The COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for the education sector in Ethiopia. As the government swiftly closed all private and public schools, including universities, to curb the potential spread of the virus, students across the country found themselves confined to their homes.
“Amidst the numerous economic and social challenges brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the education sector in Ethiopia experienced a transformative shift,” stated Yishak Baraki, a high school and college Civics and Logic teacher, during the EdTech Mondays Monthly Radio show on Fana Radio.
The unforeseen disruption to traditional learning methods highlighted the urgent need for a robust EdTech infrastructure in Ethiopia, and parents, policymakers, teachers, and students from elementary to university levels were forced to adapt.
“At the time, we didn’t have the capacity to deliver lectures via video, but we effectively utilized Telegram,” shared his experience on the program, which was aired on February 27, 2023.
Another lecturer, Tarekegn Mekonen, also shared his encounter on the Edtech Monday’s radio show, in which full courses and exams were given on the cloud-based and centralized instant messaging service, Telegram.
This monthly radio show, hosted by the Mastercard Foundation and Shega Media & Technology Plc, brings together experts from various fields to discuss the use of technology in education and how Ethiopia can mainstream hybrid models of learning, was the latest topic of discussion.
Hybrid learning, also known as blended learning, is an educational approach that combines traditional face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning activities.
The method provides students with a more flexible and personalized learning experience, as it allows them to engage with course materials and collaborate with peers and instructors both in-person and online.
“Edtech is the future of education. Ethiopia can not be an exception to this,” mentioned Meklit Mintesinot Project Manager of e-learning for Strengthening Higher Education (SYS).
State of Edtech in Ethiopia
In 2020, the Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency (HERQA), the nation’s education regulatory body, began issuing licenses for colleges and universities to offer online classes for undergraduate and postgraduate courses for the first time in Ethiopia.
At the beginning of this year, another notable development happened in which Ethio Telecom entered into a partnership agreement with GETFACT Ethiopia (GETFACTet), a US-based organization, to implement the Brighter Generation program. This joint initiative seeks to enhance the digital skills of high school students with the support of professional Ethiopians living abroad. The two organizations are collaborating to offer a variety of training courses in digital centers established by Ethio Telecom in high schools throughout the country.
Moreover, various government agencies and private individuals, including entertainers, have taken it upon themselves to develop Edtech platforms such as Haleta Tutors, Kuraz, I-tutor, EthioStudy, GxCamp, and Gebeya.
Challenges Facing Hybrid Learning Adoption in Ethiopia
Despite these efforts and as highlighted by the pandemic, the adoption of hybrid learning is a complex process that presents many challenges, including inadequate infrastructure and human resources.
“Speaking from the experience we had at my school, students without smartphones were forced to print documents from online platforms and submit them in hard copy, which was just like conventional learning. This was just one of the minor issues we encountered from an infrastructure perspective,” said Yishaq.
As the show’s guest elaborated, limited internet access, insufficient infrastructure, and affordability issues have made it difficult for many students and educators in Ethiopia to fully embrace online learning platforms.
Furthermore, digital literacy remains a significant challenge, with many individuals lacking the necessary skills to effectively utilize EdTech tools. Teachers may not be adequately trained to use technology in the classroom or deliver online lessons, while resistance to changing from traditional teaching methods can also hinder adoption.
According to Tarkegn, who is also an education policy and curriculum consultant, curriculum alignment poses additional challenges, as the existing curriculum may need significant adjustments to fit online or blended learning environments.
“Ensuring accessibility is one of the major benefits of EdTech. However, if not effectively implemented, it can actually widen the gap,” added Meklit, highlighting the potential for the adoption of EdTech to inadvertently exacerbate existing inequalities between urban and rural areas, as well as between students from different socio-economic backgrounds.
Facing these tremendous challenges, the guests still agree that Hybrid learning holds promise for Ethiopia.
Charting a New Course: The Path Forward for Hybrid Education in Ethiopia
Addressing the challenges faced by Ethiopia in adopting EdTech requires a comprehensive approach involving various solutions. Expanding internet access, improving infrastructure, and subsidizing devices, such as smartphones, tablets, or computers, can make them more accessible to students and educators who may not be able to afford them.
Promoting digital literacy, enhancing teacher training, and encouraging change are also essential components for the successful adoption of Hybrid Education in Ethiopia, as mentioned by the guests.
Tarekegn emphasized the importance of digital literacy and teacher training for the successful adoption of EdTech.
He stated, “Integrating digital literacy programs into the educational curriculum and providing training resources can help students and educators develop the necessary digital skills. Additionally, offering comprehensive training programs for teachers on how to effectively use technology in the classroom and deliver online lessons is crucial.”
“We also need to encourage change among teachers and highlight the benefits of tech platforms. Teachers may shy away from them because they haven’t fully embraced the impact and how much these platforms can streamline their operations,” added Tarekegn.
Meklit also noted the importance of awareness campaigns in promoting EdTech adoption, saying, “Organizing use case studies and awareness campaigns to promote the benefits of EdTech to educators, parents, and students, addressing concerns related to adopting new learning methods.”
Joining Forces: The Key Stakeholders
EdTech in Ethiopia requires a concerted effort from various stakeholders, including students, teachers, NGOs, the private sector, and startups. By working together, these groups can create an ecosystem that supports the successful implementation and adoption of educational technology in the country.
In this context, the government also has a crucial role to play. Tarekegn believes that the lion’s share of responsibility lies with the government to implement supportive policies and regulations that encourage the adoption of EdTech and address the various challenges faced by the education sector.
Meklit also stated the importance of Ethiopian innovators leveraging global EdTech systems and platforms rolled out by tech giants to develop localized solutions. By building on existing technologies and adapting them to the unique needs of the Ethiopian context, innovators can help bridge the digital divide and improve educational outcomes across the country.
“From our brief experience, we observed that students actually perform well in hybrid learning, as this method offers them various modalities to learn and grasp their studies. With the recent low performance of grade 12 students in the national exam, it becomes even more evident and crucial that we bring EdTech into mainstream learning soon and more effectively,” added Tarekegn.
Featured photo credit- DELL