Ethiopia: Education Roadmap Needs to Recognise Economic Predicaments


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A new 12-year-long education roadmap has been tabled for discussion by the Ministry of Education. The 101-page document discusses access and quality to primary and higher education as well as policies, governance and leadership. But it fails to account for the discrepancy between the reality on the ground and the state of the nation it paints.

In its introduction, it asserts that the country “is on a journey to its renaissance targeting at achieving peace, unity-with-diversity, broad and rapid socio-economic growth, establishment of democratic systems and good governance. It also credits the government for “a major effort to transform Ethiopian society and place the country on a trajectory to become a lower middle-income economy by the year, 2030.”

Basing itself on the second edition of the Growth & Transformation Plan (GTP II), the roadmap believes that there is a demand for middle and higher-level skilled human power to cater to the industrial sector, which is to be supplied by the educational system.

While it is possible to agree with the basic points, primarily that the nation is in need of a highly-skilled workforce, the roadmap’s assessment of the nation’s economy and what is necessary to carry a lower-middle income economy are suspect.

The roadmap comes at a time when the sustainability of the rapid economic growth as well as an ongoing structural economic transformation is being questioned. The best indication of these comes from the National Planning & Development Commission, which in its medium-term performance evaluation of the GTP II shows a performance that is under par.

While there is disagreement over the actual level, it cannot be denied that the nation has delivered strong economic growth. But there is not much good news after that. The nation’s balance of accounts worsened during the GTP II, with export earnings stagnating and imports growing. This has resulted in a shortage of foreign currency reserves.

Inflation has also picked up, with last fiscal year’s rate standing at 13pc despite the GTP II’s promise to keep it in the double digits. Even more disappointing is the state of the manufacturing industry, projected to grow at 21pc and 21.3pc in the first two years. It has only managed to grow by 2.5pc and 2.8pc in the successive years.

Just as disillusioning is the discrepancy between the labour force and the economy. While the nation has a 70-30 quota in favour of natural sciences, employment opportunities in one of the government’s highly advertised field, engineering, are becoming rare, with graduates being hard-pressed to find jobs.

Sixty-eight percent of the labour force that is disproportionately employed in the agriculture sector also only contributes 36pc to the economy. The shift in education may have come, but the change in labour force allocation has not worked yet.

An earlier report, “The Least Developed Countries Report 2016,” by the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development listed 13 developing nations that will no longer be termed least developed countries. Ethiopia was not one of them, and this was before current political uncertainty would cloud investor confidence and business dynamics. This casts doubt on the scenario that the roadmap assumes will unfold over the coming years.

The education roadmap may envision to create a capable workforce that can bolster economic productivity, but this can seldom materialise if stakeholders fail to recognise the economic reality. It would only be counterproductive to place students in school for years to learn skills that they may not need once they graduate.

The roadmap is meant to lead a fundamental shift to transform the educational system in accordance with the industrialisation process it says Ethiopia is making headway in. But in doing as such, the roadmap needs to acknowledge the facts and respect the reality on the ground.

It should also make sure that the mismatch that is being currently observed between available jobs and skills, as well as the competence of job seekers, is not carried over into the future.

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Publish date : 2018-10-30 16:01:00

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