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Curriculum Reform

Curriculum Reform

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Published by: anon-310992 on Dec 03, 2008
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Curriculum Reform, Challenges, andCoping StrategiesIn the Ethiopian Educational System
IntroductionEthiopia is a nation of more than 70 million peoplecharacterized by diverse ethnic, linguistic and religious groups.The agrarian subsistence economy falls short of food self-sufficiency and this remains a major problem for the country.Following decades of monarchical rule and a seventeen-year military regime, since the early 1990s Ethiopia has entered into the process of transformation towards a more civil society. Thistransformational process has led to numerous socioeconomic and political policy reforms. Central to reforms in the education sector are changes in the school curriculum, the decentralization of education, the use of regional languages for instruction (as opposedto the former use of the national language, Amharic), emphasisupon democratic values, and multiple perspectives in addressingdiversity issues in education. These changes constitute a significantturning point in the history of education of this country.Recent reforms in education began with the Ministry of Education (M.O.E) document,
 Education and Training Policy
(M.O.E,. 1994). This document begins by describing major  problems of the educational system. These include: problems of relevance, quality, accessibility, equity, mode of delivery,inadequate facilities, insufficiently trained teachers, and shortagesof books and other teaching materials. In response to thesechallenges, this document recommends changes in the schoolcurriculum, language of instruction, teacher education programsand the examination system. These reforms were deemed1necessary strategies for making education more responsive toeducational reform objectives which included: greater emphasisupon problem solving at all levels, increasing the numbers of 
teachers needed for greatly increasing demands, wiser use of resources, increasing democratic culture, more efficientdissemination of science and technology, and making educationmore responsive to societal needs.The reform policy priorities requires a change in the schoolcurriculum, improvement in the professional development of teachers, the use of regional languages for primary education, andspecialized training of kindergarten and primary educationteachers. The policy further proposes conducting a nationalexamination at grade eight in order to certify the completion of  primary education.In an effort to facilitate the reform recommendations, major changes have been underway in recent years. First, decentralizedcurricula guidelines are now in place for primary education acrossall regions. This contrasts greatly with the former system, whichrequired a uniform curriculum practiced nationwide. Moreover,Regional Education Bureaus now use curricular materials moreresponsive to their diverse cultures. For example, rather than theformer requirement that Amharic be used as the medium of instruction throughout the country, regional (vernacular) languagesof the regions (e.g. Tigrinya, Oromipha, Harari) are being usedinstead. In addition, former one-year Teacher Training Institutions(TTIs) are now being transformed into two-year CommunityColleges for the education and training of teachers for the secondcycle of primary education (Grades 5-8). Further, the nationalexamination for Grade 8 that was formerly administered only inthe national Amharic language is now being2administered in the regional languages. With these ongoingreforms, the first group of schoolchildren experiencing the newcurricula completed secondary education (Grade12) in the 2002/03academic year.In the course of implementing the new policy, however, somechallenges appear to be emerging regarding the compatibility of the decentralized curricula, use of regional languages, teacher 
education, and the administration of the national examination. The problems appear to be particularly acute at the second cycle of  primary education (Grades 5-8).A change in curriculum should take into account the larger sociocultural context but, should also not neglect the structuralcontexts of the educational system (Cornbleth, 1990). During the process of reform, these sub cultures of educational systems become either compatible or antagonistic. Compatibility amongreforms prevails when a change in curriculum is followed bycorresponding reforms in other relevant sectors of an educationalsystem (Shiundu & Omulando, 1992). If antagonism prevailsamong the recent reforms in the educational system of Ethiopia,the realization of curriculum change and the objectives of education outlined in the reform policy will be challenged. Thesynchronicity among the reform efforts, therefore, deserves criticalinquiry since change initiatives, contrary to the aspired goals, mayturn out to be sources of constraints on teaching and on students’opportunity for learning (Jacklam, 1996).Cornbleth (2001) raises a critical question regarding whatfactors get in the way of teaching for meaningful learning andcritical thinking that incorporates diverse perspectives and studentsin terms of constraints/restraints. By extending3her conception of constraints/restraints, the present studyinvestigates the question of whether incompatibilities prevailamong the reform efforts that may get in the way of teaching for meaningful learning in the Ethiopian educational system. Toachieve this objective, we examined disharmony among the reformefforts and subsequent challenges in order to forward suggestionsabout the coping strategies.The present investigation is based on accounts of personalexperiences, field notes, and observations as a teacher educator,textbook writer and member of curriculum council; and analysis of  policy documents and research reports. In order to conceptualizethe areas of incompatibilities among the reform efforts in the

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