Online Degree, Online Courses and Distance Learning in Ethiopia

About Online Degree, Online Courses and Distance Learning in Ethiopia

During the 1980s and 1990s, the education system in Ethiopia, from primary school through higher education at universities, suffered greatly due to the political, social and economic turmoil that marred the country.  This decline can be attributed to many different factors, but perhaps most significant of these was the exponential growth in enrollment during that period and a lack of facilities and qualified staff to meet the rising demand.  During the mid 1980s, for example, demand was so high that many of the public and private schools in the country were forced to operate their schools like factories, providing education in three shifts during the day, and thus limiting each student’s access to education to a mere 4 hours a day.  To address these problems, in the late 1990s the government of Ethiopia formed a commission to research the various ways the educational system could be improved, while still providing access to every student who wished to participate.  Among other reforms that evolved from these sessions, was the development of the Ethiopian Distance Learning Association (EDLA) and the International Open College of Ethiopia (IOCE).
Unlike many countries, where distance learning is seen as more of a convenience, in Ethiopia these types of programs became, and still are an absolutely necessary.  Not only are there an insufficient number of institutions and trained faculty, but there are thousands of students living in the rural areas of the country who lack the transportation or financial means to attend a traditional school.
Since its inception, distance learning in Ethiopia has become very well organized, and boasts the following attributes that have led to its success:
  • Has the potential to reach a large number of students who would otherwise be excluded from educational opportunities.
  • Has built-in flexibility allowing the system to target specific issues and audiences using a number of delivery strategies, including virtual classrooms, email correspondence, printed materials, audio tapes, etc.
  • Much more cost-effective for schools and institutions of higher learning.
  • Dramatically increases the number of qualified instructors by enabling volunteer teachers and paid staff to be recruited throughout the world, many of whom are Ethiopian nationals who, after having become educated in Ethiopia, left the country to pursue economic opportunities.
With the implementation of a comprehensive system of distance learning in Ethiopia, enrollment at post-secondary institutions, including vocational schools and academic universities has soared.  According to studies, just a decade ago only 1 percent of the Ethiopian population was enrolled in higher education, compared to 6.1 percent in the rest of Africa.  Studies now show that over 5 percent of Ethiopian students now take part in these programs—a 500 percent increase in just 10 years.
However, distance learning in this country has not been entirely problem-free.  Even though there can be no debate that the implementation of a cohesive distance learning program has improved the higher education system in Ethiopia significantly, these new technologies have also enabled many private schools, a very small percentage of which were operating as degree-mills, to flourish.  In other words, some schools used distance education as a means to attract more students, collect their tuition and then fail to provide the quality education they promised.  This prompted, in August of 2010, the Ministry of Education in Ethiopia to suspend distance learning at ALL schools until these problems were corrected.  While the ban lasted but 45 days, during that time special measures were put into place requiring more transparency and tougher regulations regarding the distance education system.