Tuesday, May 28, 2024
HomeOpinionAnecdotal Regional Data Shows Education in Oromo Worse than in Amhara

Anecdotal Regional Data Shows Education in Oromo Worse than in Amhara

Education _ Oromo _ Amhara _ Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s Minister for Education, Berhanu Nega (PhD) speaking about 12th grade exam result this week. (Photo : pubic domain)

Yonas Biru, PhD

In my blog yesterday, I suggested that as dismal as it is, the 3.3 percent passing rate of the standardized college entrance tests is not the most important story. The most important stories are in the details. Producing averages conceal data points that are critical to inform policy. 

The Oromo and Amhara data are particularly important because together they represent more than 50 percent of the population. In addition, since the Oromo tribal land has become the epicenter of tribal extremism, its performance compared to other tribal homelands can shed light on the vagaries of tribalism in the future generation. To make an objective assessment we need to see two separate reports by regions. 

1.  Regional test results, showing what present of the students got A, B, C, D and F before 2022 and in 2022. It will even be useful to go further and show sub regional data for each tribal homeland.

2.  Percent of students who passed the standardized tests year by year before 2022 next to the 2022 results. 

In the blog, I venture to predict two outcomes:

  1. Regions where tribal extremism ran rampant will fall near the bottom of the totem pole in the first data set.
  1. Regions where tribal extremism is normalized will register proportionally less students in the 3.3 percent passing cohort in the 2022 results.

Since my last blog, some regional results have been released. Below is my preliminary assessment. Therefore, it should be taken with circumscription. To form a conclusive assessment, we need the kind of regional details I noted above.

Before going into the regional results, we need to first address issues with population data in Ethiopia. The last credible census data was conducted in 1994. At the time, Amhara accounted for 26 percent of Ethiopia’s population and Oromo accounted for 35 percent.

The 2007 census was deliberately adulterated by TPLF to reduce the population of Amhara. I say adulterated because I was told by a UN official who was working with the Ethiopian government at the time.

The 2007 census result reduced Amhara’s figure from 25.9 to 23.3 percent of the total population of Ethiopia, while increasing the corresponding figure for Oromo from 35 to 37 percent. The official 2007 census report notes: “The percentage shares for Oromia and Southern People Regions have slightly increased since 1994, whereas the percentage share of the national population in Amhara Region has declined from 25.9 to 23.3 percent.”

Current population figures for 2022 are extrapolated from the 2007 Census results. Amhara’s representation is further reduced from 23.3 percent to 22 percent, whereas Oromo’s number is increased to 38 percent. According to the 1994 census data Oromo had 4.9 million more people than Amhara. The 2007 census data shows that Oromo had 9.8 million more people than Amhara. The extrapolated 2022 data shows Oromo has 17.2 million more people than Amhara.

Now let us see how Oromo and Amhara fare in preparing their students for the next generation. 

According to the recent high school leaving standardized test results, the top 5 best performing schools in the nation were: One in Addis (Kotebe); three in Amhara (Dessie boarding, Bahirdar STEM, and Gonder Community College) and one in Oromo (Oda boarding school).

The average scores for all subjects by regions are as follows. Addis Ababa (38.46%), Harari (32.88), Dire Dawa (31.42%), Amhara (30.37%), Sidama (28.34), Southern People (28.17), and Oromo (27.96).

Areas who scored better than the national 3.3% average are: Addis (19.8%), Harari (10.5%), Dire Dawa (6.7%), and Amhara (3.6%). Oromo is below the national average (2.0%). This is below Sidama that registered (2.3%).

Another data point is that in natural science there were 263 students who scored 600 or better. Of which, 117 were from Addis, 70 from Amhara and 51 from Oromo. Though Amhara is supposed to have millions of people less than Oromo, Amhara has 35 percent more students performing better in natural science than Oromo. It is safe to assume the school age to total population ratios in the Amhara and Oromo tribal lands are reasonably similar.

Though specific data was not provided for social science, the top performing areas in terms of numbers of students scoring high marks were Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Harar, Amhara, and Oromia. Once again, Oromo is behind Amhara. In every publicly available data point Oromo performed worse than Amhara.

I do not believe the remedial program is helpful because it does not address the problem.

All the problems shown above are manifestations of the tribalization of the nation’s educational system. You cannot address 12 years of poor educational performance with a one-year college remedial program. The data shows the overall average for Oromo is 27.96%. Amhara at 30.37% is not much better. This means the average students in both tribal lands scored at the lower end of F. 

Simply put, the proposed solution is to keep universities open by filling the seats with students who have no reason to be on university campuses. You cannot expect a student with 28% grade to score a passing grade in the remedial program to enter college. A small minority may be able to pull their grades up. The majority will not. This is a well-established phenomenon in international studies. The Ethiopian ministry of education has ample data to test this. How many students who scored below 30% in the first 6th and 8th grade national exams passed it in the next try after repeating the class. 

Showing pity to the student victims is not the solution. The focus should be on the tens of million who are in the pipeline. The solution the Ministry of Education provided is a political solution. Time to grab the proverbial bull by the horns.


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  1. Yes, the regional disparities and other details in the test result reveal the problem is deep-rooted and the remedial program proposed by the MoE is by no means adequate, even as a short-term solution. But this does not warrant for the dismissal of the proposed remedy as a mere political choice. I think the MoE proposal is both principled and practical. It is grossly unfair to deny these students who are failed by a rotten education system a second chance, and I think a remedial program could be managed with a modest additional budget, and I believe, if properly managed with a scripted lesson plan from the MoE, it could go a long way to help these students improve their grades substantially.

    I view the proposed remedial program just like preparing for such international standardized tests as GRE: well-structured tutorials go a long way and most people get it right/pass the second time! Let’s give the students and the MoE a chance!

    • In the 1994 census, the proportion of Amharas and Oromos was 30% and 32% respectively. Please double check the data you are using.


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