of the regional, zonal, and weredas education officers gathered for the Regional Education Sector Review in Bahir Dar.
“When are youngsters competent to read simple phrases in elementary school?” was one of the queries raised.
The inquiry was inspired by parent concerns to UNICEF. The answer was a straightforward “in third grade.” This suggested that the schools were causing their children to regress educationally.
Children as young as five years old could read in the second or third month of first grade, not in the third. The textbook I created in 1957 under Point IV Education, which was extensively published and utilized throughout the country for more than two decades, was written with this goal in mind: to train children to begin reading in the second or third month after entering first grade at the age of five.
What has gone wrong?
The primary issue was and continues to be that schools are badly, improperly, and inappropriately managed. I believe the fundamental reason for it all is a lack of professional management as a result of a lack of understanding about the importance of managing schools effectively. School principals are elected from their own staff, which has little concept of administration.
Teaching and managing teaching and learning are not and cannot be similar.
Management in this context entails the placement, coordination, guidance, and harmonization of efforts by various groups of professional educators within the institution, as well as the close collaboration of all hierarchies (from top to bottom) in the education hierarchy to ensure the full and successful delivery of lessons to the child.
It is also crucial to organize educational facilities and other vital educational resources, as well as to use time effectively and efficiently to fulfill educational goals.
In general, the main tasks of the school’s professional executive manager include getting teachers and other professional employees of the education system to be maximally committed to achieving the institution’s desired goals and objectives, effectively engaging their school personnel to maximize their achievement, maximizing scarce resources to facilitate the most possible teaching and learning, evaluating performance progressively, and so on.
This list could go on and on. However, it is evident that the manager’s work involves a complex web of activities that involve leading individuals to make things happen through their efforts.
Training is then required to build these leaders. Even if there are exceptions, no regular teacher, no matter how skilled he is at teaching, can be brought in to manage institutions without first gaining the essential management abilities.
What can be done?
Over the years, a lot could have transpired in the training of managers and educators.
However, in order for our education to bear better and more respectable fruits, preparing children and youth for personal and national growth and development, institutions must make formalized and systematic efforts to train school principals and other administrative education offices. People and governments spend a lot of money to improve schools because they understand that education is the most potent engine of production that can help us fight poverty and meet our needs.
For us, catching up with the rest of the developing world is both long overdue and vital. In this scientifically and technologically evolved society, it is more crucial than ever to ensure our existence. It is a disgrace to have a constantly hungry populace despite having fertile soil, sufficient above-ground and underground water, and the capability to harness it.
All we require is a straightforward and sound education that leads to scientific and technological knowledge. There must be a way to replicate what US Point IV Education accomplished in the 1950s and 1960s to improve educational attainment, delivery, and services in Ethiopia.
Today, the enormity of the challenge of good education has skyrocketed, necessitating good and suitable administration. The increasing complexity of modern schools (expanding educational opportunities, diversifying relevant curriculum, specialization and professionalization of teachers, etc.), as well as the rising expectations placed on institutions by government, parents, and society to prepare children and youth to intelligently participate in and contribute to society, are important.
The rising expense of administering modern institutions and the growing need for cost-effectiveness and accountability for goal achievement are also major considerations. With the growing belief that effective executive managers may be developed through training in “good management practices,” there is a growing expectation that individuals who administer institutions must be professionally competent.
The way forward
It is critical to provide a well-conceived management development program that has a fuller, more durable, and more effective value and is aimed at training career professionals to practice as educational administrators and supervisors.
We must recognize that people are capable of tremendous things, but they must be armed with the confidence that can only be gained through knowledge and talent. Colleges should admit all individuals who are actively engaged in education and training, with a special emphasis on those who are already in the profession and have a true interest in management. This is something that should be promoted and supported.
Once admitted, the package they choose from the college catalog should be well planned at the start of the admission process so that they know what it covers, when it begins, and when it ends. Knowledge about the program and the time required to begin and complete it is a powerful incentive in and of itself.
Administrative and supervisory practitioners in education pursuing professional master’s degrees should be provided with extensive practical training rather than burdened with theory and the production of a useless thesis or dissertation. Instead, if necessary, students should be given a full test of the courses they have taken, a practicum project for on-the-job assessment, or the option of writing theses, as there will always be academicians who enjoy writing.
Their qualification at the end of their program should also be measured by the level of sharpness they have developed in solving practical problems of good teaching, of the student, and of the practical assistance they have provided to teachers and helpers, rather than by the dissertations or theses they write.
A master’s degree program for a full-time student should not take more than two regular semesters, weighted at 30 credit hours, and should not generally exceed one year, summer included or not. Of course, I’m assuming that the top professors and lecturers are in place.
To graduate, a student should consider the number of required credit hours completed rather than the number of months or years spent in college. It is also both unjust and harsh to require extension and/or part-time students to stay twice as long as a regular student to obtain a degree or diploma.
An extension student may be able to accomplish his certification objectives by completing the required number of credit hours instead of the required time with flexible scheduling, enough electives, and lengthening the nighttime hour. Even principals and supervisors with a first degree have started attending college in the summers, which will take them three summers to graduate.
I realize that there are a large number of applications at each entry point, but only a small number are chosen based on whatever criteria are in place. Why should it be this way? Why limit people’s dreams?
The concept of modern postgraduate education and training was born, cultivated, and polished by US educators, beginning with David Star Jordan of Chicago in the mid-1850s, who brought the notion from Bohemian education. It is their faith in education and their determination to help their children “be all they can be via education.” It is the belief that if an individual wanted to go to college, they would be able to do so easily.
To ensure that every aspiring individual receives his or her desired education and training, ancient, traditional institutions of learning, as well as new, fresh, and youthful universities around the country, have opened new avenues for everyone and are knocking on every door with “online degrees.”
Ethiopia is roughly twice the size of France in terms of land area. There is a lot of rain and a lot of gold, coal, rock salt, sulfur, phosphate rock, copper, lead, iron, mercury, platinum, tin, petroleum, mica, potash, and tungsten, but only a few of them are mined commercially. Only a few countries have such a wide array of mineral resources. Thus, what Ethiopia lacks are not the world’s material goods.
The current condition is the result of a thousand years of isolation and a virtual absence of modern skill education, which has resulted in a near-total loss of production. When will our people be lifted out of wretched poverty? It is up to our institutions to prepare and educate children and youth in practical education.
Contributed by Lulsegged Alemayyehw (PhD)