Sunday, April 21, 2024
CommentaryEthiopian-ization of the school curriculum: A call for transformative education

Ethiopian-ization of the school curriculum: A call for transformative education

Education for New Ethiopia

Educational institutions, private or public, do not exist in a vacuum. They are created deliberately to transmit core knowledge and to perpetuate certain cultural values, patterns of behavior, and visions of the society in which the institution is created to function. The core knowledge begins with self-knowledge of the individuals and with answering the “who am I” and “what is my responsibility” questions.

Nigel Grant, describing the importance of nation’s educational system in effectively transmitting, strengthening and gluing the fabric of nation,and setting the progressive wheels of the country in motion, wrote: “Few things tell us so much about a country as its schools.In them we can see one of the most important processes of any nation–yesterday’s traditions and today’s policies molding and developing the citizens of tomorrow”.According to Napoleon Bonaparte: “there cannot be a firmly established political state unless there is a teaching body with definitely recognized and principled [educational institutions].

He continued, “If a child is not taught from infancy that he/she ought to be a republican or a monarchist, a Catholic or a free-thinker, the state will not constitute a nation; it will rest on uncertain and shifting foundations; and it will be constantly exposed to disorder” and violent revolution.Johann Fichte, a German philosopher who wished to mold Germans into a corporate body, viewed education as the instrument of a “reliable and deliberate art for fashioning in man [andwomen] a stable and infallible good will.”

Molding productive and reliable citizens with good will towards each other has been and continue to be recognized as the most crucial element of educational system of any nation.I would like to think that, Emperors Tewodros and Menelik II,had the molding of good and productive citizen who would unit and lead Ethiopia into brighter future in mind, when they called for modern national education.

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Education, said Kevin Harris, “is a perception altering drug”.Drugs, depending on the intentions of the provider, are used to cure or to kill the patient.We, as educators, are the recipient and at the same time the prescribers of such “perception altering drug” to all learners attending our classes.What kind world we want to have, and what kind world we want to leave behind for our children and their children, depends not only on the kind of knowledge we have and continue to acquire, but also how careful we are in disseminating such knowledge to the youth in our classrooms.

Most of all, the knowledge we disseminate to our students carries with it not only the philosophy and the vision of the world we acquired,but also our attitudes and stereotypes towards of such vision of the world.Having said that, what is teacher’s role in molding the leaders of tomorrow?

Teachers Role

I realize that some of what I am about to say, may not be easy to hear, to acceptorto swallow.However, I want the readers to believe that, it is not my intention to point an accusing finger atanyone, but to emphasize the critical role teachers’ and parents play in the destiny of a given nation,and to ask every parents to take active role in the education of their children.

Without a question, the education of our children begins in our living rooms when a child starts asking the “what” and the “why” questions.Teachers teach what they are taught and certified to teach,while many parents who are the first and the most important teachers of the children teach without certification.To extricate itself out the current situation, Ethiopia needs to develop and implement an effective,transformative,andempowering curriculum nation-wide.

Teachers who have the knowledge, skills, love of children,and,most of all, who viewteaching with positive attitudes and unquestionable commitment to the education of national youth must be selected and supported.Teachers who love teaching are known to have undying love for all children.

As teachers,we tend to bring to classrooms, our cultural perspectives, socialvalues, our hopes and dreams including our prejudices and stereotypes.The books we assign to be read, the manner in which we start presenting the subject of the day, without questioning its lasting valuesto the growth and development of the individuals and in advancing national objectives, goes long ways in reflecting our attitudes and commitments.

If we are to prepare our youth for more productive and creative life, in ourrapidlychanging “global village”, we must stop relying on prepackaged and predigested information, provided by others,who have very little to do with the Ethiopian realities.

It is truism to state, that “whatever progress has been achieved in the world has been due to the labors of the educated men and women who have increased the stock of knowledge and spread it all over the globe”.Therefore, it goes without saying, that teachers are the true promoters of social, economic growth and development of nation and “benefactors of mankind”.That is why, education is seen asour“deadliest weapon against dogma or reaction, but also as the strongest instrument for reconstruction of society,” such as our society.

Educational system has been around human society for thousands of years.It is considered the most important single activity of a government in every society past and present.Ethiopia is no exception.

Aristotle, the Greek philosophers, defined education as the “process of training youth to fulfill their aims by exercising all their faculties to the fullest extent as members of a society”.Socrates saw,“education as means of bringing out the ideas of universal validity which are latent in the mind of everyhuman beings.Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, reminds us that “universal education is not only a moral imperative but an economic necessity, to pave the way toward making many more nations self-sufficient and self-sustaining”.

After reading the results of the national school leaving examination for the 2021-22 academic year reported byProfessor Berhanu Nega, I am not only saddened and disappointedbut alsocompelled to write this article asking all Ethiopians to examine critically the educational system of Ethiopiaand call for nationalization of the school curriculum from kindergarten to the university.

