In the 1960s, and the following two decades, Ethiopian classic era of literature had existed. Its main focus that was dual had been exposing feudal tragedies and showing clash of west-west-educated young Ethiopians they have with the uneducated society they emerged from. Best examples are Fikir Eskemekabir, Ke Admas Bashager, Adefris, and so on.
In some recent (2021 June) Amharic TV program at ESAT, focusing on the value of "indigenous knowledge", it was argued that the West took the idea of school systems including universities from Ethiopian church scholarship system called Qine or Abinet timhritbet. In fact, these ancient schools are old in Ethiopia and serve the society still now.
But a bit more than a century ago, modern school system began introduction in Ethiopia where the Western education system was brought and students for first time in history start to teach citizens formally a non-church ideologies locally called "worldly education", in a formal school system. It was a bit latter, during the golden ages of HIM Emperor Haileselassie I, that this education system got rooted well and young Ethiopians emerge to shine in modern education. This education has allowed Ethiopians to learn further abroad and return home to serve. But soon, complications started and the novels we saw earlier were written. They are taken as most classic novels in the history of Ethiopian literature still now and showed the education has not produced impactful intellectuals that can fit in the society. The problem extended itself and in the governments that followed the last Emperor has still now managed not to produce any meaningful solution to the national trouble. The economy a bit modernized still hires individuals that are products of this now wide education system. Yet, they are reported to be not well educated (half-cooked graduates as some call them), and the nation has a poor economy among the third world nations. As a fight to make the needed change, some in recent three years especially are arguing that "indigenous knowledge" has to be incorporated in the education system. A lot is being talked about this issue, where they advocate for grabbing ancient and traditional knowledge of the Ethiopians and the modern education system be "domesticated" in this theme.
This short piece is to argue two points. First, the "indigenous knowledge" approach has merits but a bad attitudinal and substance issues. Second, most importantly, to build the macro understanding that the fact that education system and the society has not still, like in the still classic novels of the nation, amalgamated and their functioning is not interlaced. Meaning, no matter how the erroneously being built understanding of "home-knowedge" is taken as a solution, there will always be a too fundamental issue of education system in the general level versus the society at large needing to synchronized before any foundational change is to be witnessed.
To begin with, let us see the ancient religious school in Ethiopia. In it, since early ages, especially boys, would attend series of teachings including, alphabets, liturgies, prayers, gospels, and related services. When they are graduated, as well noted in the most considered-classic boom of Ethiopian literature, Fikir Eske Mekabir, the protagonist Bezabih, they serve the society by giving religious services that pays them. Till now, this system works and many prolific, famous, specialized and different schools exist in Ethiopia. And the theology schools are created in recent decades to formalize these schools and college degrees are offered in quite few higher education schools of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church (EOTC). The same way, these graduates are hired by the churches and serve the community. In recent decades, graduates also becomes writers and helpers in some religious and traditional knowledge services. Also, until the last emperor, royal families also used to run through these religious education system. Mainly, the last Emperor became the first in learning modern education while his solemn predecessor The conclusion is, Nigist Zewditu herself was educated and used to pray Psalms everyday-a thing that results after going to the religious education system.
This means, the conclusion is that, the Ethiopian society has used the home grown education system until the twentieth century where modern Western education system became established as towns and cities also pop up here and there. These modern education was helped with abroad scholarships that sent educated young Ethiopians back to Ethiopia to serve the government. Notable examples are thank-worthy persons suc as NegadRass Gebrehiwot Baykedagn, and all others famous individuals a bit latter. During the last Emperor, other than the education centers, modern approach to societal realities became vast and meaningful. Most notable literature, art, music, political, social, and so on experts in the history of Ethiopia are from this age. Universities, became realities and many wester big scholars were part of the system right with the primary, and secondary schools in even rural areas. The Emperor was taken to be a source of modern civilization in Ethiopia where many scholars gave Him a lot of recognition in their prefaces whenever they wrote a book. They used to recognize for words, how the Emperor is bringing modern civilization in Ethiopia and what they wrote is in support of His attempts to West-civilize Ethiopia. Other than the education system, as in the ancient schools, there were attempts to knit the fundamental fabrics of the civilized society where first modern systems where being established such as transportation, justice, military and other sectors' establishments.
