The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a landlocked country located on the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya. With more than 2000 years of history, Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world. It is the only country in Africa that was not colonized, although it was occupied by Italy from 1935 to 1941. In the 4th century, Ethiopia officially converted to Christianity and is the 2nd oldest Christian country in the world. Ethiopia has been a secular country since 1974. The estimated population is 76, 511, 887 making Ethiopia the second most-populated country in Africa. 84 indigenous languages are spoken in Ethiopia, with Amharic, Oromit and Tigrinya the most widely spoken. English is the major foreign language taught in schools. The literacy rate is 42.7% and only 24% of adults have completed primary school.
In the 8th century BC, the Kingdom of D'mit was founded in what is now modern day Ethiopia. Throughout its history, explorers from many countries have visited the area. Emperor Haile Selassie ruled the country from 1930 to 1974, except for the time during the Italian occupation. Selassie is credited with modernizing the country, although the Italians are credited with building the modern infrastructure, especially the transportation system. In 1974, Selassie was deposed by a military coup headed by Mengistu Haile Mariam and Ethiopia became a Marxist, one-party country. Following many years of coups, a war with Somalia and the death of hundreds of thousands, Mengistu was found guilty of genocide in 2006. In 1994, the current constitution was adopted and in 1995, the first multi-party elections were held.
Formal education in Ethiopia has its roots in the 4th century. Prior to the adoption of secular education in the early 1900s, education was controlled by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and was reserved for the elite. Emperor Menelik introduced modern education to Ethiopia and the first public school was opened in Addis Ababa in 1907. During the Italian occupation, schools were closed. In 1974, education became more open to all citizens and schools were opened in rural areas. Ethiopia suffers from low enrollments in primary and secondary school; only 79% of the children ages 7-14 attend school and enrollment drops to 27% for students eligible for secondary school. School enrollment is especially low for girls; they represent only 27.1% of secondary school students.
Currently, the country's education system is overseen by both the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education.
Compulsory education is from ages 6-14. Primary school is 8 years beginning at age 6 and is divided into two cycles. The first cycle is basic education (Grades I-IV) and the second cycle is general education (Grades V-VIII).
The first cycle of secondary school (Grades IX and X) is 2 years and students are awarded an Ethiopian General School Leaving Certificate Examination (EGSLCE) upon completion of studies. The second cycle of secondary school (Grades XI and XII) has general, technical and vocational options. The general second cycle is 2 years long and students sit for the Ethiopian Higher Education Entrance Examination (EHEEE) at the end of studies. (Before the education reforms instituted in 2001, the EGSLCE was awarded after completion of Grade XII; not after Grade X, as it is now). The general second cycle is offered at preparatory secondary schools and prepares students for post-secondary study.
Technical studies are offered at technical schools and junior colleges and are 3 years long. Vocational studies are offered at vocational schools and junior college and are also 3 years long.
Post-secondary studies are offered at colleges, institutes and universities. The first university in Ethiopia, University College of Addis Ababa, was opened in 1950. There are currently 8 public universities, 23 teacher's colleges and teacher training institutes, and numerous public and private colleges and institutes.
Post-secondary technical and vocational programs are 2-3 years long and award diplomas upon completion. Bachelor degrees are 4 years, except for medicine and veterinary medicine, which are 5-year programs. Master's degree programs are at least 2 years following a bachelor's degree. Doctoral programs are an additional 3+ years following a master's degree.
A June 2003 "Higher Education Proclamation" approved by Parliament includes many reforms, including increasing the quality of higher education programs and curriculum reviews. It gives more autonomy to universities and reduces bachelor's programs to 3 years effective with the 2007-08 academic year. Some bachelor's degree programs, including pharmacy, engineering, architecture, and town planning, will remain at 5 years. Diploma programs are being transferred to technical colleges and universities will only offer degree programs.