Nationalization before Globalization

We live and work in a world where social, economic and cultural borders are fading away with increasing speedmaking “think global act local”expression a reality.Advances in transportation, and electronic communication have allowed us to transcend geographic boundaries making the world smaller and smaller.

Yes, we live in a “global village,”a village divided into two segments—one segment enjoying enormous change and progress in almost all spheres of human development, while the other, Ethiopia included, is experiencing social, economic and political stagnation characterized by mass poverty, disease, illiteracy and ethnic wars—wars supported by forces of neocolonialism and homegrown merchants of wars.

The old colonialism, as we know it, is dead and buried but neo-colonialism is very much alive and kicking throughout Africa.The difference between colonialism and neo-colonialism is thatcolonialism ruled Africa with boots on the ground, taking from Africa all herhuman and natural resources,openly,for the development and industrialization of Europe,leaving Africa divided, illiterate, poor and underdeveloped, while neo-colonialism is ruling and bent on ruling Africa indirectly doing just the same to Africa as did colonialism.

Even though globalization is inevitable down the road, to ‘think and act global’ may be detrimental to countries like Ethiopia at the present stage of her development.It goes without saying, that under the cover of globalization, neo-colonialist exercise and control the monetary activity of developing countries.Since globalization is a tool of neo-colonialism for the exploitation of the developing countries, like Ethiopia,Ethiopians need to think and act local more, and should be drivenand be guided by “Ethiopia First” concept.

The old-fashionedcolonialism left Africa through the front doors just to reenter through the back doors as neo-colonialism.Describing neo-colonialism, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana wrote that the essence of neo-colonialism is that the “State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty.In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside…More often, however, neo-colonialist control is exercised through economic or monetary means…The neo-colonial State may be obliged to take the manufactured products of the imperialist power to the exclusion of competing products from elsewhere.”

Neo-colonialism is keeping Africa, including Ethiopia, socially,economically,politically and academically poor, but rich in addictive drugs such as cocaine, cigarette, alcohols, followed by supply of guns and ammunitions.All resulting in mass unemployment, exodus of youth and young adults from the country in search of gainful employment.

Ethiopia’s survival in this highly competitive and seemingly borderless global village, will depend upon Ethiopians acting and thinking local critically and creatively.It is long overdue for Ethiopians to ‘act and think more locally’.I remain an advocate of global education, but not at the expense of the education of the Ethiopian youth.

To call for global education without calling,first, for the nationalization of school curriculum reflective of Ethiopian history and culture and her objective realities, is like buying cart before buying horse.The results of the national school leaving examination for the 2021/22 academic year, tells the fact that Ethiopia has been investing too much on the cart but have forgotten the horse.

Education is an Investment

It is truism to state that atevery stage of human development, a child with potential abilities and hidden talents is born into a society to guarantee the unity and continuity of that society.There is a logical connection between social, economic, political and cultural growth and development of a society,with its educational system.

Education, throughout history, has been known as the connecting and promoting chain between generations.Because, educated adults are not only the source of national labor forces but also they tend to raise educated children andprovide financial support for educational institutions.As the saying goes,children are our future leaders, and that educational institutions are created to prepare them for such leadership.

Whether theeducational system is formal or informal, children are molded by that system from birth onwards.Education is the only means of transmitting knowledge from one generation to the next, and itis the only means we have forsetting the progressivewheels of a society in motion.It is also a well-known factthat the knowledge of the past is key to understandingand navigating the present as well as to planning the social, economic and political future of the society in which the young adults areexpected to live and work.

To transmit useful, constructive knowledge and prepare the youth for national leadership and productive life, the school curriculum, from kindergartens to the university, must be Ethiopian-izedand transformative in action.

By “Ethiopianization” of the curriculum, I mean the inclusion, at all levels of schooling, of subjects such as science and technology, national history, cultural heritage, the role of religion, languages, agriculture, and arts.

Ethiopianization of the curriculum is key to rebuilding a viable and strong nation whose citizens understand and appreciate the inseparable connections between each other and the worldwith which they are expected to function.Ethiopian-ized educational system that is driven by “Ethiopia First” concepts – concept that puts the social economic and political wellbeing of Ethiopians first –may have the potential to serving the nation as a bridge in uniting the divided society and connecting the old with new generations and advancing the economic growth of the country.

Multifaceted, transformative and gender inclusive education will provide all learners the key to opening doors of communication and cooperation with respect for the values held dearly by the society, and help them to lead a more productive and pleasant life.There are ample reasonsfor callingfor the nationalization of school curriculums throughout Ethiopia.

