Without exception every Ethiopian is desperate to attend school. To do well at school is to gain the highest acceptance with your peers. School enrollment is at seven, although some start earlier. As age in the country is often assessed by height and teeth! Private fee-paying kindergartens are in cities & some rural market towns.
Government schools are elementary Grades 1 to 8, secondary 9-10 and by selection to pre-university 11 & 12. Classes in cities are in shifts, morning, afternoon and evening. Class size officially is 50 but often is many more. There are few facilities for disabled students.
Every year a student must pass a promotion exam, at Grades 8 & 10 these are nationally assessed, otherwise they are regionally assessed. Failure means repeating a year, after a second failure the student can no longer attend a government school. There are no school fees in Government Schools but students must provide their own books and writing instruments. In cities most schools have uniforms and children need footwear, these are not free. In cities there are a number of fee-paying private commercially run schools often managed by churches or NGOs. These are accredited by the Government Bureau of Education and are generally of a high standard. Students can move between the government & private sector, but with difficulty.
The Grade 10 exam (School Leaving Certificate) can not be retaken and after Grade 10 students are streamed into pre-university (Grades 11 & 12) or Technical & Vocational Education Training Colleges (TVETs). TVETs cover artisan trades, physical education, teaching, catering, art, secretarial & computer science or IT. Entry level grades are continually being revised upwards as more students pass through the system and government college/university expansion is unable to accommodate all would-be entrants. For girls and in some less developed regions they have lower entry levels. TVETs offer Certificate Course for two years or Diploma Courses for three years. A number of private fee-paying college/universities offer the same Certificate/Diploma courses for those unable to gain entry to government TVETs. Whilst these are locally accredited, the degrees offered are not so valued either in the job market, or internationally recognized. University is from three to six years, dependent on the course.
Undergraduates are not always given either their choice of course or location of University. Attendance is free, but students must “pay back” after graduation when in employment.
Every Ethiopian is desperate to attend school and beyond. Whilst the educational system is tightly controlled, every child may “adjust” their age, where they live and tell the most convincing tear-jerking stories to get admitted. To Ethiopians, education and those qualifications it offers is their panacea for all their problems.
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