The recent announcement of the 12th-grade national examination results has undoubtedly captured our attention. It comes as no surprise that these results have ignited passionate debates regarding the state of kindergarten, primary, and secondary education. Reflecting on the past, I can’t help but recall a time when passing the national school leaving examination was a non-issue, before the arrival of Berhanu Nega (Prof.) as Minister of Education.
During my own experience with the national examination, attaining a passing grade that guaranteed admission to universities posed a significant challenge. It was a privilege reserved for a select few, as the local public universities had limited capacity. However, everything changed with the implementation of rigorous measures to combat cheating during the exam. Suddenly, the process of entering university became less of a sure thing and more of a test of genuine academic prowess.
While I lack concrete data to support my belief, I personally sense a correlation between the decline in the quality of education and the policy shift that occurred roughly 20 years ago. This change involved reducing the undergraduate study duration from four to three years in most fields of education. It is important to note that the policy itself may not be solely responsible for the decline, but its implementation coincided with the observable drop in educational standards.
What do this year’s results truly signify? Do they suggest that the ease with which students used to enter undergraduate studies was due to rampant cheating? However, cheating has been a persistent issue. It existed during my time and even before that. Would such alarming results have been obtained if stringent measures against cheating were in place during my era and earlier?
Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Even during my time and before, many individuals failed the exam despite the ample opportunity to cheat.
So, where lies the problem with the current generation?
I firmly believe that it’s not the generation itself that is at fault. Rather, the root of the issue lies in the quality of education provided at lower school levels. As the Minister rightly highlighted, there is a grave concern regarding how the younger generation is being taught in high schools and lower grades. Consequently, what can we realistically expect when students reach the culmination of their 12th-grade journey?
This year’s results serve as a resounding and urgent call for a radical transformation in how we educate our children at the foundational levels of schooling.
So what specific measures are being devised to bring about a radical transformation in the quality of education at lower school levels? To my knowledge, there haven’t been any concrete plans shared with the public thus far. While I have heard a mention of curriculum revisions, I am uncertain about their potential impact on educational quality. It is crucial that the details of these revisions are communicated clearly to the public.
And when we speak of lower levels of schools, which specific grade levels are we referring to? In my opinion, any meaningful reform should start at the kindergarten and primary levels. These early stages of education lay the foundation for a child’s academic journey. It is imperative to identify the critical issues that hinder educational quality at these levels. Have these problems been adequately identified? Moreover, are there any planned measures to address these identified challenges?
I genuinely appreciate the fact that we have collectively acknowledged the deep-rooted problem plaguing the quality of education in our country. Recognizing the problem is indeed a significant step towards addressing it. However, the real work lies in implementing effective solutions at the core of the issue. It is essential to tackle this challenge at its roots and initiate meaningful reforms that will have a lasting impact on the education system.