In his quest for career advancement, Tewodros Tefera, a 32-year-old father employed at the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, found solace and progress in his academic journey through Harambe University’s online platform. Currently employed as an accountant, it has been seven years since he earned his bachelor’s degree from Bahirdar University.
Having completed his master’s degree amidst the demands of family life, Tewodros appreciated the flexibility of blended learning. For him, the ability to learn while enjoying life’s simple pleasures was invaluable.
“I can’t afford to lose time attending physical classes due to life’s demands. I’m glad I didn’t have to endure the traditional chalk-and-board approach,” remarked Tewodros.
Blended learning, an approach combining innovative teaching techniques with digital technology, can potentially increase learners’ interest and improve teaching and learning outcomes.
Similar to Tewodros, many students in Ethiopia are increasingly opting for online classes. Eyuel Tibebu, a business consultant, shared his experience as an online learner during his appearance on the EdTech Mondays Radio Show last June.
The Radio Show, produced by the Mastercard Foundation in collaboration with Shega Media and Technology, aims to facilitate critical conversations and bring together key stakeholders in the field of education.
Airing monthly, its June episode focused on accelerating blended learning in Ethiopia, deliberating on key issues such as the approaches taken by teachers in integrating blended learning as well as the challenges faced by Edtech startups developing educational solutions in the country.
On the show, Eyuel emphasized that the shift to blended learning in the country was almost mandatory due to the pandemic, making it challenging to establish suitable infrastructure and adaptable platforms.
“Creating a personalized learning space for students is one of the positive aspects of e-learning,” Eyuel added during the show, which was broadcasted on Fana FM 98.1 and ten other affiliated FM radio stations nationwide.
Eyuel further explained that this situation arose due to educational policies, trends, and students’ emphasis on securing high grades rather than focusing on acquiring knowledge.
These challenges extended beyond students, as highlighted by Yospeh Francis, a teacher and IT consultant who was also a guest on the radio show. According to Yospeh, the lack of digital training for teachers posed a significant hurdle to the implementation of online learning. He revealed that some teachers hesitated to fully embrace online classes, while others participated out of fear, acknowledging the inevitable shift towards technology-based education. Overcoming the traditional teaching methods, involving chalk and talk, remains a substantial challenge for educators, states Yospeh.
To guide its digital transformation, Ethiopia has formulated the “Digital Strategy Ethiopia 2025.” According to this strategy, the government aims to support and nurture the Edtech sector. This includes investing in teacher training and development to ensure educators are proficient in digital skills, enabling them to actively integrate ICT into teaching and learning. Additionally, investments in local talent are crucial to creating culturally accessible Edtech content in native languages. Furthermore, encouraging access to massive open online courses (MOOCs) and open educational resources is integral to this vision.
In alignment with this strategy, the Ethiopian Ministry of Education (MoE) has approved the Digital Skills Country Action Plan (DSCAP) for 2020–2030. Signaling this embrace of edtech, in April 2023, the Ministry of Education signed an MOU with 1888 EC, a venture studio founded by Solomon Kassa, a prominent TV personality. The purpose of this agreement was to develop an Edtech platform named Lemar, designed to provide comprehensive support to students in achieving better results in their exams. Through Lemar, students will have access to tutoring lessons and assistance in preparing for university entrance exams.
The Lemar Web app is poised to offer high school students a wide array of educational materials, including infographics, videos, and game-based content. To tailor its offerings effectively, Lemar will utilize data provided by the Ministry of Education, derived from the results of recent national exams. This data will undergo analysis to identify areas where students scored lower, enabling the creation of supplementary, topic-focused educational materials designed to address these gaps in knowledge.
Teshager Amare, co-founder of YeHulum Technologies and Head of Operations at 1888 E.C., was also another guest on the Edtech Mondays radio show. Teshager acknowledges the significant progress Ethiopia has made in the realm of technology while highlighting persistent challenges such as internet access and the affordability of tech equipment.
“Due to the country’s internet connectivity issues, platforms like Coursera and Alison do not operate effectively,” Teshager explained. He noted that the most accessible and affordable way to reach students currently is through social media.
The educational content generated by the Lemar Web app aligns with the national curriculum and will be disseminated on social media platforms such as Telegram and TikTok. The objective is to make educational resources more readily available to students, especially those who may lack access to traditional teaching methods.
Muhammed Nuru, an Edtech developer and an expert in the field, emphasizes the significance of customizing and localizing content to enhance student engagement. This involves considerations of language, age, and individual preferences. Overcoming challenges such as ensuring educational content remains accessible with limited internet capacity and data usage, as well as making the content engaging for students, is crucial for Edtech innovators, he explains.
“Edtech innovators should collaborate with other professionals, including media organizations, to enhance the appeal and attractiveness of their platforms and materials for Ethiopian students,” adds Muhammed.
Featured Image Source- Disrupt Africa