Results from national school-leaving exams have unearthed an alarming education crisis, with a tremendous number of students failing to make the cut for higher education. A former top student illustrates this trend, scoring a mere 200 out of 700. The student’s dwindling enthusiasm mirrors many of his peers, who have grown disillusioned watching graduates grapple with unemployment. Education officials attribute success rates to a rigorous testing schedule introduced two years ago. It required students to relocate for five days, an effort pitched as an anti-cheating measure. The consequent high stress and unfamiliar surroundings might have affected students’ performances. While acknowledging the heightened anxiety, the officials argue that the move ensures integrity in the examination process.

However, looking past the immediate examination environment, educational authorities recognise that the system’s failings run deep. The poor state of secondary schools, a shortage of qualified educators, and inadequate facilities have been lingering issues for years. Ministry of Education officials warn of this troubling trend continuing unless significant overhauls are undertaken. They allude to ongoing reforms, including a reformed curriculum, which might offer an antidote. Despite their better performance metrics, many private educational institutions remain out of reach for the majority due to high fees. Having relied more on peer learning than on teachers, some students’ results made them and their parents despaired. Their stories amplify the profound crises in public education, from lacklustre teaching to potentially flawed evaluation methods.

Minister of Education, Berhanu Nega (PhD), has found himself in the eye of the storm. His appearance before Parliament last week turned tense as he faced tough questions about the examination debacle. Berhanu’s candid admission that the exams merely exposed the systemic rot in education found both support and criticism. As policymakers spar over the way forward, many critics argue that the proposed reforms, while well-intentioned, might be too hasty given the present infrastructure and resource challenges. With traditional education routes proving elusive, technical skills development pathways like the TVET program may offer an alternative. Yet, even these do not seem to be showing the expected interest. Officials of the Ministry of Labor & Skills attribute the low turnout to the programs` delay, which interested students find discouraging. It appears the education dilemma is far from a simple fix, with pundits urging for long-term strategic thinking.

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PUBLISHED ON Oct 21,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1225]

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