Soon, the feudal system on the other hand could not give way and the modernization's effort has to be stopped after the final coup succeeded and the military took power that was itself hijacked by a latter renowned Colonel. During that age, the educated young citizens fought for democracy all the regiem's age until another weird administration (at least in the context of the discussion) took the government power through bloodshed and force. Until now, in those administrations, the education system has not evolved that much. In fact it has shown growth in quantity while its substantive and procedural progress took a foul turn.
Today, it is established rare geniuses are produced here and there (mostly through private or family efforts) while overwhelming amount of citizens run through the education system that is too formal now and end up in needing to serve the society somewhere with a job. But the education system has been infamous for its poor empowerment, and the society is not mixed with the education system as a whole. The fact that it has become the new normal for a century does not make it true that it has mixed the society. Normally, the education is understood only as a tool to earn livelihood as soon as one is graduated. That sadly is not what the illiterates that think it to be and tell their children to study well and make good fortunes. It is the policy of the government consistently after the last Emperor and even if lesser in its intensity by the Communist administration. Education has become a means to reduce unemployment. Graduates in recent decades want jobs and no professionalism has been witnessed in a series manner by the government in facilitating them a job. It is a politicized rhetoric where politicians claim a number of jobs for the soaring yearly graduates. As long as a spot is found for graduated citizens, that fits the whole education system and the society. The two are fine nd well interlaced for the leaders. This utter failure has been born into reality succeeding a feudal era that considered education as a means of civilization and made adamant fingerprints. It has become a widespread and clear political issue and expanding education centers and hiring the graduates is nearly totally considered as such also by the citizens.
So it would be necessary to consider the fundamental fabrics of the schooling system, its contents, procedures, and finally and most importantly for this piece its connection with the society. Hence, let the preceding issue be resurfaced.
Ethiopia has came with the religious schooling system and the society was just fine from the irrespective of connecting its graduates and their skills and knowledge with the society. That has never failed to basically work out that, even today, these schools are perfect from this standards. The society accepts religion education graduates and their service is immediately amalgamated with the public's day to day life. Noy only this, the moral, ethical, behavioural, philosophical and other elements of the education is reflected while serving after the graduation. These graduates not only mix normally perfectly with the public but also clearly show manners, professionalize, and the explained qualities. But when it comes to the formalized and modern education system, a double failure from this regard exists. First, the connection between the teachers and the institutions and the students and teachers or their institutions, are not precisely ethical, professional, and so on. These entities miss their philosophical connections and only pass their relationships as employee and free service users, at least normally. Second, the society does not mix itself with the education system as a whole. The public life is too far from the education system and the integration between the institutions and its produces are aliens to the publics life. Worse, the government has politicized the failure and gives only an administrative eyes so that jobs are created by any means. For instance, the long and thus normal practice today is that public institutions must find new mostly junior posts and report so that yearly the tones of graduates find a public service post. These is conducted all in all through political governance where the institutions' leaders are awarded as a single factor if they find job spaces and also the cadres are measured if they lobby successfully offices and gave unemployed graduates jobs in their localities. A professionalized, well researched connection between the utter fact of unemployed-ness and helping it does not exist. A graduate of some discipline can serve any lost never related with the training. Professional development and career prospect are harmed and the education system would thus fail to mix the society's way of life.
