Revising English Curriculum in Ethiopia
Presentation delivered at CIES 2017 (Atlanta). In Ethiopia, English as a second language has been taught as a subject in primary schools for many years. At the same time, English has been used as the medium of instruction (MOI) beginning in the upper primary school level. Although the English curriculum has been reviewed and revised a number of times, early grade reading assessments of English indicate that students’ performance continues to be very low in Ethiopia. Other research indicates that one of the major obstacles for providing quality education in secondary and higher education in Ethiopia is the lack of English language proficiency in most students. This presentation will discuss how the USAID-funded READ TA Project is working with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education (MOE) to address this problem by revising the English curriculum to more explicitly focus on preparing students to use English as a MOI for all subjects in the upper primary years. By treating English as a future MOI rather than merely as a second language the MOE hopes to make improvements in English proficiency and the quality of education. In order to understand how to best improve the English curriculum the project worked with the MOE to conduct a desk review of the current curriculum along with a nationally representative field study to learn how English is being implemented in schools. As a result, major gaps were identified related to challenges in transition to English as medium of instruction, language content, the teaching-learning approach, alignment of mother tongue and English, and teacher training. To address these gaps READ TA has followed an innovative approach, which was not practiced in previous years, in revising English curriculum materials. This starts from understanding that the English curriculum should be revised comprehensively from kindergarten to grade 12 to have a very clear picture of the progression and ensure cohesion across the grades. It also is based on the understanding that children learn to read and write best in their mother tongue which allows them to bridge to learning to read and write in an additional language (such as English). With this understanding a diverse team of professionals was compiled including reading experts, curriculum experts, gender experts, inclusive education experts, developmental psychologists, assessment experts, and representatives from each of the regions and the MOE.. Quality assurance was taken as a key issue, by making quality assurance at different levels: quality assurance via the support and follow up of lead consultants, quality enhancement through inclusion of high level experts in each team, establishment of an internal quality assurance team which reviews the final product of the development team and provides feedback before the curriculum documents are presented for a wider group, and the formal validation with representatives from the regions and MOE. Another innovative aspect of the revision process is the deliberate attempt made to align the mother tongue and English language curriculum in terms of theme, language content and teaching-learning approach. Alignment of the English school curriculum and college curriculum for English teacher training is also a new experience in the country. By doing so READ TA is enhancing the experience and capacity of diverse professionals while producing quality English curriculum materials and contributing to enhancing the quality of education in Ethiopia.