Because of the ill-designed and outward focused nature of the educational system, the current generation of Ethiopians are more familiar with the history of Europe more than Ethiopian and African history.They are more familiar with Roman, Britain, France, Germany and Americanhistory,than Ethiopian history.

Moreover, they are quick to name European cities andEuropean leaders; European movie stars; basketball and soccer players; singers and dancers at the blink of the eye, but hesitant to name any Ethiopian cities, Ethiopian leaders and Ethiopian patriots who stood up against the British, Italian and the Egyptianforces to keep Ethiopia free and independent.

Most of the new generation of Ethiopians have forgotten the fact that they stand on the shoulders of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, who fought and died to keep and hand them free Ethiopia.That is why, among other things, current and future generation of Ethiopians need to hear Ethiopian history as it was told by ancient poets and historians like Homer, Herodotus, Pliny, Diodorus and other classical Greek and Roman writers.They need to hear and read what Africans, Asians and somefaire-minded Europeans speak of Ethiopia and how Ethiopians defended their freedom against European colonization, and in doing so, how Ethiopia become the first African nation to defeat well-trained and well-armed European powers.

Modernizing Ethiopian Education

Prior to 1974, public schools in Ethiopia were geared toward preparing loyal, obedient and self-serving bureaucratic elites—elites that made the Emperor look more progressive and modernizing monarch in the eyes of European powers.As a matter of fact, the Imperial regime, is known for having more Western trained staffs in Africa.

However, according to MulugetaWodajo (PhD), Ethiopia did not reform nor modernize her educational system, “but instead gave birth to a system of education altogether new, if not alien, to the cultural pattern of the nation…The curriculum tends to be over-academic too far removed from the practical needs of Ethiopia.This is in a sense to be expected since many of the teachers above fourth grade are foreigners and almost all textbooks are from abroad and instructions were in French and in English.”

Recruiting teachers from Europe and Americainstead of Ethiopia, the country managed to expose the youth to the most inert ideas than to useful ones.Moreover, because of the different backgrounds of teachers, students were given the most fragmented and useless information.“Education emptied of personal growth and development, and void of all social, economic and cultural content” of one’s motherland and conceived solely as method, will take the nation and the learner to nowhere.

In myopinion, any discussion concerning the educational system in Ethiopia has to focus,first,on the true purpose of education;second, on how to start restructuringnew educational system for new democratic Ethiopia; and third, how to create an army of committed Ethiopian teachers.Seeing the result of 2021/22 academic year school leaving examination, it is not an exaggeration to state that Ethiopia need to build her educational system from bottom up.She need to train new and more motivated and qualifiedteachers, and highly principled board members of public and private schools in Ethiopia.Private schools, consistent with missions and vision of the nation, should be given permission to teach.Not the other way.

The purpose of education is to improve the social, economic and politicallives of Ethiopians and to prepare the youth for future leadership.As the recent finding demonstrates the Ethiopian children aren’t leaving schools neither able to function nor to live productive life in Ethiopia.As educators, we are duty bound tothink seriously and question the quality of education Ethiopian childrenare and will be receiving.

For years, Ethiopian students have been receiving scraps of information, from Europeans and some European-trained Ethiopians.Information they acquired have very little to do with the objective realities facing Ethiopia then and now.

To rebuild strong and viable nation, Ethiopia need to aim at producing men and women capable of creative thinking and possessing useful knowledge, and most of all, driven to be more productive and contributing members of the society.

In my opinion, Ethiopianizededucation, not only will help to stop the teaching of inert ideas that tends to alienate Ethiopians from their history and rich cultures, but also stop young-adults living the life of imitation.Imitating the worst aspects of western culture and social behaviors is not what Ethiopia needs to grow socially, economically and politically.If our generation fails to create an educational system capable of creating future leaders, history will point its accusing finger at our generation for certain.

Let me end this article by paraphrasing what thebeloved son of Ethiopia, Poet Laurite Tsegaye Gabre-Mehden said: “Ethiopia shall come into her own again.Democracy shall triumph.The law will have the upper hand, not tribalism.With the law and with democracy, the people shall have the upper hand.We are suffering, we suffer because of littleness and because of greed, imperial greed, the partitioning again of Africa.But empires who consume with blind greed have throughout history been consumed by the power of the people.The Greeks have, the Romans have so have many empires.But the nation by the people, to the people, and for the people will triumph again”.

With Ethiopianized curriculum and with “Ethiopia First,” objectives, Ethiopia will rise again and take her rightful place among international communities.I am certain that Ethiopia will rise to her greatness again.

By Alem Asres(PhD)

(AlemAsres holds a doctoral degree in the Philosophy of Social Foundations of Education from the University of Maryland, College Park. He has served as a Professor of International Relations and Director of Multicultural Affairs at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. Additionally, he held the position of Director of College Diversity and Teacher at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College until his retirement in 2014.)


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