Educated citizens are also not creative enough to move on private efforts or private sector which itself is too weak. Administrations are not in favour of creativities and the private sector. They allow no virtually workable policies and supports for those ideals that would connect the education system with the public's life. They do not import substitute or protect domestic efforts, or favour creativities and so on. Even too important or local outputs and services are bought from far away beyond seas. Utter example can be the only made through hand traditional wears called Netella that has existed in ancient Ethiopia till today. The hand woven cotton wear is these days being made abroad and imported for lesser price. No focus for domestic industries and its connection with the modern education system exists at least practically. Cultural changes are also in line. Unlike the old education system in the nation that is claimed to have inspired the Western education system, the modern schooling lacks ethical and moral shifts of public life in accordance with the education system. The society despises working physically, long hours, off the normal working times, and so on. Dedications and serving-attitudes are nill that the official services are full of corruption, unethical, non-philosophical, and un-behavioured - resulting in broken service linkage with the public that has believed that work is just to earn livelihoods to begin with. Hence, education and the society are not formally connected yet.
The education system flails understand the direct linkage to itself with the public is the core value of its existence. It fails therefore in many aspects. First, it educates just haphazardly to create hire-able citizens in the utterly lowest quality. Second they are not educated there is a life connection between education, work and public or private life. And third, institutions themselves are alien. This is mostly what they call under this research topic the communal influence and presence of the institutions. The institutions do not know much more than educating the citizens. The substances and procedures are imported directly with out a need for probably customizations may be to cultures, traditions, practices and so on. The contents are basically general in the fact that they are not localizsed. They study general or theoretical aspects and not problems that are close to their nose.
That clearly evinces the understanding that education is just for livelihood philosophy is shared by the education institutions as well. Heir philosophy is not solving public lifestyle, rather being a mere additions to the end of establishing new normal of job creations style. Fourth, the education system lacks incorporation of local skills and traditional understandings, as they erroneously claim it as "indigenous knowledge" - that being error naming as boundary is not to be found in knowledge as it is either empirical or rational end of an understanding making by a human being. Anyways, the domestic citizens, and their history has its own understandings that can be called traditional practices. Studying them and incorporating in the formal education system is fine, still in-existing. Fifth, a very important issue still extension of the earlier ones, especially the last two is studying the people and the nation itself through the education system as a fundamental reason'detre of the institution. The education system is in the land but not in the country's heart. It fails to be a means of pure philosophy to study the country and its problems. It is not incorporating local practices, but basically hunting local truths and building new realities. For instance a wonderful examples can be the following two instances.
First, the Ethio-British seasoned public figure and author Andargachew Tsige, also a politician and national hero, once in a very brief discussion recently (2021 GC.,) at Addis Ababa said, the Ethiopian life is unique in that it is made up of Qinea (wax and gold = or double meaning), hence our troubles are related with this dual understanding of life, he proposed. This was not to be found under the modern education of the nation. This type of utter local and pure philosophies needed to exist, so that the education system makes a solemn sense and connection to the country. Second example can be an institution called, Lebawi Academy. The school's slogan goes knowledge of the world from an Ethiopian perspective. Their ideal lies in studying he local traditional practices, religious ancient knowledge, and history of Ethiopia from perspectives that are nurturing for the country. In this instances, the education system can bear a fruit of being for real in the public. Yet the trouble lies deeper. Sixth, the nation lacks political and governance leaderships that facilitates a new connections between education system, its contents and processing with the public, cultural and economic life of the nation. Education has to be linked with a creative, favouring, and harnessing outside environment. Life has to evolve with the idea of modern education. It has to rely on the education's processing and substance. If the public believes life can be connected with education for a modern or practical ends, then attitudes and cultures would have changed bringing a favourable attitudes and preparations or expectations in the education system.
But, if the government fails on the whole works of handling the education system in these manners, and certainly a lot more and deeper, then, the country will keep its worse track of un-assimilated education system and alien public. Education system might have migrated from here and returned, but the nation shall learn how its migrated education system in religion connected itself well with the public and copy it to the modern education system. Indeed, the considered-classic literatures in Ethiopian modern history are still most proper in their themes. Abroad education that made young Ethiopians alien to the land has only brought itself and still society and education are opposite to each other. A crossroad that never made itself easy, yet always ignored and always getting chaotic, and still usually ignored.