Ethiopia: A Country Education Profile (Fact Sheet)



Area:  1,251,280 Sq. Km


Population:  65 Million


Languages:  Amharic (official), Oromigna, Tigrigna and 80 other major languages are spoken. English, French, Italian and Arabic are also widely spoken.


Religion : The dominant religions are Ethiopian Orthodox and Islam. Judaism and Animism are also practiced in some parts of the country.


Economy:  Major Industrial Products: food and beverages, textiles, leather, cement, metal products, paper, plastic products, automotive and tractor assemble, tires etc


Major Agricultural Products: coffee, tea, oilseeds, cotton, tobacco, fruits, pepper, sugar cane, fish and livestock.


Major Exports: coffee, oilseeds, hides and livestock.


Major Imports: machinery and equipment, industrial inputs, pharmaceuticals and chemicals.


Prospects: The country has the highest number of livestock in Africa, is the third largest coffee exporter and has immense potential for mining (gold, tantalum, platinum, petroleum, coal and natural gas). The country is endowed with abundant water resources and hydropower, geothermal, and solar energy potential. It has great potential for a strong labor force as about 50% of the population is in youth age category.


 History:  The history of Ethiopia, known to many as Abyssinia, is rich, ancient, and still in part unkown. The first hominid remain known as “Lucy” ( 3.2 million years old) were found in Ethiopia. Ethiopian history is rich with legends of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Ethiopia is the only African country never colonized by any European country. In fact, Ethiopia defeated Italy at the Battle of Adwa (1896), making the first victory of any African nation over a European colonial power.


Education:  Ethiopia has a base of traditional education (church) with its own script which is very elaborate and complex. The development of modern education in Ethiopia is at an early stage. The literacy rate at present is one of the lowest in Africa and is estimated at 50 %. In 1999 there were about 9.6 million primary, 3 million junior secondary and 5.7 million senior secondary school students.


First Cycle Primary Schools, Grades 1-4: Children enter primary school at various ages because of the agrarian nature of the economy and the possibility of transfer from traditional church or mosque education to modern education. Teaching is in the Mother Tongue for the majority of children depending on their regions. English is taught as a foreign language. There are about 15 Teacher Training Institutes and there is a plan to increase TTIs through distance education, correspondence etc.


Second Cycle Primary Schools, Grades 5-8: Admission to first and second cycle primary schools is open to all students. Usually schools combine the two cycles in a compound. A substantial number of teachers are certified by going through a one or two years teacher training scheme. There are 8 Teacher Training Colleges for this cycle of teachers.  Primary enrollment is about 50%.


Secondary Schools: At the end of the second cycle of primary education all students in all regions are required to take the 8th Grade National Examination which is administered by the National Office for Examination (NOE) in order to ensure the quality of primary education and coverage of the curriculum (standard). Selection to secondary schools is based on the National Examination results and availability of openings in the regional schools. Students are streamlined after the National Examination results to various academic, vocational, agricultural, industrial sciences and home economic fields. The core curriculum for all programs include: English, Mathematics, Physical and Life Sciences, Social Studies, National Languages and Physical Education. Secondary enrollment is about 30 percent.


The Ethiopian General Secondary Education Certificate Examination (EGSECE) -10th Grade National Examination – Last year (June 2001) students have sat for the New National Examination at the end of 10th grade which is known us the Ethiopian General Secondary Education of Certificate Examination (EGSECE). These students will be streamlined into Academic (College preparation) and Vocational and Technical schools based on their results.  Those going into academic fields are expected to sit for college entrance examination after two years of preparation and the others will either join the labor market or be self employed. It is hoped that the first College Entrance Examination will be given sometime April/May 2003.


 Examination:  The educational system in Ethiopia is organized in cycles or levels of formal schooling. The first and second cycle primary education is demarcated by internal (classroom) examination at the end of each cycle and by a National Examination (external examination) at the end of the second cycle. The secondary education begins from 9th grade and ends by 12th grade. At the end of 12th grade students sit for the Ethiopian School Leaving Certificate Examination (ESLCE) which is administered once a year in March/April with results due in August or September. Students are required to complete 12 years of primary and secondary education and pass the 8th and 12th grade National Examinations in order to apply for any higher education. Examinees should score a minimum of 2.00 on a scale of 4.00 or “C” in at least five subjects: English, Mathematics (both compulsory) and any other three subjects.


Higher Education: The foundation of universities and colleges is a consequence of primarily a national initiative in a country which has little tradition of formal education.  The Ethiopian University system has developed in eclectic fashion and has not been modeled on any single foreign system. The first higher education institute, the Addis Ababa University College was established in 1950. At present there are 6 universities and 20 colleges including 10 private colleges accredited by the MOE. The government has taken the initiative in opening new universities and colleges and expanding and upgrading the already existing colleges of engineering, education and health sciences in various regions of the country. Tertiary enrollment is about 1 percent.


Prepared by: Tsegaye Kassa, Cultural Affairs Assistant/Educational Adviser, Public Affairs Section, P.O.Box 1014, Tel: 251-1-550007 or 550666, fax: 251-1-551748, E-mail: or APO/FPO or pouch address, AMEMBASSY Addis Ababa, Dept of State, Washington DC, 20521-2030, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


March 6, 2003

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia