The effect of primary English readers on reading skills in Ethiopia

The effect of primary English readers on reading skills in Ethiopia
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
The effect of primary English readers
on reading skills in Ethiopia
(A study in African educational needs)
Michael Daniel Ambatchew
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor
Litterarum in English in the Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria,
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. P.J.H. Titlestad
October 2003
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
I would like to dedicate this thesis to all the young students of Ethiopia, who must learn
to read effectively and succeed not only in their education, but also in improving our
country and in making it a better place to live in, despite the odds.
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements ……………………………………………………….
Glossary of keywords ………………………………………………………..
Introduction ………………………………………………………………
1. Chapter One : General Background
1.1 Ethiopia’s General Situation
1.2 Ethiopia’s Linguistic Situation and Language Policy
1.3 Medium of Instruction ……………………………………………
1.4 Historical Overview of English in Ethiopia
1.4.1 Ethiopia’s “Dual Circle” English
1.4.2 The Lack of an Ethiopian English Variety
1.4.3 English and Employment
1.5 Background to the Ethiopian Socio-Economic Situation ……………….
1.5.1 The General Health Situation ……………………………………………
1.5.2 The General HIV/AIDS Situation
1.6 Background of the Ethiopian Education System ……………………….
1.7 General Structure of the Ethiopian Education System ………………
1.8 Learning and Disabilities ………………………………………………
1.9 The Ethiopian Education Sector Development Program ………………
1.10 English in the ESDP
1.11. Basic Information on Region and Schools ………………………………..
1.11.1 Educational Statistics on Region 14/ Addis Ababa City State …………
1.11.2 Background to the Schools ………………………………………….
2. Chapter Two: Reading in the Primary Cycle of Ethiopian Education …… 67
2.1 What is Reading? Basic Definitions ………………………………….
2.2 General Approaches to Teaching Reading ……………………………
2.2.1 A Bottom Up Approach
2.2.2 A Top Down Approach
2.2.3 An Interactive Approach
2.2.4 An Interactive Compensatory Approach …………………………..
2.3 The Role of Reading in English ……………………………………
2.4 Textbooks and Learning Materials …………………………………
2.5 The Primary Reader Scheme
2.5.1 Background History
2.5.2 Ranking and Describing Readers …………………………………
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
2.5.3. Analysis of Selections
2.6 Teaching Methodology in Ethiopia ………………………………….
2.7 The Reading Syllabus
2.7.1 First Cycle Language Syllabus …………………………………….
2.7.2. Second Cycle Language Syllabus …………………………………
2.8 Reading in the Grade Eight Textbook …………………………………
2.9 Reading in the Grade Eight National English Examination ………….
2.10 Testing Reading ……………………………………………………..
3. Chapter Three: A Review of Related Literature …………………..
3.1 A Review of Ethiopian Research on Reading …………………………
3.1.1 Journals
3.1.2. Theses
3.1.3 The Ethiopian National Baseline Assessment
on Grade Eight Students’ Achievement
3.2 The Conceptual Framework for Extensive Reading ……………………..
3.3 A Review of International Extensive Reading Research …………………
3.3.1 Extensive Reading: Speed and Comprehension ………………………..
3.3.2 A Study of Extensive Reading with Remedial Reading Students ……..
3.3.3 Extensive Reading vs. Skills Building in an EFL Context ……………
3.4 Using Children’s Literature
3.4.1 The Rationale Behind Using Children’s Literature …………………..
3.4.2 Optimum Reading Age
3.4.3 Reading Schemes
4. Chapter Four: Methodology ………………………………………………..
4.1 Statement of the Problem ………………………………………………..
4.2 Aims and Objectives of the Study ………………………………………..
4.3 Research Methodology ………………………………………………….
4.3.1 Instruments
4.3.2 Administration Procedure ……………………………………………….
4.3.3 Scoring
4.3.4 Analysis Tools
4.4. Delimitations
5 Chapter Five: Findings and Analysis
5.1 Reading Levels
5.2 Statistical Description of Results
5.2.1 The Mean
5.2.2 The Median
5.2.3 The Mode
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
5.3.4 The Variance
5.3.5 The Standard Deviation
5.3 Inferential Analysis of Results (t-test) …………………………………
5.4 Staff Questionnaire and Observations ………………………………….
5.4.1 The Librarians
5.4.2 The Teachers
5.5 Utilisation Capacity of Government Owned
Primary Schools in Addis Ababa
5.5.1 A Systems Approach
5.5.2 Empowering Teachers
5.5.3 Staff Development
5.5.4 A Meritology
5.5.5 Increasing Human Resource Capacity …………………………………
5.5.6 Dealing with Overcrowding
5.6 Implications for the ESDP
5.6.1 Quality Assurance
5.6.2 Cultural Conflict
5.6.3 Decentralisation
5.6.4 Capacity Building
5.6.5 Better Communications
6. Chapter Six: Summary and Recommendations …………………………
6.1 Limitations
6.2 Summary
6.3 Recommendations
6.3.1 Recommendations on Measures to be Taken ……………………….
6.3.2 Recommendations for Further Studies on Reading ………………….
6.4 Revisiting the Primary Reader Scheme ………………………………..
6.4.1. Provision
6.4.2. Access
6.4.3. Staffing
6.4.4. Promotion
6.4.5 Parental Participation ……………………………………………….
6.4.6. Reading with Friends ……………………………………………….
6.4.7. Others
6.5 General Societal Implications
Appendix 1: Kachru’s Concentric
Circles of World Englishes
Appendix 2: Titles Selected as Top Choices …………………………….
Appendix 3: Questionnaire
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Appendix 4: Discussion Questions …………………………………….
Appendix 5: EPER Notes for Users
And Score Guides
Appendix 6: EPER Letter of Permission ………………………………..
Appendix 7: Treated Group Scores …………………………………….
Appendix 8: Untreated Group Scores ……………………………………
List of Tables
Table 1: Correlation Between Occuptational Garde Level and English Fluency
Table 2: Ranking of Readers by School
Table 3: Matrix of Reading Types
Table 4: Scores of the EPER Placement Test by Sandford School Students
Table 5: Results of Students Involved in Test Relaibility
Table 6: EPER Level Approximate Equivalency with Ethiopian Grades
Table 7: Reading Levels of Students in EPER Placement Test
Table 8: Scores on the EPER Placement Test by Treated Group
Table 9: Scores on the EPER Placement Test by Untreated Group
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
First and foremost, I would like to thank my advisors Professor Stephen M. Finn and
Professor Peter Titlestad for their continuous support, useful advice and meticulous
reviewing of my thesis. They both went well beyond the call of duty by taking time out
from conferences for consultations and assisted me in administrative and financial issues
caused by the distance between Pretoria and Addis.
Next, I am indebted to all the school administrators, teachers and students, who wholeheartedly sacrificed their precious time and energy to get involved in my research.
Finally, I must thank all my family and friends, who directly contributed to this work,
through providing me with materials, encouragement, comments and assistance. In
particular, I would like to thank my mother, Barbara Daniel, and my friends Elisabeth
Ayalew, Emebet Mulugeta, Samuel TesfaMichael and Tedla Haile for proof-reading and
commenting on my chapters. Solomon Tewolde and Kari-Ann Whitbread were a real
help in transferring money, while Amb. Doutoum, Dr Abiye and Dr Almaz were
constantly encouraging. I will always be grateful to my wife, Fassikawit Ayalew, for
being so supportive, even when I grew grumpy. She unhesitatingly co-operated in all
financial matters like fees, airfares and whatever expenses were involved, though they
necessitated her to forfeit other requirements. Last and definitely not least, I have to
acknowledge my baby boy, Beruk, whose mischievous glances and irresistible smiles at
my disorderly papers gave me the impetus to quickly finish my dissertation before he lay
his chubby little hands on them.
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
For years the quality of Ethiopian education has been lamented over and some have
warned of the crises of running an inefficient educational system and its detrimental
effects on nation building (Tekeste 1990:84). One of the factors in the students’ inability
to benefit from their lessons is their lack of reading skills. The Ethiopian Education
Sector Development Program (ESDP) is calling for the introduction of supplementary
readers to reinforce the learning of English at primary level. In response, many
organisations such as The British Council, CODE, Emmanuel Home and PLAN
International are providing primary schools with readers. A case in point is the Primary
Readers Scheme of the British Council.
This thesis examines if there is any tangible effect on the students’ reading skills by
conducting a comparative study between two government schools that received a
donation of primary readers and two schools that did not. To begin with a short review of
the suitability of the readers selected by the teachers after an initial pilot scheme is made.
Then 454 students were tested in this evaluation to check if there had been a significant
improvement in the reading skills of the students in the school that received donations of
supplementary readers.
It was found that there has been no significant increase in the students’ reading abilities.
This is not because there is a weakness in modern theories that preach the usefulness of
supplementary readers but because government schools lack the capacity to utilise
supplementary readers. Most of the librarians are not qualified, while the teachers, though
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
qualified, lack training in how to use supplementary readers and also tend to be
demotivated. Moreover, the administration and running of most of the schools libraries
do not allow first cycle students (Grade 1-4) to use the libraries and prohibit second cycle
students (Grades 5-8) from borrowing books, thereby limiting the books’ accessibility. It
is also very likely that the country’s socio-economic situation in general and the
children’s backgrounds do not encourage the habit of reading for pleasure. Consequently,
the Education Sector Development Program will have to make some modifications to
maximise the benefits of extensive reading in the future, such as training teachers and
librarians as well as encouraging supplementary reading amongst the students.
The study concludes that though extensive reading schemes produce impressive results in
experimental situations, care should be taken in actual implementation of such schemes
in real life. Efforts must be made to ensure the actual delivery of appropriate
supplementary readers selected by the students themselves to the schools. Moreover,
other important and related aspects including good school administration of libraries,
training of teachers, a sustainable supply of books and most of all project monitoring and
evaluation should be given due consideration.
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Glossary of Keywords
1. Acquisitionally Poor Environment = a surrounding that is not conducive to the
learning of a language due to its being rarely used in both speech and print.
2.Componential Model = A model that describes by identifying various components.
3. Cultural Appropriateness = something that coincides with the norms, values and
thinking patterns of a society or group of people.
4. Extensive Reading = Fast reading that is necessarily done in large quantities with a
focus on content to get pleasure or information rather than on language.
5. Minimal Linguistic Threshold = a basic knowledge of a language necessary for
transferring knowledge from the mother tongue to the target language.
6. Optimum Reading Age = The time when a child is most receptive to learning reading
7. Reading = the process in which a student interacts with a written text and derives
meaning, which can be exhibited in a manner appropriate to the demands of the
8. Readers = Storybooks provided to students for additional reading outside the curricula
to improve their reading skills.
9. Reading Level = A range of vocabulary and proficiency skills a student can be
categorised into.
10. Process Model = A model that describes the interaction of components.
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Africa’s socio-economic realities place her in a unique position. As a result, programmes
and projects that are successful in the world do not necessarily work in Africa. Cognisant
of this fact, a World Bank report on education in Sub-Saharan countries reads: “ It is
difficult to generalise about what will ensure high quality education because the factors
determining effectiveness in education are so complexly interwoven and dependent on
local context” (Heneveld and Craig: 1996:xii). The report explains that research and data
about education are based on the realities of developed countries. “If that information is
to be put usefully to work to design interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa, it has to be
informed by the experience of African educators, and the only providers of this
experiential expertise are Africans themselves.” (Heneveld and Craig: 1996: 48).
Therefore, as Ethiopia is in the process of implementing an education sector programme,
it is imperative that all projects and the entire programme is monitored and evaluated to
ensure its effectiveness at the local level. Martin, Oksanen and Takala (2000:2) also
reiterate the need for independent people to carry out more objective evaluations and
ensure that the Education Sector Development Program (ESDP) is indeed meeting its set
This thesis is based on the premise that independent researchers can contribute to the
evaluation process, and attempts to measure the effectiveness of the provision of
supplementary readers to primary schools with the intent of improving the students’
reading skills in English.
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Durand and Deehy (1996:163) state:
Conducted properly, evaluations provide valuable feedback to all involved
in the book donation process, from the donating publishers to the donor
agencies and the recipients. The evaluation results, both positive and
negative, can be used to improve the overall process of the book donation
and to meet the specific – and changing – needs in each country.
Although previous research in other countries, such as that done by Davis, (1995), Elley
(1991), Hamp-Lyons (1985), Krashen (1993), Nation (1997), has proved unambiguously
that the provision of readers has a direct and positive impact on the reading skills of
students, this has not yet been proved in Ethiopia. Moreover, a lot of evaluative research
tends to be conducted in well-controlled laboratory-like conditions. Although it would
probably be fairly easy to take a group of Ethiopian students and run them through an
extensive reading programme and show that their reading skills have improved, this
would not give a good picture of the reality on the ground. Context-sensitivity can only
be regulated and modified, if evaluative research is carried out on real life projects that
have taken place with the interference of all the complexities of real life, rather than
studying an artificial project tested in an artificially sterile environment. Critics of
academic research tend to neglect work by saying it is like trying to measure the effects
of a grain of salt on the taste of a stew. In order to accommodate such criticism, yet not
drown in the cauldron of stew, a more inclusive review of general related factors has been
attempted. It tends to sample a ladle of the stew, which hopefully will be representative
of it.
The study sets out with two hypotheses. Hypothesis One is that the provision of
supplementary readers to primary schools has produced a statistically significant
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
improvement in the reading skills of the students and the Null Hypothesis is that there is
no significant relationship between the reading skills of the students and the provision of
the supplementary readers. In proving or disproving these hypotheses, it pays particular
attention to what sort of utilisation capacity government owned primary schools in Addis
Ababa have, and possible implications for the effective implementation of the Education
Sector Development Program. It is considered as relevant because a recent study of
twenty-six education projects came up with the finding that “the closer the factor was to
the life of the school and to what touches the children directly, the less likely it was to be
planned for explicitly in these projects assisted by the World Bank” (Heneveld and Craig:
1996: 40). The report ends up by recommending that for the future, greater focus should
be given to what actually happens inside the school as well as a richer package of
considerations of what makes education effective (Heneveld and Craig: 1996:53). This is
important in that academic research often takes place in controlled situations where
facilities are abundant and motivation is high. In real life school settings, however, things
tend to be less than ideal and teaching takes place in an environment in which
demotivation, shortages of facilities and other factors all impact on the teaching/learning
The writer of this thesis has had over a decade of experience working in in-service and
pre-service teacher training. He was involved in several supplementary reading schemes
and has experience in inspecting regions implementing the ESDP. Consequently, the
request for further research for the expertise of African educators to do their share, has
made the selection of this topic a foregone conclusion.
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
As the thesis is aimed at an international audience, who probably are not very familiar
with the Ethiopian situation and context, the first chapter gives some background
knowledge, which is a prerequisite to understanding the situation on the ground. Chapter
One describes the background of education in Ethiopia and the foundations for the whole
thesis. A general overview of Ethiopia and its historical background and language
situation is given. This is followed by a description of the Ethiopian education system
and language policy relating this to the media of instruction at primary level and the role
of English in the system. Finally, the current Education Sector Development Program is
Chapter Two moves on to the issue under focus, which is reading in Grade Eight. It
scrutinises reading at the second cycle of primary education. In the first part, a broad view of
the role of reading in English in the system will be given. This is done by looking at learning
materials in Ethiopia, including the reading passages used in the Grade Eight English
Textbook. and the Grade Eight National English Examination of 2000. In addition, the
reading syllabi drawn up by the Institute of Curriculum Development and Research (ICDR)
is looked into. Issues such as what reading actually is and general approaches to viewing and
teaching reading are covered here. Most significantly perhaps the Primary Reader Scheme,
which provided the supplementary readers whose effects this study is trying to evaluate, is
discussed in detail. A brief description of the readers provided by the scheme is given. This
is followed by an analysis of the suitability of the readers selected by the teachers as
favourites, after a one-year pilot testing of the scheme.
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Chapter Three reviews the literature on reading and gives reviews of Ethiopian research
on reading and international research on extensive reading. Moreover, it provides the
rationale behind using children’s literature and aspects to consider, while running
extensive reading schemes for students.
Chapter Four gets down to the actual research design, subjects and techniques of evaluation.
The aims and objectives of the study are explained. Moreover, the region in which the study
is carried out and a description of the schools and students is provided. Then the
methodology used and the selection of tests and questionnaires, as well as the method of
analysing the data are all justified with references to current literature on the subject. The
administrative procedure is discussed and the relevant levels of significance set. Finally, the
delimitations of the study are explained.
Chapter Five contains the findings and analysis. The chapter states the findings and analyses
them in the light of observations made during school visits and the general ESDP context.
The students’ results in the EPER placement test are examined and the general reading
levels of the students commented upon. Then follows the statistical descriptions and
inferential analysis. After this, the questionnaires and observations are discussed. As the
study set out to find out about the capacity of government owned schools to utilise
supplementary readers, as well as to uncover facts for the ESDP, implications from the tests,
questionnaires and observations are discussed in relation to the findings.
The last chapter is Chapter Six, in which there is a general summary and recommendations
from the study. The recommendations attempt to address both specific issues concerned
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with running extensive reading schemes as well as broader issues of school administration.
The appendices and references following this chapter, can also provide useful information
for anyone interested in reading in the areas or getting more specific information on
individual scores, results, the EPER test and the like.
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
1. Chapter One: General Background
Chapter One will lay the background of education in Ethiopia and the foundations for the
whole thesis. It begins by giving a general overview of Ethiopia and its historical
background and language situation. Then it will describe the Ethiopian education system
and language policy, relating this to the medium of instruction at primary level and the
role of English in the system. Finally, it will discuss the current Education Sector
Development Program. If context-sensitive research and evaluation is to be conducted,
the specific conditions of individual countries have to be taken into consideration, as
blanket decisions taken globally cannot cater for the needs and realities of local
conditions. Therefore, this chapter is intended to provide the backdrop for fully
appreciating the context in which the research was conducted.
1.1 Ethiopia's General Situation
Ethiopia, which is found in the Horn of Africa, is considered to be one of the least
developed countries based on its economic development and the living standard of its
people. It has an area of about one million square kilometres with a population of
approximately 61.7 million, of which 85.3% live, in rural areas (CRDA, 2001:3).
Ethiopia is a Federal Democratic Republic composed of eleven National Regional States;
Tigray, Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Somalia, Benishangul–Gumuz, Southern Nations
Nationalities and Peoples Region, Gambella, Harari, Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. The last
three are city states. These regional states are further divided into zones and woredas
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Ethiopia has been described in the following manner:
Ethiopia is a country unique among the countries of the world in many
respects. It has its own distinctive art, music, and poetic forms; its own
calendar, writing system, and numeration system, a climate unexpectedly
temperate for a country in the tropical zone, a history unlike that of any other
African nation... (Bender, Bowen, Cooper and Ferguson, 1976:1).
Nevertheless, Ethiopia shares many similarities with most African nations and has almost
identical concerns in many spheres of life.
She too has the richness of culture,
palaeontological and archaeological sites, and a rich complex of mineral deposits, flora and
fauna in an unspoiled natural environment, which have recently been identified as common
characteristics of African countries (OAU: 2001: 3).
The major causes of social problems in Ethiopia are attributed to war and recurrent drought
and famine, which in turn have a direct impact on the growth of the economy and
disintegration of families. The alarming rate of population growth in the country and the
increase in the unproductive age group of the population aggravate both the economic and
social problems. The structure of the Ethiopian economy is dominated by agriculture with
over 51.2% contribution to the GNP (Befekadu and Berhanu, 1999/2000). As the
agricultural sector is fully dependent on rainfall, the economy can easily be affected in
times of drought and famine in some parts of the country. Other sectors expected to
contribute to the growth of the economy are not developed enough to be relied on. The
development of the industrial sector is vital if the overall economy is to improve and the
standard of living of the population is to change for the better (Befekadu and Berhanu,
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Regarding her financial position, Ethiopia comes under the Highly Indebted Poor Country
(HIPC) category. She is currently suffering under a debt of approximately nine billion US
dollars. This would amount to 50% of her Gross Domestic Product and up to 20% of her
foreign exchange revenue being consumed in servicing debts. Ethiopia has one of the
lowest human development indicators and has a GNP per capita of 115 US $ in comparison
to the Sub-Saharan African average of 685$ and Seychelles 6,238 (World Bank, 2001b:33).
Regarding education (World Bank, 2001b:320-325), she has a high illiteracy rate which
appears to be gradually reducing in that the percentage of the population 15 years and older
has decreased from 76% in 1985 to 64% in 1998. However, even this compares poorly to
the general African figure of 41% and cannot be compared to countries like Zimbabwe and
Equatorial Guinea, whose figures stand at 8% and 9%, respectively. Her primary school
gross enrolment ratio is one of the lowest, even from Africa and was at 33% from1994 to
1997 and her primary net enrolment was at 32% from 1994 to1999. Only 51% of the cohort
of students who enrol in Grade One manage to reach Grade Five. Ethiopia is said to have
had 109,487 primary teachers working from 1994 to 1998, which is a significant increase
from the 33,322 primary teachers working in 1980. This huge body of primary teachers
give her a slightly more favourable standing in Africa with 47 students per teacher from
1994 –1998, in comparison to countries like Gabon and Mali which had 56 and 59 students
per teacher. Nevertheless, Ethiopia is one of the seven countries in the world that has a
gross enrolment ratio of less than 50% (World Bank, 1999:55).
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1.2 Ethiopia’s Linguistic Situation and Language Policy
The general problem of communication in Africa, which is faced because of linguistic
diversity, exists in Ethiopia, too. Ethiopia has seventy-five identified tribes (Institute for the
Study of Ethiopian Nationalities, 1985: 25), and over eighty different languages with four of
the five Afro-Asiatic languages spoken in the country. According to Ferguson (1972:12),
Ethiopia has five major languages (Amharic, English, Tigrinya, Galia/Ormignya and
Somali), thirteen minor languages (Afar, Anyuak, Beja, Chaha Gurage, Derasa, Gumuz,
Hadiya, Janjero, Kefa, Kembeata, Sidamo, Tigre and Wellamo/Welaiyta) and three special
languages (Geez, Italian and Arabic). However, he does not cover the remaining languages
probably due to the lack of sufficient data at that time. To date, no exhaustive study of the
Ethiopian languages has been made, yet the remaining languages, which are also minor
languages, are getting to be more widely known and a few are thought to have as few as 250
speakers. Moreover, with more languages being introduced now as media of instruction and
languages of local administration, the profile of languages is changing rapidly.
Language is a major factor in any education system. After colonialism, in many countries,
modern education has been adopted without sufficient preparation for its foundation. The
medium of instruction added an additional difficulty to the African students grappling with a
foreign curriculum and other school materials designed for a foreign reality. In Ethiopia,
Amharic has enjoyed the position of national language for centuries. Therefore, those
individuals who had a good mastery of it, especially the Amhara people, had an advantage
over others in schools, at courts and in administration. For most of the population, Amharic
has been at least a second language, which they have had to master. Therefore, the Amharas
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have developed a dominating position in society. Corson (1990:22) elaborates,"... de facto
inequalities are translated into de jure ones and the value of cultural capital is reinforced yet
again." Obviously, individuals who mastered the language could rapidly progress in society,
but as a social group it was the Amharas who were at an advantage.
Because of the factor of spatial multilingualism, the simple solution of using local languages
is not proving to be an easy solution to liberate social groups in all regions. To begin with,
minority groups have to learn the regional language for primary education, English for
secondary and tertiary education, and Amharic for national affairs because, "Amharic... is
the only Ethiopian language whose function as a lingua franca is national in scope"
(Ferguson, 1972:115). So minority groups, rather than being liberated, simply have another
additional language to add to their repertoire. Next, quite a few of the local languages are
primarily spoken languages. As a result, only a few people are literate in these languages.
Finally, whatever the feelings of the people are towards the Amharas, Amharic remains the
most prestigious national language.
Moving on to Ethiopia’s language policy, Fawcett (1970:53) states that " a language policy
is by its nature a continuing thing, and some measure of supplementation or even revision is
inevitable." Such continuation is clearly visible in Ethiopia's governments' policies,
especially so with the coming to power of a new government.
During the reign of Emperor Haile-Sellassie (1930 - 1974), there was a major concern of
colonialism/decolonialism across the whole of Africa. The introduction of Amharic to unify
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Ethiopia was started by Emperor Tewodros II (1855 - 1868). However, it was disrupted by
the Italian occupation. The Italian colonialists introduced the use of vernaculars as media of
instruction and local administration with the ultimate aim of preventing national
communication and unification. Tekeste Negash (1990:103) has put in an appendix to his
book an article that dates as far back as 1934. In this article, a foreign consultant proposes
the use of an Ethiopian language as the medium of instruction and the need to build up its
lexicon to cover modern terminology and concepts. Although Ethiopia was never truly
colonised, the government was concerned about linguistic decolonisation and creating a
national and international image of a strong unified nation. Hence, the government's
language policy was "consistent with the aim of promoting Amharic as the national
language of Ethiopia" (Bender, Bowen, Cooper and Ferguson, 1976:190). A command of
Amharic was a prerequisite for any foreigner seeking Ethiopian nationality, and most other
native languages were not actively supported. The period between 1960 and 1974 is often
cited as the golden years of better and stable economic growth in terms of growth in real
GDP, gross domestic saving and investment.
With the coming to power of the Dergue in 1974, or in the reign of Colonel Mengistu HaileMariam, the economy suffered. Declining per capita income, serious internal and external
macroeconomic imbalances, and widening budget deficit characterise the period between
1974 and 1991. However, a salutary bow was made in the direction of some more native
languages. Documents that stressed the equality, development and respectability of all
native languages were published. As a step forward from the previous regime, fifteen
languages were used in the national literacy campaign. This supplementation of the
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language policy reflected the change of focus from concern with individual nationhood to
recognition of the multilingual and multiethnic nature of the people of Ethiopia. However,
Amharic remained as the sole native language in formal education and state administration.
In 1991, the Ethiopian People's Democratic Front seized power with Ato Melese Zenawi as
its leader. During the last ten years, growth in real GDP has rebounded to an average level
of about 5.6% per annum and generally the country seems to have economic stability. The
present government's language policy, which is yet to appear in print, is still further
supplementing the previous policies. The government sought to empower more of the
Ethiopian people by introducing five national languages for regional administration and as
many local languages for media of instruction as circumstances would allow. In fact, the
right of all nationalities to attend primary education in their mother tongue is stated in the
educational policy of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE, 1994: 10-11):
Cognisant of the pedagogical advantage of the child in learning in mother
tongue and the rights of nationalities to promote the use of their languages,
primary education will be given in nationality languages. … The language of
teacher training for kindergarten and primary education will be the
nationality language used in the area. … Students can chose and learn at
least one nationality language and one foreign language for cultural and
international relations.
A territorial principle was adopted, probably based on the assumption that only such a
principle could ensure the survival of minority languages. Hence, children of all ethnic
groups have to learn in the language of the territory in which they dwell. This territorial
principle actually contradicts the rights of the child to learn in his mother tongue, as due to
the spatial multilingualism that exists, the student’s mother tongue is not necessarily that
language of the territory in which they live. Although there is mention of “one foreign
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language” (TGE,1994:11) in principle, in practice, only English is taught in the primary
schools at present.
After several years, the initial exuberant response to several media of instruction is fast
fading. Regional governments are taking a second realistic look at things and pondering
whether teaching students in the local language is limiting their mobility on the job market
and restricting them to educational institutions within one region only. The Afar region and
some ethnic groups in the Southern Nation and Nationalities People's Region are retaining
Amharic as the medium of primary education and only introducing their local languages as
school subjects.
Alexander (1996:6) comments upon the fact that language policies in Africa tend to come
up with systematically depressing or disastrous results. This probably emanates from the
practice of governments being too willing to absorb and apply 'obvious' theories and the
inability of the intellectuals to adapt such theories to the practical realities of a certain
country and to the felt needs of the people in that region. The World Bank (1999:43) stresses
“the importance of taking account of local values and culture ...”.
For instance, the view of multicultural policies and absolute pluralism as a panacea to all
experiences of racist violence, so easily embraced in developed countries and theoretically
attractive, is not going down so well in developing countries. Limage (1994:99) notes:
With so many countries in a state of political and social transition and others
engaged in civil wars, language diversity is more hesitantly perceived as a
source of cultural enrichment and human rights.
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Similarly, in Ethiopia, the social mobility and job opportunities of the next generation will
be determined by the type of education and the languages of education in which children are
educated today. Consequently, the practical realisation of the present language policy
demands scrutiny. The Transitional Government of Ethiopia (1994:10-11) has stated that all
nationalities have the right to attend primary education in their mother tongue, and at least
twenty-two languages are being used for primary education today (Gizaw,2001:iii).
Amharic will retain its position as the official language of the state. This recognition of
vernaculars in both theory and practice is related to the state's recognition of ethnic groups
and polities along ethnic lines.
Because all the Ethiopian languages cannot possibly be used as media of instruction, it is
probable that in the future, changes in the language policy will be related to the
preservation and development of the minority languages that fail to survive the
competition. Even in the much richer Republic of South Africa, Alexander (1996:38) calls
for active support for an eleven-language policy to prevent such a policy from becoming
“mere lip service to a noble ideal.” He then suggests the blending of languages to reduce the
number, which has been attempted and failed in the South of Ethiopia owing to the dialects
being strong symbols of group identity. In theory, all languages have access to
development. However, in practice, quite a lot of the minority languages are left to
struggle for survival.
It is unlikely that these minority languages will receive any serious attention regarding
language planning at present. Theoretically, they will be encouraged to develop, but
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practically, the government will have its hands full trying to develop the selected languages.
Consequently, the development or decline of these minority languages will most likely be
left in the hands of individuals and non-governmental organisations.
Though speculation is precarious at best in predicting the future of languages, the minority
languages with few speakers might die out and dialect clusters might merge to form one
language. As language is closely related to identity, the future of these languages could
coincide with their speakers. Since the Gurages are probably economically relatively better
off in the society, their language cluster could merge and eventually develop into a written
language and be a symbol of their separate identity. Other languages might disappear as
their speakers assimilate with larger tribes. Still others might be preserved through the
activity of anthropologists, linguists and other concerned speakers of the language. Only a
few are likely to develop and create a need for further status planning in the distant future.
To sum up, Ethiopia's language policy has been changing over the years and will probably
continue to do so in the years to come.
1.3 Medium of Instruction
The recent introduction of the right to have one’s mother tongue as the medium of
instruction is having many unforeseen consequences on the education system. The
unassailable position of Amharic has had the effect of making some teachers look down
upon the local language being used as a medium of instruction (Fisseha Mekonnen:
1994:58). Such negative attitudes can be dangerous because:
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Teacher attitudes towards a particular group, coupled with other forms of
discrimination may raise or depress academic achievement in ways that can
modify many of the linguistic advantages or disadvantages that children may
possess. (Corson, 1990: 162)
As a result, it is doubtful whether the raising in status of languages has had the desired
effect. Such status raising has not really increased the opportunities of the population as a
whole to be more competitive owing to a lack of teaching materials and trained teachers in
some of the languages. Since UNESCO declared that every child has the right to be
educated in one’s mother tongue in 1951, it has been generally accepted that a child who
learns in his/her mother tongue and then moves on to other major languages will exhibit
good academic achievement. This is because the mother tongue is the natural vehicle for the
learner's thoughts and skills easily acquired in the mother tongue and are assumed to be
transferred and facilitate second language acquisition. Now, however, this assumption is
being questioned. Kroon and Vallen (1995:) feel that there is no conclusive evidence that
first language instruction either leads to better results or inhibits second language
acquisition, whereas Street (1994:35) actually feels that local literacy may interfere with
second language literacy. Alexandre (1972:87) states that local vernaculars may only prove
effective in particularly favourable cases. In fact, this is an issue that demands serious and
intensive research in the African society, not only because it questions traditionally accepted
concepts, but because the stages of development of various African languages vary
A crucial factor in students' mastery of a language is its availability in written and spoken
forms in the society. Thus, the students' ability to use elaborate language skills requires an
acquisitionally rich environment, so urban-rural differences appear. It has been previously
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pointed out (Ambatchew, 1994:8), that several of the new media of instruction lacked
adequate written material to enhance literacy skill development outside the classroom, and
large numbers of students relapse into illiteracy (TGE, 1994:2). Unfortunately, it is reported
that local publishers are not keen to publish in languages other than Amharic owing to its
being unprofitable (Hoben, 1994:103). Admittedly, Ethiopia lacks the resources of making
'active bilingualism' a legal right as in the case of Sweden. Even attempting to advance a
policy of 'active bilingualism' using students' mother tongue is a far-off dream.
Nevertheless, using Amharic in a bilingual scheme could be feasible, owing to the existence
of prepared materials, trained teachers and an active knowledge of the language by a huge
portion of the population.
Alexandre (1972:72) stresses that "it is quite impossible ... to use all local languages in
education or administration, if only because of economic or other material consideration".
However, now that Ethiopia has already adopted status planning, serious thought must be
given to the production of materials and the training of materials writers.
The government (TGE,1994:3) has promised that material production will be enhanced, but
at present, single texts are being translated from Amharic into the other languages. This
will lead to several constraints. To begin with, "every translation constitutes a break in
transmission and a loss of effectiveness" (Alexandre, 1972:87). Next, the decreased cost of
mass production will be reduced to one ninth of the previous cost, if not more. However,
the production of textbooks in different languages undermines the advantages of mass
production. Consequently, costs rise and the books become very expensive. Thirdly, an
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adequate supply of books both within the school and within the community is essential for
students to attain and retain literacy. Admittedly, Amharic did not have an abundance of
books when it was first introduced as a medium of instruction, but the production of books
soon increased. Finally, the coinage of new terms to express concepts in the original
language must be lucid, otherwise obscure texts will be reproduced in the regional
As for materials writers, they will have to be bi-cultural in order to avoid
misrepresentations in the ideas of texts. Finally, the shortage of trained writers well-versed
in child psychology and experts in the subject areas previously reported (Habte-Mariam
Marcos, 1970:16), still exists. Therefore, each region will have to train a panel of material
writers rather than translators.
Perhaps the warning of introducing local languages in an attempt to be politically correct
made some decades back by Habte-Mariam Marcos (1970:17) on the introduction of
Amharic as the medium of instruction has implications for the present. He cautioned:
Great care should be taken so that in our effort to make Amharic the
language of instruction in Ethiopian schools, our ultimate aim, which is the
achievement of a well-balanced and sound education will not be
Gizaw (2001:39) also recently warned that instead of encouraging learning the current
policy might be having the opposite and diverse negative affects. He warns:
The policy doesn’t encourage ideas that transcend or go beyond immediate
ethnic feelings. In some regions youngsters who belong to different ethnic
groups are forced to learn in the regional language. They feel marginalised
and discriminated against. This in turn has prompted displacement and
migration of a lot of people to the urban centres where they think they can go
to mainstream schools and learn in the working language, Amharic/English.
This also has its own adverse consequences.
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Therefore the whole issue of the medium of instruction is still controversial, though the
government encourages using the mother tongue. Serious investigations of the current
policy and practice must be conducted and several amendments must be incorporated to
ensure that the policy is bringing about the desired benefits.
1.4 A Historical Overview of English in Ethiopia
Many African countries have ambivalent feelings towards the English language, as they
were introduced to it through the colonial expansion of Britain and it carries with it
negative connotations of the ‘white oppressor’. However, many people now realise that
English has become one of Africa’s languages.
Fortunately, the introduction of English to Ethiopia was not a direct but an indirect legacy
of Africa’s colonial history. Different colonisers used different styles of modernising the
education system of the colonised, which usually involved the imposition of their
language. However, it should also be kept in mind that most Africans were allowed to be
educated up to a certain level, which the colonisers felt appropriate to their needs. In
countries like Ethiopia a deliberate effort was made to exterminate local intellectuals.
After the liberation of occupied Ethiopian territories from Italy in 1940, the Ethiopian
government voluntarily adopted English as the medium of instruction. So English in
Ethiopia is not perceived to be connected with the ‘white oppressor’ but rather it is seen
as a means of gaining access to material success, and a way of communicating with the
international community, because Italian was the language of the coloniser. When
Western education was introduced to Ethiopia in the early nineteenth century, French was
the medium of instruction. English, however, soon took over as both the English and the
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Americans grew active in Ethiopia. American, British, Canadian and Indian teachers
resulted in English spreading among the students.
During the reign of Emperor Haile-Selassie, English was seen as the link of the country
to the international community. The post-independence Africanisation trend led to the
Ethiopianisation of staff. After UNESCO reported that indigenous languages of instruction
facilitate understanding, Amharic took on the role of medium of instruction in elementary
schools. English has till today remained the medium of instruction in secondary and tertiary
Under Colonel Mengistu Haile-Mariam, the aim of education was seen as the creation of
the well-rounded communist man and English was seen as a weapon of intensifying the
struggle against international imperialism. More emphasis was given to political
indoctrination rather than learning and the standards of both English and education fell
drastically. English was used as a scapegoat for these falling standards. Amharic, therefore,
became the de facto language of instruction with teachers giving clarifications and at times
whole lectures in Amharic at both secondary and tertiary levels, while the examinations
remained in English. As a result of this situation, the government stated that Amharic would
officially replace English as the medium of instruction at all levels.
With the present government, however, English is seen as a key language to serve
Ethiopia as a medium of international communication. The low standard of the students'
English persists as a problem. Specific reference is made to the low standard of English
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in the new educational policy (TGE, 1994:11). However, even in the past, when the
students' command of English was considered to be fairly good, the average university
student is said to have had the proficiency of a grade 7-8 American student (Balsvik,
1985:13). The role of English as a medium of instruction is being strengthened. The recent
introduction of English as a subject starting from Grade One and the allocation of greater
English contact hours at tertiary level indicate the present government's concern and
commitment to improve the quality of English. Moreover, the increased sensitisation of the
public over Amharic being the language of one ethnic group further minimises the
likelihood that Amharic will replace English as the medium of instruction, as proposed by
the previous government.
Ethiopia's 'Dual Circle' English
The use of English in Ethiopia is quite complex. It is used partially in commerce i.e. in
banks and aviation, but not much elsewhere. It is used frequently for entertainment and
mass media, but only rarely for interpersonal communication. It is used as the medium of
instruction at secondary and tertiary levels, yet students are quite weak in English. It has
hardly any cultural significance, yet a handful of literary artists express themselves in
English. So how can the use of English in Ethiopia be classified?
Berns (1995:4) describes the difficulties in actually applying Kachru's concentric circle
model in Europe (See Appendix 1).
There is no difficulty with the 'inner circle'
countries; where English is a primary norm-providing language. However, there is an
over-lapping between the 'outer circle', where English is used with an extended functional
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range and is norm-developing, and the 'expanding circle', where English is a normdependent international language.
Berns (1995:9) proposes that the Netherlands,
Luxembourg and Germany be considered as 'dual circle' countries as they use English
with an extended functional range and are still norm-dependent. Ethiopia, too, should be
considered as belonging to the 'dual circle' group along with other countries in which the use
of English is complex, such as Jamaica and South Africa.
1.4.2 The Lack of an Ethiopian English Variety
Although Ethiopia has been using English as long as Nigeria and Ghana, and English has
long been the medium of instruction, there is nothing that can really be called “Ethiopian
English” or an Ethiopian variety. What exists, if anything, is simply performance variety
that is largely brought about through mother tongue interference. Hence, an Ethiopian
speaking English can be identified if he gave equal stress to all syllables, did not use
standard intonation patterns and had difficulty pronouncing “th” words. Regarding lexis,
Ethiopian speakers sometimes use words transliterated directly from their mother tongue, so
might for example confuse ‘tall’ and ‘long’, if there is only one word for both these in their
mother tongue. Grammatically too, some constructions might be awry. However, all these
features tend to be regarded as “defects” rather than norms and speakers strive to use UK or
US English models.
This absence of variety might be explained socio-linguistically. As explained earlier in this
chapter, Ethiopia was not colonised, Ethiopians have no negative memories associated with
English and as a result do not see it as a mode of neo-colonisation. Moreover, as Amharic is
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the lingua franca of the uneducated masses of Ethiopia, they do not really have the chance of
creating their own variety of English, though they show signs of integrative motivation
(Ambatchew, 1995:44). On the other hand, the educated Ethiopians, who do communicate
in English at times, show signs of instrumental motivation (Abiye, 1995:24), and as a result
are happy to use UK or US English as a tool without adopting it and producing a variety of
their own.
Thus, at present, Ethiopia lacks her own variety of English and seems content with the use
of US or UK varieties to handle those matters which require the use of an international
1.4.3 English and Employment
Although Amharic, Oromiffa, Tigrinya and other Ethiopian languages are used in most
government offices, according to the region, English is seen as essential for bettering
oneself. All international organisations, most non-governmental organisations and some
of the well-paying government offices such as Ethiopian Airlines, the Commercial Bank
of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Insurance Corporation, require a good mastery of English.
The researcher conducted a quick survey of the correlation with self-perceived fluency in
English and grade level of the Ethiopian staff in an international organisation in Ethiopia.
Grade 1 consists of members in the senior management, while Grade 5 consists of
workers like guards and cleaners. The other three grades range in between the two
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including junior management, librarians and assistants. The results starkly portrayed the
correlation between grade level (and therefore salary) and fluency in English as follows:
Table 1: Correlation between occupational grade level and English fluency.
Fluency in English
The perception that greater fluency in English guarantees better employment
opportunities has, in turn, led to an increase in demand for English language courses.
Although this is only a quick survey of one organisation, employees in general see
English as the key to professional development and personal betterment.
Predictions have been made by language forecasters that the international demand of
English will rapidly increase over the next three decades (Graddol,1997:14). Similar
trends can be observed nationally. Many students want to do their post-graduate studies
in the West. English language schools are appearing all over Ethiopia, and English
teachers have numerous opportunities for moonlighting. Admittedly, the value of the
currency does not make the salaries viable on an international level, but the shortage of
well-qualified teachers and trainers is already pushing prices up. Therefore this has
economic advantages for the Ethiopian English teachers, as they are making money and
are not as yet threatened by an influx of native-speaker English teachers. Admittedly,
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some native speakers, who are already living in Ethiopia with their spouses, sometimes
get to pick up some of the well paying jobs.
Regarding publishing, there is a great lack of materials in English and the opening up of
the book trade and the imminent adoption of a national textbook policy already has
international publishers looking for opportunities for market penetration. Nevertheless,
whether or not the Ethiopian ELT industry is strong enough to sufficiently support the
educational system and make it an internationally viable one is another matter
completely. On the whole, however, the future of English in Ethiopia appears secure.
1.5 Background to the Ethiopian Socio-Economic Situation
Greaney (1996:10-11) states:
Health, education, and literacy are closely interrelated. To become literate a
person must survive the critical early years and be healthy enough to benefit
from formal and informal opportunities to learn. However, mere survival is a
problem in many developing countries.
The International Global Targets of halving poverty by the year 2015 have now been
accepted by the WB, IMF and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Suspicions of
corrupted leaders not thinking about the welfare of their countries also brought about new
analytical dimensions of poverty, including issues such as the poor having access to
education, health and other basic social services, instead of simply looking at measures like
the dollar-a-day as indicators of poverty.
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In 1999, the World Bank and IMF drew up a new anti-poverty frame that would ensure
debt-relief and concessional loans and provide a general umbrella frame under which all
other sector programmes are to come. The new features of the whole Poverty Reduction
Strategy Papers (PRSP) approach are its being the overarching organising framework of
all donor-recipient relationships. PRSPs are perceived as being fundamentally different
from Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) in that they focus on poverty reduction
and are drawn up by in-country partnership based processes. They are comprehensive and
result-oriented and, though planned in 3-year cycles, they are long term in that they cover
20-year periods. The core element of PRSP being authored in-country give civil societies
the opportunity to have their voices heard. However, the WB and IMF still retain the
pivotal role of endorsing the final national PRSP, thereby creating a catch-22 situation
where they advocate national authorship, yet keep their hands on the reins. Consequently
questions could be raised whether PRSPs aren’t simply SAPs that had undergone
cosmetic surgery.
Nevertheless, the intention is for governments to work with all sections of society,
including academics, churches, NGOs and others in producing a PRSP. However, the
World Bank and IMF set down as a precondition to debt-relief that Highly Indebted Poor
Countries drew up their own PRSP. Seeing that most countries could not draw up
credible papers in such a short time, they settled for Interim PRSPs, which would not be
as exacting as the final PRSP. In a continued effort to boost her economic growth and
reduce her infamous position as one of the poorest of the Least Developed Countries
status, Ethiopia quickly drew up her IPRSP and is to embark on drawing up her own
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Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. June 2002 has been set as the deadline for the
submission of Ethiopia’s PRSP. The figure being proposed for debt relief to Ethiopia is
around 900 million US dollars over a twenty-year period. However, a recent mapping
exercise of Central and Eastern Africa countries states (UNDP, 2002:8) Ethiopia is
unlikely to achieve the goals of reducing poverty and hunger, having universal primary
enrolment, and halving maternal and infant mortality rates by 2015.
1.5.1 The General Health Situation
It is obvious that good health is a pre-requisite to a productive workforce. Improving the
health of a workforce contributes to poverty alleviation through reducing absenteeism
due to illness, enabling workers to work effectively and prolonging the life of the
citizens. Similarly in Education, school staff have to be healthy to do their jobs
efficiently. Ethiopia, with 50% of the population under the age of 15, has a formidable
task of ensuring that her children grow up into healthy productive citizens. Simply
ensuring that over 14 million children below the age of 5 are inoculated requires adequate
supplies of vaccines, the necessary infrastructure, trained personnel and an awareness and
willingness from the local communities. Major donors like WHO, UNICEF, USA, Japan,
Canada, Rotary International and others have backed her in her efforts to improve the
health sector.
Unfortunately, Ethiopia is not only lagging behind, but is also hindering the rest of the
world in the eradication of polio. Alongside other African countries like Nigeria, the
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Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, Ethiopia has euphemistically been labelled
as a ‘Country with Special Situations’.
Unfortunately only about 45% of the Ethiopian population has access to health facilities.
The main issues in the health sector in Ethiopia are several. To begin with there is a low
and inadequate coverage of basic health services. Next, the quality of the services is very
low because of a lack of drugs, poorly trained staff, and poor personnel management and
supervision. Thirdly, there is internal inefficiency in the use of resources in terms of
concentration of available resources in urban areas and skewed resources in urban areas
and skewed allocations towards curative care.
Accordingly, the present government of Ethiopia started working on a public-enterprise
reform of the social welfare services delivery. Under the health sector, the need for
decentralisation of the health services, which has been highly centralised, has been given
attention on the National Health Policy adopted in September 1993. In parallel to the
ESDP a Health Sector Development Program was also developed. The programme
duration is also 20 years (1997-2016) with four consecutive phases of five years. The first
phase of the five years program (July 1997 –June 2002) had just been completed and the
second phase is underway.
The total expected cost of the first phase is about US $750 million. Out of this, IDA is to
provide US $100 million and other donors about US $215 million. The Ethiopian
government committed itself to finance about 55% of the total cost. In order to undertake
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the HSDP, the Ministry of Finance passes the funds from both central government and
donors to the central Ministry of Health and to the regional offices of the Ministry of
Finance. The central leaders of the sector program is the Office of the Prime Minister,
creating a leadership gap in the Ministry of Health. The government has adopted basic
strategies to implement the HSDP. These strategies include decentralising operational
responsibilities, ensuring the accessibility of health facilities in undeserved areas, using
primary health care and community-based delivery of health services approach, and
increasing supply and logistics systems for essential drugs and improve the skills of
health service providers.
Nevertheless, at present, Ethiopia has very high maternal and infant mortality rates, and
as many as 60% of Ethiopian children are thought to be stunted due to malnourishment.
What effect all of this has on the school going children’s learning abilities and
achievements is as yet an under-researched area. However in developing countries in
Asia, “ it is being realised that policies and actions to combat malnutrition must occur
through ‘holistic,’ or integrated, inter-sectoral methods”. Therefore, “ the integration of
primary health care and in-school nutrition education with basic primary education are
technical and social necessities” (Lynch, 1994:69).
Greaney (1996:11) reviews several studies and comments:
In impoverished countries, the capacity of children to learn is reduced by
hunger, chronic malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, parasitic
infections, and vision and hearing impairments … Inadequately fed
children also have poor attentions spans and little energy for learning to
read and write.
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Unfortunately, most research and even national planning tends to compartmentalise and
scrutinise individual sectors and subjects, often ignoring the larger picture. It was only on
8 September 2000 that all 189 Member States of the United Nations realised that unless
all aspects of development were tackled in an integrated manner, than advances in one
field could be reversed by difficulties in another. Consequently, they adopted the United
Nations Millennium Declaration, which embodied goals aimed at improving the
livelihoods of humanity in the new century. These ambitions were later modified into the
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have incorporated the International
Development Targets (IDTs) and other aims for socio-economic development. The
MDGs consist of 8 goals, 18 targets and 48 indicators. MDGs outline some of the most
important objectives of human development. They assist in setting priorities around some
of the most pressing issues of human development. Moreover, they help to focus national
and international priority-setting by limiting the number of goals and targets, keeping
them stable over time, and offer an opportunity to communicate clearly to a broad
audience. Each goal is associated with specific targets and each target measured with
particular indicators, allowing countries to assess progress in each goal.
Regarding education the goal is to achieve universal primary education by 2015, with the
target of ensuring that all boys and girls all over the world will be able to complete a
course of primary schooling. The indicators include the net enrolment at primary level,
the proportion of students who reach Grade Five and the literacy rate of 15-24 year olds.
Indirectly, the Grade Eight students being studied in this thesis are part of the third
indicator, which relates to literacy rates.
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1.5.2 The General HIV/AIDS Situation
Although HIV/AIDS is a part of health in general, it is given individual attention due to
its taking on a pivotal role in health. The Christian Relief and Development Agency
(CRDA) (2001:v) recently reported that HIV/AIDS is a major threat to the challenges of
socio-economic development globally. At least about 10.4 million children world-wide
have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. It has been estimated that of all the cases of
HIV/AIDS recorded globally, 25.3 million were living with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan
Africa at the end of the year 2000. Of this estimated amount, 17 million people have
already died, which is put as over three times the number of people who have died
globally. HIV/AIDS is said to be Africa’s Number One Enemy and is causing havoc by
killing the most productive section of society. Uganda is the only country in Sub-Saharan
as of 2000, to have turned this major epidemic around. The statistics of newly infected
persons for the Sub-Saharan African is 3.8 million. The World Bank alone has approved
the sum of 500,000,000 US $ to help fight AIDS in Africa. Ten times more people in
Africa have been killed by HIV/AIDS than in wars on the continent. When the epidemic
first started in the 80s it was thought to be only a health problem, but by the beginning of
the 21st century, most people have come to realise that HIV/AIDS is not only a health
issue but rather a full-blown socio-economic development catastrophe.
In Ethiopia, 3 million of the population are living with HIV/AIDS and 280,000 are
thought to have died from it. Two cases were identified in Addis Ababa in 1984. Since
then, Statistics in Ethiopia show a rapid rise in the 80s to a gradual stabilising, which
reflected similar trends in other African countries. Ethiopia is second in terms of people
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living with HIV/AIDS and first in the number of children living with AIDS in SubSaharan Africa. Men are more exposed to the virus than women until the age of 45, after
which the prevalence is higher in women. It is predicted that 50% of all hospital beds will
be occupied by HIV/AIDS related cases.
In relation to Education, it is feared that HIV/AIDS will seriously impact on the
education system through drastically increasing the rate of absenteeism of teachers,
school administrators and students, in addition to causing their deaths. Obviously more
and more children will be coming to schools orphaned by HIV/AIDS and this will
directly affect their learning abilities. Unfortunately, however, not much research has yet
been done in this area.
1.6 Background of the Ethiopian Educational System
Before the turn of this century, education in Ethiopia followed a traditional pattern. The
majority of the people were illiterate and learnt about life from their family and society
through direct observation and imitation as well as through oral traditions. They obtained
their vocational skills from actually doing the jobs with craftsmen. Most of them were
farmers, so obtaining vocational skills simply meant learning how to farm with their fathers
on a plot of land. The few who became literate by attending formal education at Church and
Mosque schools generally remained in religious circles; so literacy was restricted to the
clergy and to the nobility whom they served.
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Modern education began to emerge in the first quarter of this century. In fact, modern
education was actually Western education transplanted to Ethiopian soil by government
envoys and missionaries. Consequently, most of the teaching staff were expatriates. At first,
people were negative about this new education. Gradually, with a lot of effort on the part of
the rulers, it was received warmly. Education and the educated were highly esteemed as the
saying 'Rather an educated man kills me, than an uneducated one rears me,' shows. Despite
the fact that educating one's children was soon regarded as a merit, the poor could not afford
to send their children to school, as there was no one to do the herding, ploughing and
housework. As a result, education became available mostly for the rich. After the
transplanting of secular Western education in Ethiopia, the relevance of Ethiopian education
in the development of the country became dubious. Emperor Menelik evidently saw
Western education as the path to modernising his kingdom, especially as he viewed
Ethiopia’s disadvantage in warfare to be directly related to the fact that Ethiopia could not
manufacture modern armaments. However, the course of education development gave less
emphasis to the wealth of technical and vocational education that produces the driving
labour force of economic growth and development. On one hand, this neglect of technical
and vocational skills might have been due to the influence of the traditional Ethiopian
education system, which produced highly erudite clergy, who looked down upon any sort of
manual work. On the other hand, it could have been owing to the focus of Western
education at that time on more academic subjects.
The start of the Italian invasion in 1936 disrupted the spread of education. The existing 22
schools were closed and for the next five years education was restricted to the Italians and
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the few 'trustworthy' Ethiopians who worked for them. The few educated Ethiopians were
targeted for elimination, as the Italians perceived them as a threat.
After the Italians left in 1941, modern education began to spread. The closed schools were
reopened with help from the British, who provided directors, teachers and teaching
materials, and vocational education was introduced. Teacher education and commercial
education were soon begun. This rapid spread of education naturally led to a shortage of
teachers, funds and management personnel. These shortages were met by calling for
expatriate staff especially from India and the USA and the introduction of educational taxes.
The need for management led to the creation of educational boards, and then the Ministry of
Education was formed in 1944. A conscious decision to give a few individuals a “good”
education rather than give a lot of individuals basic education was made, for highly trained
Ethiopian intellectuals were needed to help the Emperor rule. Such an elitist type of
educational view has even been echoed by an educationists more recently (Tekeste,
1990:11) as he feels that the crises of modern Ethiopian education is trying to spread out
meagre resources over too large a population, resulting in many people learning precious
little. However, it soon became clear to all that Ethiopia would soon have its dream of an
Ethiopian white-collared working force fulfilled, but would still not be able to keep apace of
the rapid economic developments being experienced in America, Europe and Japan. The
ever increasing number of students and the demand for education put a gradual but
increasing pressure on the educational system and led to popular dissatisfaction.
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This dissatisfaction is probably one of the numerous causes for the attempted coup d'etat in
1960. Although the coup failed, it did have the effect of making the government take a
closer look at the educational system and make some progressive changes, the most
noticeable change probably was the introduction of Amharic as a medium of instruction in
elementary schools. A less visible, but just as important process, was the comparison of the
education system with that of newly independent African states. The results of this
comparison were shocking for the Ethiopian officials. Even though most states complained
about the condition of their educational systems at the conference of African states on the
development of education in Africa in 1961, Ethiopia found that she was far behind her
neighbours according to conventional educational measures. It was here that Ethiopia made
the mistake of trying to “keep up with the Joneses” instead of studying the relevance and
quality of the existing educational system. The emphasis on the quantity of education as
indicated by the illiteracy rates led to the rapid increase of schools and higher institutions of
By 1971, it was realised that quantity alone could not be an adequate measure of a country's
educational system. The long overdue study of the relevance and quality of education was
undertaken by teams of experts under the title of “Educational Sector Review”. The team
was composed of Ethiopian and expatriate educational experts, who came up with a rigorous
educational policy aimed at increasing the relevance and efficiency of the system through a
thorough overhaul and restructuring. However, this study was too late, for in 1974 the
discontent of the people had reached such a high level that it led to a revolution heralding
the beginning of a socialist education system.
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For the next seventeen years haphazard socialist experimentation took place on the
Ethiopian educational scene. Tekeste (1990:20) states the Workers Party of Ethiopia was
ruling the country, so the fundamental aim of education was cultivating Marxist-Leninist
ideology in the young generation so that they could move the Revolution forward. Most
private schools were nationalised and many of the intelligentsia fled the country or were
killed. Teshome Wagaw (1988:255) says, "... 75 percent of university teachers were highly
qualified Ethiopians and some colleges were entirely staffed by Ethiopian faculties, after
1974, many of these leading administrators and faculty left the country and now hold
positions all over the world." Education was made directly and unequivocally subservient to
political ends.
"Exposing the inherent exploitative and antisocial nature of world
imperialism..." (English Panel, 1982:9) was, for example, one of the goals of English
language teaching. The previous system of six years of primary, two years of juniorsecondary and four years of senior-secondary school still continued. Alongside this,
however, some experiments in polytechnic education were tried out, but not carried through.
During this period Swedish aid was used to cover not only the building of elementary
schools, but also non-formal education centres such as Awraja (District) Pedagogical
Centres and Appropriate Technological Centres.
Such unplanned and haphazard experimentation did, however, come up with some strong
points. The national literacy campaign initiated in 1979 had impressively high rates of
success and was awarded two international awards.
Community-funding of school
buildings and the use of national languages in literacy campaigns spread. The success of
this experimentation cannot be objectively measured because of a lack of "a single piece of
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scientifically credible recent data" (Timberlake,1985:17). Hough (1987:159) notes
ironically: "All official documents record progress since the revolution of 1974".
As official documentation does not appease the public's discontent, the need for massive
reforms in the educational system became obvious. Consequently in 1983, the government
called for a review of the entire education sector to look into the reasons of the weaknesses
in content and quality of education in Ethiopia. Unlike the Educational Sector Review
conducted by the previous government, this one was carried out entirely by Ethiopian
experts. Around sixty Ethiopian experts from the Ministry of Education and Addis Ababa
University were divided into four teams and asked to carry out workshops in identifying the
reasons for decline in educational standards and ways forward. The whole project was
named the ‘Evaluative Research on the General Education System of Ethiopia, (ERGESE)
and was overseen by prominent people like the Minister of Education, the Commissioner for
Higher Education, the Commissioner for Science and Technology, the President of Addis
Ababa University and inevitably, a representative from the Ideological Department of the
Workers Party of Ethiopia (Tekeste, 1990:18-22).
The findings of ERGESE were considered so threatening to the government that access to
them was denied to the public at large. Tekeste (1990:18) explains, “These documents are,
however, classified as secret and, therefore, have been inaccessible to the public. Permission
to study the documents is granted on an individual basis and with the personal authorisation
of the Minister of Education.” This might be because public reaction to the ‘Education
Sector Review’ was seen as one of the major causes for the downfall of the previous regime.
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The findings in themselves, however, simply indicated what a shambles the education
system was in. Regarding subjects, ERGESE stated that almost all the subjects were poorly
presented, lacking clarity, coherence and consistency. As for the students, they were found
not to understand the main objectives of education (i.e. preparation for work) and lacking in
adequate conducive conditions to learn, as 20% of the students were found to be disabled
and 37% living away from their families. The teachers too were found to dislike their
profession with up to 50% stating that they would rather be engaged in other professions.
It took until 1986 for the government to be able to come up with an ‘official report’ which it
felt could be presented to international donors. A few of the recommendations, like the
setting up of guidance and counselling services for the students, were also implemented.
However, ironically history repeated itself and not too long after this study was conducted,
the government was overthrown.
In 1991, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) defeated and
overthrew the socialist government. The socialist goals and aims of the government were
also quick to go, leaving the educational scene open for new changes and reforms. The new
Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE) identified some of the major problems of the
country as having been top-down policies, approaches to development being influenced too
much by expatriates, and unrealistic objectives set on assessment of the better off regions
(Prime Minister’s Office, 1994:8). Soon after, the TGE published a policy on education. The
Education and Training Policy stated that primary education would consist of eight years
and secondary education of two compulsory and two optional years, with the government
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financing the first phase of education for ten years (TGE, 1994:7). The new system is
beginning to be implemented all over the country.
Sloss (1981: 145) declares, "There is no education that is, or indeed can or ought to be,
divorced from the ideology and the political ideas of the society." Nevertheless, it is hoped
that the new changes will be more in line with making education directly relevant to the
needs of the people rather than making education a political football.
1.7 General Structure of the Ethiopian Educational System
Teshome Wagaw (1988:253) claims that education in Ethiopia begins with three years of
pre-school education. However, as only a negligible number of children actually attend
the few kindergartens that do exist, it is difficult to include this phase in the general
structure of the educational system. Admittedly, many children learn basic literacy skills
in church and mosque schools as well as in kindergartens in urban areas. However, as
pre-school education is largely conducted on an informal basis, it is very difficult to
categorise the various activities.
For the majority of Ethiopian students, education begins at primary school, which
consists of eight years of education divided into two cycles of four years each. One of the
local languages is the medium of instruction in primary school, though English is
introduced as a subject starting from Grade One and it is a compulsory subject in the
National Examination that is administered at the end of the eight years in primary school.
Primary education is basically under the control of the various Regional Educational
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Bureaux (REB). The minimum learning competencies and a rough guide of the skills to
be learnt are set out nationally by the Institute of Curriculum Research and Development
which comes under the Ministry of Education (MoE). Then it is the responsibility of the
REBs to adapt the syllabi to the needs and priorities of the realities in their region. The
REBs are responsible for the development of textbooks at primary level and most of them
have teacher training institutes to train their own teachers. Each region has several zones
and the Zonal Education Bureau (ZEB) is responsible for the monitoring and evaluating
of the educational activities of the schools within the zone. At a more grassroot level is
the Woreda (district) Educational Office (WEO), which is supposed to have daily contact
with the schools. After visiting over 50 primary schools in nine African countries
Heneveld and Craig (1996:1-2) give their description for the average African primary
school classroom:
Up to eighty small children will squeeze into poorly-lit rooms designed for
no more than forty, and many children may not have chairs or desks. The
teachers must attempt to provide instruction with only a chalkboard as an
aid. Children may have notebooks, and a few, depending on the country
and on local economic conditions, may have textbooks. The teaching
process is dominated by the teacher whose delivery is usually desultory
and boring. The teachers’ salaries, training and work conditions dampen
the enthusiasm of even the most dedicated among them. The overall effect
in most schools is that of a ritual being played out in which participants
understand and appreciate little of what is happening.
Although slightly long, it is hoped that this description will give an overall feeling of
primary education in most schools around Ethiopia. In fact, this description would not
raise the eyebrows of most Ethiopian primary teachers. Admittedly schools in urban areas
like Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar and Nazareth are slightly better off as all children have
chairs, though they might be squeezed four to a bench intended for two, or they tend to
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have one textbook for three. Nevertheless, as the situation is worse in regions like
Benishangul, Gambella and Afar, the above description is adequate for those not familiar
with Africa.
Secondary education follows, in which a shift to English as a medium of instruction takes
place. Secondary school consists of four years with a two-year cycle after which the
students are streamed into Academic and Technical/Vocational fields. Then the students
continue their studies for another two years after which some students can continue their
higher education in universities, colleges and institutes, which offer a range of degrees,
diplomas and certificates. Their acceptance into higher learning institutions is done
according to their preferences and their results in the highly competitive Ethiopian School
Leaving Certificate Examination (ESLCE), which as few as 8% of the students manage to
pass, (Hough, 1987:15). All higher institution courses are taught in English and the
number of years of study varies, as in the case of a first degree in Pharmacy taking five
years and a first degree in Geology taking four. Secondary education comes under the
jurisdiction of the Institute of Curriculum Development and Research (ICDR) and it is
responsible for the production of textbooks. The training of teachers for this level is done
nationally at teacher training colleges and universities. Currently, attempts are being
made to give a final examination at the end of the first two years of secondary education
and having the education end at ten years. Students who succeed in this examination will
continue for the remaining two years, which will be considered as pre-college preparation
rather than as secondary education.
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1.8 Learning and Disabilities
Poverty and ignorance stand as a serious obstacle in the process of raising children in the
Ethiopian society. A vastly neglected area is that of educating children with learning
difficulties and disabilities. Early detection of impairments and developing strategies to
uphold the normal development of the child is a primary and extremely important step in
addressing problems associated with learning difficulties in Ethiopia. The knowledge and
ability to prevent or detect problems and intervene at an early age of the child is crucial.
Failure to carry out this for any reason leads to multiple problems at different levels. Yet
even the detection of observable disabilities takes a long time. A recent study
(Fassikawit, 2000:22) showed that as many as 65% of disability cases were identified
through observations of family members, relatives and friends, while only 32.5% of the
total cases were identified with the help of medical assessment. The disabled children
state that the support families get from the community appears either nil or poor. Many
parents find it difficult to easily identify and detect disability with their children and find
out the right place for soliciting assistance before the problem causes debilitating effects.
The onset of hearing impairment with all the children in this study was reported as post
natal. Even after detection, a lot is not often done. The study showed that over half of the
parents tried traditional medicine as major strategies in seeking help for their children. As
much as 5.3% of the families did not even try to do anything about the disability.
Disabilities with most children (92.5%) as reported by the parents, were mainly postnatal. It appears that disabilities that become apparent through time but have prenatal
basis were likely to be reported in the same category. Under such circumstances, it is
extremely difficult for the parents to alter and improve the situations of their children.
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Most parents, particularly those in developing countries, find it difficult to raise a child
with a disability, especially if the family is in a low economic bracket. Parents with
economic problems find it difficult to afford the medical, educational and other costs
incurred by the child’s disability. Lack of access to health and other professional services
in the community as well as lack of a desirable social, emotional and physical climate are
challenges to families that have children with disabilities. It appears that the challenges in
connection to disabilities of children are more serious and complicated in the developing
countries. As for educational services, not a single country in black Africa reaches more
that 1% of its children with disabilities. In Ethiopia, the provision of special education for
children with disabilities is not very encouraging.
The service delivery institutions in Addis Ababa, as in the rest of the country, are very
poor. According to research (Fassikawit, 2000:8)
♦ 92 % of the children with disabilities were under the care of women.
♦ 90% of these women were poor.
♦ 75% of the women had either no education or had very low educational background
♦ 82 % of the women caregivers had an average family size of 7-12.
♦ 56% of the caregivers thought that their children with disabilities could be cured and
treated in the health services and 75% of these parents gave up hope as they could not
notice significant progress in the health situation of their children.
The economic factor was among serious challenges in the lives of children with
disabilities and their families. First, lack of proper nutrition was reported as a common
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problem in most of the families covered in the study. Second, the economic problems of
the family also mean that there is no money to spend on medical examinations for the
child with disability. This hinders early identification of disabilities with children. Third,
the results further show that the economic factor was an obstacle in education and
training of children with disabilities.
Only half of the disabled children (57.5 %) were attending school. All the hearing
impaired children and about half of the children from the visual and physical impairment
categories were in school. As only two children from the mentally retarded group were
reported to attend school, it would appear that children with severe disabilities and mental
retardation are the most neglected.
1.9 The Ethiopian Education Sector Development Program
The debate over the controversial topic of aid and its benefits as well as its disadvantages
has raged continuously. Attempts to improve the socio-economic scenario of developing
countries have been made over several decades. Donors have run various projects all over
the developing world to improve educational standards. However, there has been growing
discontent with the effectiveness and impact of the traditional method of trying to solve
the numerous ills of the complex multidimensional problems in education. The relative
smallness of projects were misperceived as the causes for their ineffectiveness and major
donors like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) designed a series of
economic reform programmes like Structural Adjustment Programmes whose adoption
they set as a precondition to giving loans to developing countries.
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These economic reforms were almost as ineffectual as the individual projects had been. In
fact, in some cases they were seen as actually being harmful. Major short-comings of the
structural adjustment programmes were that they were short-term fixes of symptoms rather
than causes, which would require long-term solutions. Besides this, they were uniform
prescriptions, irrespective of the individual country’s unique characteristics. Finally, they
disregarded crucial negative social impacts, increasing inequality due to things like
unemployment. One of the suspected sources of these problems was a top down approach
and a lack of national ownership of the projects. However, without openly accepting their
share of the responsibility for these policy failures, major donors, including the World
Bank and IMF, began thinking up new strategies for solving this old and persistent
problem. Seeing a lack of participation and genuine country ownership, no recipient
empowerment and a tackling of single issues rather than the whole problem as the main
causes for the failure, a new approach of “sector wide programmes” has been introduced.
This approach is “characterised by a government-led partnership with key external
partners, based on a comprehensive sector policy and expenditure framework, and relying
on government institutions and common procedures for implementation” (World Bank
2001a: v). Strategic industries like Health and Education have been targeted for such
programmes and there are already a dozen operations in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ethiopia has
been actively engaged in these programmes and is already implementing an Education
Sector Development Program (ESDP) and a Health Sector Development Program (HSDP).
Following is the general background of how Ethiopia embarked on an education sector
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To begin its path to democracy and a free market-oriented economy, the present
government found it vital to revise almost all the infrastructure it inherited. The education
system, as stated above, was in a dismal state because during the war many schools were
destroyed or looted. In some zones such as Northern Shoa, estimates that over 85% of the
primary schools required major maintenance work were made, as there was a lack of
classrooms with as many as 100 students in a class, insufficient furniture, a lack of
textbooks and limited water and sanitation facilities. In 1991, the Prime Minister’s Office
set up a central task force to study policy issues on Curriculum and Research, Teacher
Training and Development, Educational Measurement and Evaluation, Language in
Education, Educational Management and Finance, and Educational Materials. The
Ministry of Education drew up the new Education and Training Policy in 1994. The selfdeclared aim of this policy was to provide direction to “the development of problemsolving capacity and culture in the content of education, curriculum structure and
approach focussing on the acquisition of scientific knowledge and practicum,” (TGE,
1994:2). This aim was supported by five general objectives and fifteen specific objectives
alongside the strategy of revising several fundamental elements such as curriculum,
education structure, measurement and evaluation tools, medium of instruction and
financing. Special attention and priority were given to a change of curriculum and
educational materials, teacher training and staff development, and the management of
education as a whole. However, it was clear that this meagre document of fifteen pages
would soon have to be strengthened by the weight of several documents if it was not to
be blown away and forgotten.
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In 1995, the MoE followed up on the Education and Training Policy with a massive
document that gave a global view of the Ethiopian education arena over the next two
decades called the Education Master Plan. This in turn was broken down into more
manageable periods of five years each and named the Short-Term Education Plans. The
first five-year plan would focus on improving the quality of primary education. However,
probably due to the fact that all three of these documents were churned out over the
period of a single year, their own standard and quality as well as the extent of detail gone
into was far from easily manageable.
The World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme called for a shift from
a project approach to a programme approach and the submission of a more watertight
proposal before releasing significant funds. Consequently, the Prime Minister’s Office
was forced to hand over the documents to a private consultant to come up with an
Education Sector Investment program worthy of the consideration of these international
organisations. This is itself raises a crucial question about programme approaches. Do
governments simply produce a paper that they know WB and IMF will approve without
including national concerns that clash with WB and IMF policies? In essence, do they
conform to the old saying of ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’? Leaving this issue
aside, the document was transformed into the Ethiopian Education Sector Development
Program (ESDP) after being commented upon and finalised in 1995 and then abridged
and approved by the World Bank in 1996. As a result, the idea of implementing the
ESDP in 1995/1996 had to be postponed for two years.
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The basic aims of the ESDP are “increasing access, improving quality, increasing
effectiveness, achieving equity and expanding finance at all levels of education within
Ethiopia” (Oksanen and Takala, 2000 : 1). One of the areas of focus of the Ethiopian
Education Sector Development Program is on textbook provision with the aim of moving
from a single title state publishing scene to a multiple title commercial publishing scene.
The government aims for a textbook market to be developed which would include
parental participation in financing, consumer subsidies and the participation of the private
sector in publishing, printing and distributing, leading to a tenfold increase in the present
textbook quantities. The ESDP focuses on and gives direction to efforts aimed at
improving materials and avoids duplication. On the policy side, the government has had
both a textbook policy and strategy drafted, though it is stalling on approving and
introducing them. It is also in the process of drafting an Ethiopian copyright law, as well
as encouraging regions to take the initiative on local adaptations. The government is
forward looking and is willing to implement and experiment with new ideas. At present, it
is introducing a distance education programme to up-grade thousands of primary teachers
and has successfully introduced solar powered radios. The concept of an integrated
curriculum in the first cycle primary rate without failing students, has also been
introduced by the government.
A sum of 12,251 million Birr (approximately 1,441 million U.S$) was estimated to be
necessary for implementing the ESDP (MoE, 1998:4). Out of this, the Ethiopian
government is to contribute 72.5%, while the remaining 27.5% is to be covered by the
international donor community. The role of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and
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Donors is continually increasing. Although their contributions might be relatively small
in terms of size, they tend to have critical policy-making influences. As a result, they
have a vital role in determining the direction of educational development through the
provision of technical assistance, advice and financial contributions. The fact that
Ethiopia is dependent on aid to carry out the ESDP leads her to be dependent on the good
will of donors to execute it. At times, their refusal to release funds can lead to
unnecessary delays. “The war between Ethiopia and Eritrea is just such a change in
environment that caused financing agreements to unravel” (World Bank, 2001:38).
Joint annual review missions are held and the whole process is being closely monitored.
Nevertheless, Martin, Oksanen and Takala (2000:2) point out that there is a need for
independent people outside the whole preparation to carry out more objective evaluations
and ensure that the ESDP is indeed meeting its set objectives. They fear that people
already intensely involved in the ESDP may produce research that is either too subjective
or too circumscribed.
1.10 English in the ESDP
English is seen as pivotal in the whole education system as it takes over and maintains the
role of medium of instruction from secondary education onwards. Consequently, to
ensure that a firm basis is given to the learning of English, due consideration has been
given to it in the ESDP.
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To begin with, English is now introduced as a subject starting from Grade One as
opposed to Grade Three in the former system. Secondly, because of a shortage of
capacity at regional level, the ICDR has been mandated to produce all teaching materials
centrally. A student: textbook ratio of 1:1 has optimistically been set in sharp contrast
with ratios of up to 1:10 that have been reported in some woredas. The introduction of
supplementary readers is also being officially introduced. Finally, a concerted effort to
develop the teachers’ skills is being made with several workshops and in-service courses
being given to teachers at primary level.
In an attempt to survey the progress of the ESDP to indicate possible directions for
support to the Benishangul-Gumuz region, the situation of English was noted by a team
of consultants. After the first year of implementation, one of the major achievements was
that despite the fact that English is a very little used language in Benishangul-Gumuz, it
is highly valued by the people for its use in education as well as in international
communication. A pupil-book ratio of 1:1 is reported by teachers to have already been
achieved in some schools. However, the remoteness of the region and the lack of
adequate infrastructure such as roads, a constant power supply and the reliability of
communications within and outside the region leave the possibility of the books finding
their way into the schools unlikely. Teachers were sent for a workshop to Addis for ICDR
to orient them to the new textbooks and were preparing to act as multipliers and
familiarise other primary teachers with the textbooks. In addition, they are taking on
board the project of Ethiopian Stories in Simplified English for the second cycle of
primary education with the British Council, although this was not in their original plan.
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Consequently, as other regions will also be considering the production and utilisation of
supplementary readers, it is timely to conduct more academic research on the effects of
the provision of supplementary readers already in schools on the reading abilities of the
students that use them.
1.11. Basic Information on Region and Schools
Following is some basic information about the region and the schools in which the
research was carried out. It is meant to give the reader a broad perspective of the setting
and education in the region as a whole.
1.11.1 Educational Statistics of Region 14 / Addis Ababa City State
At present Ethiopia is following a federal system of administration and has divided the
country into eleven semi-autonomous regions or states. From the eleven, three are citystates. Out of the eleven, Addis Ababa is the fifth most populous region with roughly 6
million inhabitants. Recent educational statistics published by the Ministry of Education
may not be totally accurate and have some internal inconsistencies. Nevertheless, they
can provide one with a general overview (MoE, 2000).
Addis Ababa has a total of 257 primary schools. The Pupil/Teacher ratio in these schools
is 46/1, while the Pupil/Section ratio is 67/1. 72.2% of the primary teachers are certified,
while over 90% of its entire teacher body is certified. This shows a better degree of
certification at secondary school level than at primary. From the primary school teachers
68.3% of the males and 78% of the females are certified, indicating that uncertified males
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are more common. Moreover, in contrast to many other countries, in Ethiopia there are
more male teachers than females at all levels. This gap appears to be closing at primary
level and is most noticeable at tertiary level.
Of the 267 primary schools, 66 are government schools and 201 are non-government
(MOE, 2000:84). Although the non-government schools are not further diaggregated;
most of these are ‘public schools’ run by parent-government committees that charge
moderate fees. Some (approximately 25) are private schools owned by individuals, while
a few (roughly 70) are international community schools. Church and mosque schools, in
general, do not follow the official curriculum and are excluded from these statistics. 63 of
the 66 government schools go up to Grade Eight while three do not. These 63 schools
have a total Grade Eight student-body of 21199 made up of 9851 males and 11348
females. It is estimated that 1,748 of the males and 2,794 of the females are repeaters at
this level, which indicates that more girls than boys fail. It is of interest to note that unlike
most of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa has more girls than boys at primary level. Addis Ababa
and Harari are the only regions in which females outnumber males and they are both city
states in which the cultures of education and gender equality are valued. However, Addis
Ababa is the only region with the perfect Gender Parity Index of 1. This means that the
ratio of female to male enrolment is perfectly equal. Although, this does not mean that an
equal number of females and males have participated in primary education, it compares
the proportions of participation, (MOE, 2000:7). This issue has yet to be studied by
gender experts, who have so far only shown interest in regions where the enrolment of
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girls is disproportionate and the Gender Parity Index is as low as 0.5 in areas like Oromia
and Somalia (MOE, 2000:8).
Addis Ababa has a Gross Enrolment Ratio of 91.4%, where the Gross Enrolment Ratio is
calculated as the proportion of total enrolment in primary schools, irrespective of age, out
of the corresponding school age population eligible for primary education in that region
(MOE, 2000:8). This places Addis Ababa as having the third highest ratio in stark
contrast to regions like Afar and Somalia with percentages of 9.1 and 8.3 respectively.
The Coefficient of Efficiency is calculated by comparing the ideal number of pupil years
required by students to complete primary school with that of the actual average number
of years. The maximum percentage is 100 indicating a highly efficient system. A lower
percentage indicates an inefficient education system in which there is a high number of
repeaters and dropout. The Coefficient of Efficiency of Ethiopia as a whole is 36.6
percent (MOE, 2000:16), which is very worrying. Data is not available for individual
1.11.2 Background to Schools
Entoto Amba Elementary and Junior Secondary School was established over half a
century ago, in 1949. It is situated on a huge expanse of land half way up the Mountain of
Entoto, after which it was named. It has a student body of 2900. At Grade Eight level, it
has eight sections or classes. Four of the classes attend the morning shift and the other
four the afternoon shift. There are two male teachers who teach all eight classes at this
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level. The average class size is around 80. However, due to a high rate of absenteeism,
the number of students on a normal class day is around 60. There is a library with one
librarian who works in the library on both shifts.
Kebena Elementary and Junior Secondary School was established in 1954 and named
after the last Emperor’s brother, ‘Dejach Yilma Mekonen’. During the socialist
revolution, it was renamed after the river that runs just outside its backyard. The school is
relatively small for a government school and has only two sections at Grade Eight level
and ten classrooms. The Grade Eight sections are spread out between the two shifts. The
Grade Eight English classes are taught by one female teacher, who is also the head of the
English Department. Class sizes are also relatively smaller perhaps due to the presence of
several government and private schools in the same locality. Class sizes tend to be around
sixty-five. Its student body is 1330.
Medhanealem [Holy Savior in Amharic] Elementary and Junior Secondary School is a
governmental secular school, despite its name. It was established in 1957 along with the
senior secondary school attached to it. But in 1971 the two separated and now co-exist
side by side. It has a student-body of 2498 and four sections at Grade Eight level. All
these sections attend the afternoon shift and have an average class size of 75. The English
Department is composed of 3 teachers, two males and a female. The female heads the
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Kokebe Tsibah [Morning Star in Tigringya] Elementary and Junior Secondary School
was established in 1950 and named after the last Emperor ‘Haile-Selassie I’. During the
socialist revolution, it was renamed as Kokebe Tsibah. Like Medhaealem it has a senior
secondary school attached to it. It has a student body of 4218 and ten sections at Grade
Eight level. The English Department is headed by a female and she and another teacher
cover the Grade Eight sections.
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2. Chapter Two: Reading in the Primary Cycle of Ethiopian Education
Based on the foundations laid in Chapter One, this chapter intends to scrutinise reading at
the primary level of the Ethiopian education system with special emphasis on the last year
of the second cycle primary education. First the very concept of reading will be examined.
A working definition of reading will be attempted. It will define the various skills involved
in reading and the basic approaches and trends in reading theory over the years will be
explored. Then a broad view of the role of reading in English in the system will be given.
This will be followed by a look at learning materials in Ethiopia. After that a description
and an explanation of the Primary Reader Scheme and attempts to evaluate it will be
discussed. Next, an analysis of the reading syllabi drawn up by the ICDR along with the
reading passages used in the Grade Eight English Textbook will be given. Finally the
Grade Eight National English Examination of 2000 will be described.
2.1 What is Reading? Basic Definitions
Reading is a notoriously difficult concept to define as it is an ‘omnibus’ skill involving
lower and higher order skills and includes psychological, educational and sociological
aspects. There is a lot of controversy over definitions of reading by scholars as each
defines it according to the purpose of their study with a slant towards the language
process or the thought process.
Some see it in general blocks. Spink (1989:44) sees it as a process involving the
perception of the words, the comprehension of the text, a reaction to what is read and a
fusion of old and new ideas. Taylor and Taylor (1983: 24-26) see reading as a continuum
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with the four major signposts of letter and word recognition, sentence reading, story
reading and reading for its own sake.
Greenall and Swan (1986:53) prefer to break it down into smaller skills such as extracting
main ideas, reading for specific information, understanding text organisation, predicting,
checking comprehension, inferring, dealing with unfamiliar words, linking words,
understanding complex sentences, understanding writers’ styles, evaluating the text and
reacting to a text. Similarly, Clay (1972:76) also breaks it down into small but different
skills involving directional control, left to right, recognition vocabulary, prediction, self
correction, knowing probabilities of occurrence, auditory memory, search for cues in text,
picture interpretation, fluent oral language, letter sound analysis, syllabification and
clusters, little words in bigger words, visual analysis by analogy, syntactic and semantic
context, inference and others.
Two general categories into which all these definitions fall have been labelled as
“Componential Models” and “Process Models” (Urquhart and Weir, 1998: 39).
Componential models, as the name suggests, breaks up the construct of reading into its
various components. The components can be as small as the description of a fixation, or
the amount of seconds an eye pauses on a group of words, or as encompassing as the
terms “skills” and “strategies”, which themselves are made up of numerous components
like skimming, scanning and others. Componential Models restrict themselves to
descriptive behaviour and do not in any way attempt to speculate on how these
components tend to correlate, be it in terms of importance, priority or centrality. Perhaps
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the definition of reading from a componential point of view is defining it as an
“omnibus” skill composed of many smaller skills is the best description. However, this
description leaves us with the same question of what smaller skills are involved.
The second category for the descriptions is the “Process Model” definition, which
courageously attempts to describe how the various components interact. These definitions
will be discussed later on under the sub-title “General Approaches to Viewing and
Teaching Reading”.
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For now it will suffice to give an example, which Urquhart and Weir (1998:106) adapt
from the Just and Carpenter model.
Figure 1: A Model of the Various Components of Reading
Get new input:
Move eyes
Choose type of
Extract physical
Encode word and
access lexicon
propositions a,c,e,f, g,
Parse syntactic
Propositions A, C
Integrate with
representation of
previous text
End of
This model attempts to take the various components, such as getting in-put from the text
and set it as a prerequisite to extracting physical features. Although it works at this level,
it fails to show how a reader with prior expectations and another without expectations
would approach the same text.
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Obviously, all of the above classifications could prove useful, depending on the type of
uses a researcher wants to put reading to. If one were to break down the various skills in
reading, an endless list could be drawn up. At a mechanical level, the eyes briefly fix
themselves on a group of words or a single word, then jerk on to another group after
approximately a quarter of a second. It is assumed that one first has to perceive letters,
normally with the eyes or with the fingers in the case of braille. Then one has to be able
to identify the letters with a previously studied alphabet and associate the letters with
phonemes or sounds of the language. Then one has to relate the letter combinations with
words. However, at an early stage and even later on, a good reader would identify the
whole word and might even correct miss-spelt words in his head. Developing a rich stock
of vocabulary is obviously an invaluable asset in identifying words. Then the cluster of
words must be associated with previously learnt structures in what may be called
grammatically correct sentences. This whole sentence is then processed at a higher level,
which is more mental than mechanical. The brain processes the visual information
obtained from the eyes along with non-visual information retrieved from the brain. This
involves deriving meaning from the combination of words, which the reader proceeds to
do from previous knowledge, experience, expectations and clues derived from the text.
This involves being familiar with the text layout, style, tone and mood. It involves mental
skills like comparing and contrasting, evaluating, summarising and analysing. A good
reader will have a range of reading skills and techniques including skimming, scanning,
reading intensively and extensively and predicting what the text is about. Although the
brain processes visual information at a maximum speed of 60 words per minute, the
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amount of non-verbal information that can be processed is not limited. Therefore, readers
tend to vary in their rate of processing the information rather than in their intake of visual
information. Urquhart and Weir (1998:90) give a selection of typical taxonomies as
Davies (1968):
Identifying word meanings.
Drawing inferences
Identifying writer’s technique and recognising the mood of
the passage.
Finding answers to questions
Lunzer et al. (1979):
Word meaning
Words in context.
Literal comprehension.
Drawing inferences from single strings.
Drawing inferences from multiple strings.
Interpretation of metaphor.
Finding salient or main ideas.
Forming judgements
Munby (1978)
Recognising the script of a language
Deducing the meaning and use of unfamiliar lexical items.
Understanding explicitly stated information.
Understanding information when not explicitly stated.
Understanding conceptual meaning.
Understanding the communicative value of sentences.
Understanding relations within the sentence.
Understanding relations between parts of texts through
lexical cohesion devices.
Interpreting text by going outside it.
Recognising indicators in discourse.
Identifying the main point of information in discourse.
Distinguishing the main idea from detail.
Extracting salient points to summarise (the text, an idea)
Selective extraction of relevant points from a text.
Basic reference skills.
Scanning to locate specifically required information.
Transcoding information to diagrammatic display.
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Grabe (1991:377)
Automatic recognition skills.
Vocabulary and structural knowledge.
Formal discourse structure knowledge.
Content/world background knowledge.
Synthesis and evaluation skills.
Metacognitive knowledge and skills monitoring.
The question of what reading actually is would appear superfluous, had it not been for the
fact that nobody has been able to define reading exhaustively to date. Urquhart and Weir
(1998:13) declare:
We all know what reading is. And many of us have suffered, at some time or
another, from the type of bore who stops any argument or discussion with
‘Ah, it depends on what you mean by …’. So it is with some reluctance that
we begin this part with an attempt to define reading, to say what we mean by
the term. Our excuse is that people do use the term in different ways, and
that while this may be permissible when everybody is conscious of the
differences, on occasion it can cause real confusion and difficulty.
Without beleaguering the point it might be necessary at this stage to look quickly at what
reading can be to various researchers and conclude with a working definition for this study.
Most researchers would agree that a written text would be the starting point for reading to
take place and it would involve at least one person. From this basic premise a multitude of
definitions could arise depending on the context, time and purpose for defining reading.
Gerot (2000:205) rightly points out that myriad answers could be given to the simple
question of what reading actually is.
In olden days, deacons or priests had to read out loud the sacred words from a holy book.
The actual saying of words aloud, even if they were in a dead language, which the person
did not understand, was generally accepted as reading. The comprehension of the meaning
of the words was not considered essential except for the more enlightened leaders of the
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religion. Modern researchers like Urquhart and Weir (1998:17) do not accept this as
reading and prefer to refer to it as “barking at print.”
The interaction of reader and text leading to the creation of meaning tends to lie at the core
of most definition nowadays. Admittedly, the amount of meaning in the text and the
amount of meaning brought to the text by the reader is open to discussion and obviously
differs from text to text, as can easily be appreciated in the differences between reading a
manual of instructions and reading an artistic poem. Urqhuart and Weir (1998:22) avoid
this debate by simply defining reading as “the process of receiving and interpreting
information encoded in language form via the medium of print” and defend their definition
by adding, “This may not be very neat but it suits our purposes.”
Gerot (2000:204) tends to give a more exhaustive definition by repeating and expanding on
the definition she used in her MA thesis and ends up by saying:
The reading process inherently involves the interaction of a reader and a text.
Here the reader is considered first and foremost to be a language user and the
text is considered to be an instance of language in use. This implies that the
reader, through her linguistic ability, is capable of ascribing meaning to and
interpreting from a text. As a person reads a test, she responds not only to the
meanings mapped onto the linguistic elements, but also takes into account
the sociocultural context which is reconstituted through the language
patterns. In so doing, she takes into account all she knows about what is
going on, what part language is playing, and who are involved.
This definition tends to be one of the most exhaustive, as it includes background
knowledge, reading skills and text. It could account for the variety of responses that various
readers from different countries would demonstrate to a headline reading, “Osama bin
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Laden: America’s Most Wanted Man,” in light of the September attacks on the World
Trade Center.
Nevertheless, from an educational point of view, reading cannot be considered to have
taken place, unless the student is able to demonstrate to the teacher that he has gained some
sort of insight or meaning from having read a text. His response could be through doing a
task, answering a question or in any form that the teacher demands and should usually be in
accordance with the expectations of the teacher. Consequently, due to the necessity of
monitoring and evaluating the students’ reading ability, “reading” cannot practically be
defined in education without an accompanying response or verifiable indicator, which the
teacher accepts as an adequate measure that reflects the students’ comprehension of the
For the purpose of this study reading can be defined as the process in which a student
interacts with a written text and derives meaning, which he is able to exhibit in a manner
appropriate to the demands of the teacher/researcher.
2.2 General Approaches to Teaching Reading
Over the years, there has been different emphasis on the various aspects of reading and this
in turn has determined the approach scholars have used to study reading. To describe
reading, some researchers have attempted to describe the various factors that are involved,
while others have tried to describe models and approaches that could contribute to our
understanding. “Componential models” are of the former type that try to describe the skills
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or components involved in reading, while “process models” attempt to go one step further
and come up with postulations as to how these components interact.
Parker and Parker (1984:179) describe the general approaches to the teaching of reading
in school.
The first approach they describe, reflects “the sequential mastery of a set of discrete
phonic rules.” This approach aims at a step by step mastery of individual items of the
language, with the ultimate aim of a comprehensive mastery of reading as a whole.
The second approach basically reflects a behaviouristic theory, whereby words, sentences
and sounds are drilled into the reader by their repeated and artificial reoccurrence in a
text. At times, these books are reinforced by the teacher pre-teaching words and
structures with the use of flashcards and colour-coded workcards. The carefully
sequenced stories drilled the students with what were considered as the basics of reading.
Gerot is against the whole notion that regularly patterned words embedded in stories can
contribute to the students’ language development. She (2000:207) complains,
“…behaviouristic psychological views of reading … more than twenty years on and
despite current curriculum documents, remain in the folklore of teaching.”
The last approach discussed is the use of children’s literature as the basis of reading
programmes. Williams (1984:203) points out that this area has not received the attention
of research that it deserves especially in the field of English as a second or foreign
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language. This approach sees reading for enjoyment as the basic instrument of increasing
students’ reading proficiency. It advocates less teacher control and greater independence
for the students to do their own reading. Williams (1984:203) stresses that “An important
mechanism for learning a language appears to be one of hypothesis forming and testing,
or ‘creative construction’”. Consequently, it is vital that speakers of English as a second
or foreign language have adequate input of the target language to form and test their own
hypothesis. The basic approaches used in process models towards examining and
describing reading can be described in terms of a bottom up, top down and interactive.
Urquhart and Weir (1998:39) rightly point out:
The popular view of the development of process models, which turns up in
many article introductions and innumerable PhDs, goes roughly as
follows. First of all came the bottom-up approach, which was then
replaced by the top-down model, which in turn was replaced by interactive
models. In fact, the most frequently cited example of a bottom-up model,
that of Gough, was published in 1972, whereas the corresponding most
frequently cited example of a so-called top-down theory, that of Goodman,
was first published in 1967.
Nevertheless, despite their valid distinction about the dates the theories were written and
published, the approaches will be described in the traditional manner. This is because
even though Goodman might have described reading as “ a psycholinguistic guessing
game”, while Gough was still looking at texts, the traditional ways of teaching reading
reflected the underlying rationales.
2.2.1 A Bottom Up Approach
As just mentioned, the traditional approach to reading reflected a bottom up approach. In
ancient times, scripts were very scarce. Scribes and holy men wrote down on parchment
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and papyrus, secret chants, prayers and recipes. In addition to this, the ignorance of
people led them to believe that secret power and forces were stored in the words
themselves. This attitude led people to believe in curses, spells and the like. One’s name
was thought to hold the key to one’s essence and would not be told to many. The reader
was seen as a medium through which the words in a text released themselves. So prayers
had to be recited in ‘original’ languages such as Geez, Sanskrit or Classical Arabic.
Literary texts were almost worshipped and memorised recitals of a text were encouraged.
The most prevalent traditional view on reading portrayed the task of reading as the
extraction of a certain piece of information from a written text. Carrell (1988:1-2)
… a rather passive, bottom-up, view of second language reading; that is, it
was viewed primarily as a decoding process of reconstructing the author’s
intended meaning via recognizing the printed letters and words, and
building up a meaning for a text from the smallest textual units at the
This view demonstrates quite well that the sort of reading used to follow instructions in
the assembling of a machine. In such instructions there can be only one correct
interpretation of the written words. Visual information tended to be seen as the sole factor
that influences reading, so various readers were expected to come up with identical
interpretations of a given text. The reader was simply seen as a passive decoder and
hence the expression of a ‘bottom up approach’, in which the meaning was in the bottom
(text) and the top (reader) decoded it. Any variations in interpretations were seen as
defects in decoding rather than legitimate differences.
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Although the capacity to follow an argument in a text is an important skill of reading, the
shortcomings of such an approach were evident in the reading of narratives, particularly
poetry. This is because poetry tends to use many loaded words. Consequently, the fact
that different readers came up with different responses that they could equally justify and
rationalise led to the need to reassess the assumptions about and the approach to reading.
However, such a reassessment came about very gradually, and for a long time what a text
meant was decided by ‘an authority’ on the subject. This was especially so in several
fields of the social sciences, where respected economists, philosophers and historians
usually had the final say. In literature classes, students were taught to study and
reproduced ‘informed assessments’ of critics in literature classrooms. Maxwell and
Meiser (1997:185) put it in a nutshell by saying, “Most of us have had the experience of
thinking that we have understood a text only to be told that we were mistaken. What the
story or poem really meant – the right meaning – was what an authority claimed.”
Day and Bamford (2000:1) state “Traditional approaches and classroom practices, with
their focus on translating, answering comprehension questions, or practising skills such
as finding main ideas, tend to ignore the larger context of student attitudes towards
reading and their motivation to read.”
Urquhart and Weir (1998: 40-41) prefer to call this a “text-driven” approach. They
explain that different researchers divided up the reading process into letter and word
identification, followed by the assigning of meaning through syntactic and semantic
rules. The fact that the whole process commences with the letters and words or the “text”
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leads them to argue that “text-driven” is more appropriate than “bottom-up”, which might
have unpleasant associations with pubs. Whatever, title might be chosen, such a linear
sequential description of components and process failed to deal with the complex reality
of reading.
Unfortunately, as so often happens in human history, one extreme gave way to its
opposite extreme and a top down approach was briefly adopted. Urquhart and Weir
(1998: 42-43) predictably prefer the term “reader-driven”.
2.2.2 A Top Down Approach
With this approach researchers became highly interested in what went on ‘behind the
eyes’. Much attention was paid to schemata, cultural familiarity and individuality. The
capacity of readers to process texts through various skills was scrutinised. Carrell
(1988:2-3) defines a top-down approach by saying:
The reader reconstructs meaning from written language by using the
graphophonic, syntactic, and semantic systems of language, but he or she
merely uses cues from these three levels of language to predict meaning,
and, most important, confirms those predictions by relating them to his or
her past experiences and knowledge of the language.
Interestingly, the Ethiopian traditional church seems to have encountered difficulties with
their students’ short-term and long-term memory and developed a memory-enhancing
drug from traditional plants and herbs.
Silberstein (1987:30) states “The reader is seen as an active, planning decision-making
individual who co-ordinates a number of skills and strategies to facilitate comprehension
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… The reader brings to the task a formidable array of information and ideas, attitudes and
beliefs.” For instance, simply reading about a wedding ceremony will bring to the mind
of different readers the food, drinks and costumes that they are familiar with in their own
culture. Infidelity and polygamous acts by characters in stories will also be viewed in
light of the cultural norms of the reader. So each reader will be interpreting from the text
in his/her own particular way.
Urquhart and Weir (1998:42) say, “In practice the term is used to refer to approaches in
which the expectations of the reader play a crucial, even dominant, role in the processing
of the text.”
It was exactly these ideas that were actively investigated and discussed. However, the top
down approach did not long stand up to the scrutiny of the researcher’s microscope.
Urquhart and Weir (1998:44) explain:
But perhaps the most damaging criticism concerns the claim of Goodman,
Smith and other writers that good readers guess more, and use the context
more than poorer readers. A great deal of work had shown, quite
conclusively, that while all readers use context, good readers are less
dependent on it than poor ones. In fact, it has been shown that what
distinguishes good from poor readers, at least among young populations, is
the ability of the members of the first group to decode rapidly and
accurately. … In spite of this, as had been said above, the assertion by
some that good readers use a bottom-up approach is only proven for word
Fortunately, it soon became clear that it was meaningless to concentrate on the reader
alone at the expense of the text. Consequently, people like Elliot (1990:62) began
stressing that a reader actually negotiates the meaning of a text through his interaction
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with it. So, for instance, on reading about a beautiful protagonist, an Ethiopian reader
might think of a woman with honey-coloured skin, almond-shaped eyes and jet black
hair, while a Swedish reader might think of a blue-eyed blonde with milk white skin.
However, both would have to modify their first thoughts if later on they read the heroine
is Japanese.
2.2.3 An Interactive Approach to Reading
Following the Top Down approach, a more balanced view has come about. Maxwell and
Meiser (1997:184) state “Emphasis has shifted from the text to interactions between text
and reader; that is, what the reader brings to the reading is as important as the words in
the texts. Text provide many possibilities for interpretation.” A good example of this is
the traditional Ethiopian church schools where senior students are taught the multiple
interpretations of verses in the Bible. It has been stated that up to thirty-two different
interpretations have been derived from a single verse in Amharic. This is not surprising
as Widdowson (1984:158) says “literary writers say less than would be referentially
acceptable, leaving us deliberately in the dark about their intended meanings and in
general making a virtue of ambiguity”.
McCormic (1988:77) associates the interactive model of reading with the philosophy of
phenomenology that does not focus solely on the Being (text) nor on the Consciousness
(reader) but rather on the point of contact (reading process) or interaction between the two.
Based on an interactive model of reading, the provision of supplementary readers should
enable students to enhance both their reading skills as well as their schemata of the world
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and thus bring about a higher level of reading proficiency in students through the provision
of the opportunity of many more literacy events beyond those made available in the
classroom. Williams (1984:203) states, “There is now a fair degree of evidence that what is
taught does not necessarily equal what is learnt, and that teaching a form does not
automatically assist the learning of the form.” Therefore the provision of supplementary
readers should assist the students to acquire English in their own preferred order. Modern
conceptions of reading have added social factors like an acquisitionally rich environment
and the socio-economic standing for students as affecting reading skills.
As a result of this new approach to understanding reading, the way of how to teach
reading has also had to be revised. The main theory about how reading ought to be taught
revolves around what is called the ‘Reader Response Theory’. This theory maintains that
if reading is the meaning derived from the interaction between reader and text and each
reader is unique, then individual reading experiences are also unique and even repeated
readings of a single text by the same reader cannot be identical. As a result, teachers
should not be teaching students to memorise ‘canons of literature’ or to repeat the
interpretations of literary authorities. Instead the teachers should be encouraging the
students to respond to literary texts in an informed way, fully appreciating how their
individual personality traits, moods, memories and experiences are affecting their
enjoyment and understanding of the text. This gives a secondary role to the mountains of
factual information about the social context in which the work was written, the
biographical details of the author and the interpretations of others. Instead, it turns the
spotlight on how the reader responds to the text. If the reader finds that reading about and
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discussing the author, the setting and the interpretation and responses of others, enhances
his response then he can study them. However, they remain simply props to the central
action of his reading and appreciating a text.
Although emphasising the reading that takes place in literary texts, such a concept is still
valid while reading for factual information. The readers’ expectations, predictions, prior
knowledge and thinking schemata, still make the reading of a text unique to the reader,
though admittedly not as pronounced as in the reading of literary texts. Consequently, a
reader reading a road map of a place he is familiar with, might visualise the places on the
map unlike a reader not familiar to the place.
2.2.4 An Interactive Compensatory Approach
Although interactive compensatory approaches do come under interactive approaches,
they have a special place in the discussion of reading in L2. Second language readers
differ from mother tongue readers due to the simple fact that they know another language
and might even be literate in it before learning to read in the second language. Therefore,
their reading could be affected by their previous abilities and knowledge. Urquhart and
Weir (1998:45) elaborate:
The compensatory approach refers to the idea, intuitively appealing, that a
weakness in one area of knowledge or skill, say in Orthographic Knowledge,
can be compensated for by strength in another area, say Syntactical
Knowledge. At the risk of labouring a point, we might claim that Goodman’s
account contains this notion, since he refers to weaknesses in the
orthographic area being made up for by the ‘strong syntax’ or a real text,
meaningful to the young reader. The notion of compensation has been
alluded to in research in L2 reading, for example in Alderson and Urquhart
(1985), where it was hypothesised that background knowledge might make
up for inadequate language skills.
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The interactive compensatory model holds special relevance in the Ethiopian situation as
the students are already literate in Amharic. Therefore, they bring “literacy”, in that they
presumably have fundamental concepts about the use of a text and how to go about
reading it. They obviously lack orthographic knowledge as Amharic uses a different
script. But they could have semantic skills, which could be transferred.
Moreover, interactive compensatory models adequately account for individual
differences as each student has individual strengths and weaknesses, though they lack the
generalisible factors that come with other models.
An interesting aspect that affects the interactive compensatory model, is what is
commonly referred to as “threshold level”. This refers to some sort of minimal language
ability that enables one to carry out any sort of meaningful reading. Therefore, Ethiopian
students would come with their “literacy” and know about the mechanics of reading in
Amharic, but they would also require a minimal grasp of English to start reading in it.
“Threshold levels” vary according to the reading task and text, as a simple greeting card
would require less English to understand than a long medical text. Nevertheless, it is
assumed that there is a threshold level for various texts, which students need to have
before they can carry out any meaningful reading.
2.3 The Role of Reading in English
Because Ethiopia is a ‘dual circle’ user of English, students need to be proficient at
reading English to succeed properly in education. Starting from secondary school, where
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English becomes the medium of instruction, most reference books are written only in
English. As a result, English is the language, which provides access to knowledge.
Although problems in listening could be and are overcome by teachers through the use of
Amharic or other local languages during classroom lectures, students are forced to rely on
their own skills without assistance, when it comes to reading books. It has been pointed
out (NOE, 2001a:5) that most educational assessment conducted by UNESCO in African
countries include a focus on reading as it is known that good reading skills, are a key
factor for learning in other areas.
Crystal (1997:24) makes a convincing case for the use of English by pointing out its
unrivalled role as the global language for international relations, international news,
travel, safety, education and communications. Obviously, Ethiopian students want to be
in touch with the latest thinking and research, and developing proficient reading skills is
their best way to do this. This is especially true in Ethiopia, where in remote places
lacking electricity and modern facilities, only printed material is readily available for the
students. Nevertheless, most Ethiopian students do not master reading adequately. Instead
they end up with fascinating skills of memorisation and recall, whereby they memorise
whole books and simply regurgitate the contents on demand. This lack of sufficient
comprehension, evaluation and synthesis has repercussions for the whole educational
system. A particular case that illustrates this was a second year teacher trainee who
memorised a thirty-two page handout and reproduced it in a final examination including
all the typographical mistakes in the original. The fact that this trainee went on to
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graduate top of his batch and was awarded the gold medal is a clear indication that the
whole system encourages such an approach to reading.
Study skill courses, which equip students with reading, note-taking and other skills to
cope with their academic courses are a common feature of a lot of preparatory course for
foreign students joining institutions of learning in England. Unfortunately, Ethiopian
students are never consciously equipped with such skills.
Starting from Grade One, they are taught English as a language course and this continues
until the end of their education, without any obvious preparations for the switch to
English as a medium of instruction after the second cycle of primary education.
Starting from Grade Nine all textbooks (except Ethiopian language ones) and reference
books found in the libraries are written only in English. Students are expected to cover a
lot of content in the subject areas in English, but have not been trained adequately in
reading skills. Reading is given equal coverage to all the other language skills, despite the
fact that it is the fundamental skill that they require to be successful in their secondary
Ironically, reading in English has the most pivotal role in secondary education, yet
students are not trained to read effectively. Instead of being encouraged to understand and
generate new ideas from what they have understood, they are simply taught to repeat
almost verbatim ides from the text. Students therefore mostly develop amazing skills of
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simply recall and lack other skills like synthesis and appreciation. Unfortunately, the
inclusion of extensive reading passages in the English textbooks have only recently taken
place. Previous textbooks had factual passages with comprehension questions that only
demanded regurgitation of facts from the passage. The new extensive reading sections
allow the students to read for pleasure, yet even these passages tend to be skipped by
teachers anxious to cover the textbooks by the end of the semester. Teachers are more
interested in drilling grammar and other skills that are usually tested in final
examinations, than encouraging students to develop other skills that may prove more
difficult to test in the standard multiple choice format of examinations.
2.4 Textbooks and Learning Materials
Ethiopia tends to be associated with images of famine in the mind of most people who
know about it through the media. However, the concept of the existence of a book famine
does not readily spring to the mind of most people. Being a part of the ancient Nile
Civilisation, Ethiopia has its share of ancient engravings and invaluable manuscripts
written on leather parchment. But it was only at the turn of this century that books as a
public source of knowledge were introduced alongside with Western education during the
reign of Emperor Menelik.
During the reign of Emperor Haile-Selassie (1930 - 1974), the opening of many public
schools led to the familiarisation of the possession and use of textbooks and learning
materials by students. In the early half of this century, textbook production in Ethiopia
was almost non-existent. Consequently, teachers and students had to use materials
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imported from the West. Obviously researchers have criticised most of these materials for
being culturally unsuitable (Gebeyehu, Getachew and Tesfaye, 1992:5).
Beginning in the 1950s, the adoption of a national language as a medium of instruction
lead to the need for the adaptation, translation and production of learning materials. All of
this in turn necessitated the development of a book industry in Ethiopia.
In 1952, the Curriculum Department was set up under the Ministry of Education to write
and publish textbooks. Within a decade, international publishers wanted to establish
publishing houses in Ethiopia. By 1962 Oxford University Press had established its own
publishing house in Addis Ababa.
By 1974, the socialist government was making definite marks on the book industry that
can still be seen today. Hare and Stoye (1998:2) comment “many deficiencies of the
previous system remain also in the present system”. The first move was to nationalise
most foreign owned businesses, which lead to the closing down of OUP. It was
transformed into the Ethiopian Book Centre. This lead to the departure of all international
publishers to other more hospitable African countries. The second was to set up the
Educational Materials Production and Distribution Agency (EMPDA) which, in effect,
monopolised all aspects of educational material production and distribution, stifling any
possible national competition. The third was to set up a strict censorship authority, which
screened and prevented many manuscripts from being published, thus hampering the
development of local authors. The fourth and the last, was to set up a government
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publishing house “Kuraz” that was “ primarily entrusted with the task of propagating
socialist ideology to the Ethiopian people mainly through translated texts” (Ethiopian
Educational Consultants /ETEC, 1997:23). Thus, this goal of using literature and learning
materials as a means of indoctrinating people with socialist values led to a situation easily
predictable retrospectively: a single title state-owned publishing system which was not
commercially viable and had good translators but poor textbook writers. To be fair, all
writers of the period had no alternative but to conform to the demands of the state.
Some of the brighter aspects of the Socialist era were the introduction of a nation-wide
literacy programme as well as the production of learning materials for this programme in
fifteen national languages. This campaign highlighted what could be achieved with
community participation, as well as the possibilities of a rapid return to illiteracy in the
absence of a literate environment, which provides opportunities for newly literate people
to practise their skills. Although the educational system was dubious from a capitalistic
viewpoint in that it was neither economically viable nor sustainable, the socialist
government was able to provide free education at all levels and produce extremely cheap
textbooks by using donated paper.
In 1991, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front seized control and once
again set Ethiopia on a capitalistic path. Although encouraging moves have been made on
the policy level, the situation of textbook production, provision and usage is far from
perfect. Most people acknowledge that there is an acute shortage of learning materials at
all levels.
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To begin with production, regional education bureaux have the mandate for developing
all textbooks at primary level. Unfortunately, however, almost all regions do not have the
capacity to produce textbooks both in terms of producing the camera-ready-copy as well
as the printing capacity. As a result, all regions except Region 14 (Addis Ababa) gave
back the mandate of producing the English textbooks to the Institute of Curriculum
Development and Research (ICDR), which in turn had a British advisor do most of the
writing. Region 14 basically did a similar thing by getting former staff of ICDR to write
their textbooks. As for textbooks in the other subjects, basically one textbook was written
centrally and then translated into the various languages. This, in effect, neutralises the
benefits of localisation stated in the Education Sector Development Programme (1998:8)
of changing the content and adapting it to the immediate environment of the students.
However, it might have contributed to the Cultural Policy, which supports the
development of local languages (MOIC, 1997:15). Textbooks tend to have too many
pages as writers are paid per page and so they go for ‘the more the merrier’. Once
camera-ready-copies are produced, they are printed in printing presses located in Addis
Ababa. Once again this does not alleviate problems of transportation nor does it
contribute to the enhancement of regional printing capacity.
Regarding distribution lines, books are supposed to go from regional education bureaux
to zonal education departments, then to woreda (District) education offices and finally
into schools. However, several studies have shown that there are many instances where
remote schools receive their textbooks before urban schools do. The missing shipments
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have usually found their way onto the black-market, as no textbooks are sold to retail
bookstores. At times, books spend months in various stores owing to store-keepers not
being well-trained and indifferent to their punctual arrival at schools. Moreover, at times,
books have to cross and re-cross the same distances due to zonal educational departments
being further away from the points of distribution than the woreda educational offices
under them.
Distribution has been said to be poor as a result of the lack of commitment and incentive
(Hare and Stoye, 1998a:8) leading to the lack of a sense of urgency in the state
bureaucracy. This, in turn, leads to teachers finding themselves forced to use new
textbooks, which have arrived in the middle of the semester. Only a few teachers are
usually given short training on how to use the books, and though they are expected to act
as multipliers and train the rest of the teachers, this rarely occurs. Obviously, this does
nothing to lessen the resistance to change from an old familiar textbook to an unfamiliar
new one, about which not much orientation has been given.
However, even once the textbooks are in the school, everything is still not smooth. Very
often regional education bureaux have had to cut down on the quantity of copies owing to
“unforeseen” increases in price. So far from the 1:1 textbook student ratio envisaged by
the ESDP, the actual ratio of distribution might be 1:3 which could express itself in the
much worse ratio of 1:5 in the classroom. This is because some students forget their
textbooks at home, while others are afraid of losing their valuable and irreplaceable
textbooks, and leave them at home for safekeeping. Occasionally, the extremely unlucky
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student returns home to find his illiterate father has torn out a page from the textbook to
roll his tobacco in, or his mother has torn out a page for wrapping up the sugar she is
selling. Moreover, the government has yet to introduce “acceptable loss margins” and the
“weeding of stock” into all its library systems. Acceptable loss margins allow for the fact
that a few books naturally go missing if a library is being used by numerous people, while
the weeding of stock necessitates the replacement of some books which are outdated by
new ones. A library with adequate funds could allow for up to 25% of the books to be
weeded per annum, aiming to rejuvenate its entire stock in a period of four years. At
present, librarians at all levels are held directly responsible for any loss of books.
Therefore, librarians tend to be reluctant to lend out books, and keep them under lock and
key, leading to the inaccessibility of books in those few places where they do exist. They
certainly cannot be blamed when one sees the number of mutilated books with pages and
even whole chapters torn out. In addition to this, at times schools have a surplus of one
textbook and a shortage of another, but cannot swap with other schools because of
inflexible systems of control. On retirement or resignation, librarians are expected to hand
over each and every book that they received, when they took over the library, even if it
was thirty years ago. Although, the weeding of stock might appear unrealistic, there are
currently books such as “College Physics” in primary school libraries that naturally have
not been touched for decades. If the librarians could weed their stock, unnecessary books
would not compete for space on the crammed shelves, making the appropriate books
more visible and accessible. Unfortunately, huge stocks of new textbooks can be found on
the black market, while some schools have not yet received them. Amongst other factors,
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this could be a result of the poor socio-economic status of the country, which encourages
people to resort to illegal methods to gain extra income.
Unfortunately, despite forward looking government policies, there still appears to remain
a socialist mentality in some people. Due to this, it would appear that people would prefer
a single publisher like Mega to take over from EMPDA rather than there being several
publishers coming up with several textbooks. They appear to think that there is one best
option when it comes to textbooks and that the government knows best as to which that
option is. New books sold even at cost price are regarded as unacceptably expensive
because the people were used to subsidised books on the market during the socialist era.
Several NGOs and donors have seen the difficulties of the task of moving to a free
textbook market scene from a single state publishing system. Therefore, they have drawn
up small projects of their own to facilitate the process. To begin with, CODE-Ethiopia, a
Canadian NGO, has attempted to improve the situation by distributing books obtained
from the International Book Bank as well as developing books locally and purchasing
locally published reading materials at all levels. They have trained librarians and
established reading-rooms with the aim of improving accessibility. Then, British CouncilEthiopia has run several projects aimed at the provision of books including: Support to
English Language Teaching, the Bulk Loan Scheme, the Primary Reader Scheme, and
Ethiopian Stories in Simplified English. These projects have aimed at producing and
providing books. Some of the projects were aimed at capacity building and provided
training and computers for desktop publishing. In addition to this, the British Council
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distributes books donated by Book Aid International and runs the busiest British Council
library in the world. Next, Irish Aid-Ethiopia has been involved in the production of a
local primary reader, the purchase of locally published readers and their distribution to
these schools. Similarly, GTZ, the German development organisation, has been involved
in the production of several local books such as readers, books on school management,
and subject-related books, as well as the purchase and distribution of locally available
materials. Finally, the Swedish International Development Agency has been the major
supplier of free paper to EMPDA over the last several years. However, it now only
provides EMPDA support in the form of technical assistance with the aim of making it a
commercially viable publishing house.
A major concern with the donation of books is that this artificial dosage of free books
instead of resuscitating the market, might meet the existing demand, and thus hinder the
development of the local market. NGOs work under certain conditions and lay down
preconditions which hamper a free market. For instance, a donation from the EU may
come with the precondition that books are bought from Europe and not Africa, thus
producing unfair conditions, which work against a free market. A second concern is that
with the withdrawal of the donor or NGO, the whole project collapses owing to the lack
of sustainability. Unless a project is completely run locally and a demand is there on the
market, the withdrawal of subsidies or technical assistance could easily lead to a project
coming to a standstill. A third concern is that books donated are not relevant to the needs
of a specific country and simply impose a foreign culture upon the students and may not
be related to the existing curriculum. Moreover, it could create a dependency syndrome in
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which schools expect to receive free books rather than raise funds to purchase them. The
abuse and misuse of free books may also come about because of a lack of feeling of
ownership. Teachers are not encouraged to write materials as books are imposed from
above. Besides, in the race to get through the textbooks with excessive pages by the end
of the semester, teachers do not usually produce supplementary materials, but remain
textbook bound.
With regard to the private sector, it is encouraging to see an increasing number of locally
produced books on the market. Basically, there are two major local publishers, Ethiopian
Book Centre (EBC) and Mega, in the private sector and a few multinationals such as
Macmillan, Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press. EBC is basically
the remnants of the former Oxford University press of Ethiopia now owned by a former
employee. This publisher tends to put a small but steady trickle of books on the market,
but also acts as a distributor/retailer in two small bookshops of the company in Addis.
Mega is basically the transformation of the government publishing house Kuraz that was
sold off under the move towards privatisation in the 1990s. Mega tends to hire most
writers on a part-time basis and has not been able to get away from the per page payment
Oxford University Press is working in co-ordination with a local organisation called Orbit
and seems willing to risk money on the supposition that the government will soon allow
multiple titles by producing its own set of primary level English textbooks with
accompanying supplementary readers. Similarly, Cambridge University Press is working
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in co-ordination with the newly established Rainbow Printers. They have recently
launched a series of readers in three Ethiopian languages, Amharic, Afaan Oromo and
Tigrigna. An interesting aspect of these readers is that they are all printed abroad and the
illustrations and books have already been published in other African languages.
Consequently, rather than taking the risk of losing a big investment on producing new
Ethiopia readers, they have only had to change the text of previously published readers
through translation and adaptation. If these readers prove profitable, they can launch into
a full-fledged operation of producing readers for Ethiopia.
Apart from publishers, the Ethiopian book industry has had the interesting feature of
authors, printers and financiers getting together to produce books and share the profits or
mourn over the losses. This section has recently put an ever-increasing number of books
on the market. Although some are of reasonably good quality and could be useful
supplementary readers, they have not yet been able to link these books with the
government educational system.
To sum up, at present there are insufficient numbers of textbooks and supplementary
reading materials in Ethiopia. Nevertheless, positive steps are being taken by all parties
concerned to overcome this shortage.
2.5 The Primary Reader Scheme
The Ethiopian Education Sector Development Program is calling for the introduction of
supplementary readers to reinforce the learning of English at primary level (MOE,
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1998a:37). As discussed above, this call is based on sound theoretical and practical
justifications from other countries. This section will give a more in-depth view of the
Primary Reader Scheme run by the British Council and the books that are being
distributed in this scheme. It surprisingly challenges preconceived notions of what
appropriate readers are by revealing that the choice of both teachers and students do not
conveniently fit into theoretical categories for academicians and scholars.
2.5.1 Background History
A Primary Readers Scheme, set up with the ultimate aim of providing readers in English
for all primary schools in Ethiopia, was started because of strong requests to the British
Council from different primary schools for reading materials. The purpose of this project
was to enable primary school students to develop the skill of English language reading
and understanding, and to develop the habit of reading. A pilot project began in 1996
with the goal of improving the standard of English and education in basic education
through the provision of 124 different readers to five schools in regions 14 and 4 for
grades 5-8. The Primary Readers Scheme schools involved in the pilot scheme were
Assela, Bishoftu, Denkaka, Entoto Amba and Medhanealem junior secondary schools.
Each school was presented with the primary readers and after a year, a monitoring
workshop was held. The schools were requested to assess the progress, development and
impact of the scheme and to identify problems encountered and seek solutions. It was
hoped that during this workshop the schools would share experiences as well as find
ways and means to continue the project in the absence of aid.
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Most of the participants confirmed that the readers are useful and relevant, and have
encouraged the students to develop their reading skills. The directors of the five schools
reported that the readers are kept in rooms meant for libraries in all schools except
Denkaka where they are kept in boxes. The students read the books in the classroom, in
the library and even under trees. Some of the students borrow the readers for use at home
over weekends, while others formed reading and drama clubs with the assistance of
teachers. The teachers had categorized the readers according to levels of difficulty and
used some of the passages for class exams for grades 7 and 8. Moreover, the teachers also
enjoyed reading the books in their own free time.
Some of the problems mentioned were the inadequacy of a single copy and the students’
fear of losing the readers as they could not be replaced locally. They also stated that some
of the stories were culturally inappropriate and that there was a lack of any Ethiopian
2.5.2 Ranking and Describing the Readers
It was stated at the workshop that the participants had to select titles they felt to be most
relevant and to indicate how many copies would be appropriate. As there was a fixed
number of books to be given, they had to balance the number of copies with the number
of titles. So a school that wanted all 124 titles could only have one copy, but if they chose
ten titles, they could have around 12 copies of each. A final list of the favourite titles with
the average number of recommended copies would be complied, so that future schools to
be included in the scheme would get useful books only. To make the selection of the
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readers, the participants recommended that they go back to their respective schools and
identify the type of readers and number of copies and submit the result within fifteen
days. Some of them admitted to not having exact data as to which titles were frequently
read. (See Appendix 2 for titles selected by each school.) In retrospect, one would have to
re-evaluate the workshop and consider whether the teachers and directors were being
frank in their response, or were rather providing the donors with the answers they
assumed the British Council would want to hear, with the hope of receiving further
Ranking the readers had some fundamental difficulties in that the question arises if these
readers were ranked according to observed behaviour and preferences of the students, or
the preferences of the teachers and the directors who attended the workshop. Being less
sceptical and accepting the ranking at face value, when we rank the readers according to
the schools’ most favoured titles, we find the following,
Table2 : The Ranking of Readers by Schools
Aladdin and his Magic Lamp
Chosen by All 5 Schools
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Chosen by 4 Schools
King Solomon’s Mines
Chosen by 4 Schools
The Stranger
Chosen by 3 Schools
Tales from the Arabian Nights
Chosen by 3 Schools
Animal Friends
Chosen by 2 Schools
Things fall Apart
Chosen by 2 Schools
The Bird and the Bread
Chosen by 2 Schools
Chosen by 2 Schools
The World Around Us
Chosen by 2 Schools
Thirty Nine Steps
Chosen by 1 School
Animal Farm
Chosen by 1 School
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It is interesting to take a closer look at those titles selected by the schools as being more
appropriate to the tastes of the students and that have, since the evaluative workshop,
been distributed in the Primary Readers Scheme. Each reader is first described with a
more critical analysis following. Aladdin and his Magic Lamp
Aladdin and his Magic Lamp (Stempleski, 1989) is a reader at the Stage 1 of the
Longman Structural Readers series that is classified into six stages. The tenses are limited
to the present simple, while the text is supported with vivid colour illustrations. The story
is told on twenty-one pages with two additional pages with questions. The book has a
unique appearance as it is designed to have three or two columns per page, each column
having a picture and text. As the book is written on A5 size paper and given a horizontal
orientation, it gives the impression of being a comic book, except for the fact that the text
is placed at the bottom of the pictures and not in speech bubbles.
This traditional Arab story has stood the test of time and is internationally popular.
Although only the present simple tense is used, the exciting story overcomes this
limitation. The depth of story provides substance, which can be enjoyed by different
readers at different levels. Children initiation rights and myths are hinted at as the
magician talks about the jewels and says, “ only a young boy can get them. There is a
magic garden. A man can’t go there, but a boy can” (Stempleski, 1989:6). Entering and
painfully emerging from the cavern has the womb motif, which could provide Freudians
with plenty of rich materials for psychoanalysis. However, it is doubtful whether such
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depth can be appreciated by young children. Consequently it is surprising that this book
was chosen as the favourite by all five schools. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves is the traditional tale retold by L.A. Hill (1972) for the
Oxford Graded Readers Scheme. These readers are graded into four stages at the 500,
750, 1000 and 1,500 headword levels. Each stage is again divided into junior and senior
categories to avoid the difficulty of readers of different ages but the same reading ability
finding the content less appealing to them. So Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves is at the
first stage of 500 headwords and is in the senior category, as the other categories have
fewer headwords. The story is told on 27 pages full of many coloured illustrations that
break up the text, making it easier to understand.
Although this story lacks plausibility at an adult level it is one of the most popular and
famous children’s stories. It is unlikely that 39 thieves will all die silently turn by turn as
a young girl pours a pan of hot oil of their head. Moreover, a stone that opens and closes
to a password seems more like modern day high-tech inventions than an ancient reality.
However the theme of the weak good people defeating the strong and the evil has been
and still is a popular theme in literature. The colourful illustrations make the book
attractive and it is not surprising that four of the five schools chose this book as a
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King Solomon’s Mines is a reader of the Oxford Progressive Readers Series, which has
many of the classic literary masterpieces simplified for learners of English. The Oxford
Progressive Readers Series is divided into 5 grades having 1,400, 2,100, 3,100, 3,700 and
5,000 words respectively. King Solomon’s Mines is Grade 4 and consequently has 3,700
words. It has relatively few black and brown illustrations in the 100-page story. New
words are usually explained in the text and repeated several times to reinforce vocabulary
This story is an intriguing choice. The English is comparatively difficult and quite likely
above the comprehension level of many Ethiopian school children. Furthermore, the story
is full of tradition stereotypes of smart white adventurers and cruel and ignorant blacks.
The people of Kukuana are persuaded into believing that the whites and the Zulu have
come from the stars and see the darkening of the eclipse as proof of their powers. Even
after some time, “The Kukuanas got tired of his glass eye and ‘melting teeth’, but is
seemed they would never get tired of looking at his ‘beautiful white legs’. ” (Haggard,
n.d. 98). Captain Good obligingly pulls up his trousers to the knee and the women
murmur witt delight at the sight of his white legs. Apparently, however, the story has
been appreciated for the adventures involved rather than for its being plausible or
realistic. It would appear that the exciting storyline has overcome any of its
shortcomings. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that literary critics would consider a Victorian
adventure story suitable for African students today, as they would argue that it is not
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“politically correct” and touches upon many sensibilities. Despite this, the teachers and
students liked it. The Stranger
The Stranger (Whitney, 1977) is a reader at the elementary level of the Heinemann
Guided Readers. The Heinemann Guided Readers series has the five levels of starter,
beginner, elementary, intermediate and upper. At the elementary level the vocabulary is
set at around 1,000 basic words and most tenses are used. Simple adverbial and adjectival
phrases are used and sentence clauses are kept at no greater than two. New words that can
be derived from the context are introduced. The illustrations are in black and white and
there is a lot of text in the 54 pages of the story.
This book is an interesting choice in that, although it has suspense and mystery, the end is
not particularly satisfying as there is no explanation as to why Slatin deliberately burns to
death in his shop. Moreover, the culture of injuring mannequins and voodoo, as a whole
is non-existent in Ethiopia, where cursing and poisoning is more common. The context is
also foreign to Ethiopia, as railway stations, film stars involved in sorcery, and going to
other cities for romantic weekends are not very common. Nevertheless, the language
level is suitable for students, who have had 4-8 years of learning English as a subject. Tales from the Arabian Nights
Tales from the Arabian Nights (Foulds 1992) is a reader of the Oxford Progressive
Readers Series, like King Solomon’s Mines. It is at Grade 1 and 1,400 words. The main
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story is told on fifty-three pages with a further four pages devoted to questions and
activities. It has a few colour illustrations dispersed throughout the book.
It is surprising that Tales from the Arabian Nights was not chosen by all five schools as it
not only includes the most popular Aladdin but other stories as well. In fact, selecting this
reader should have allowed the teachers to leave Aladdin and Ali Baba out of their lists
and include other stories instead. The fact that there are quite a few sexists remarks about
women being as fickle as leaves blowing in the wind and at times intolerably talkative
does not seem to have disturbed the teachers. Moreover, there are a few negative
depictions of Africa as being utter wilderness. The description of a beautiful woman as
being, “..tall and dark, with red lips and hair like a black cloud around her lovely face,”
(Foulds, 1992:51) must have been more familiar to the teachers than the Eurocentric
blue-eyed blonde description. Animal Friends
Animal Friends (Mitchelhill 1993) is a Level 4 book at a reading series called New
Reading 360 produced by a not so familiar publisher called Ginn and Company Limited.
The New Reading 360 series is composed of six levels and has accompanying teachers’
resource books, which were not distributed with the readers. The story is told on 32 pages
with colour illustrations and a few lines of text on each page.
This story is very basic in terms of language and plot. Apart from the crocodile chasing
the innocent men, nothing interesting really happens. The characters are interestingly all
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Africans. Once again the colour illustrations are made to give life to the story, which
might be useful in teaching environmental protection. Things Fall Apart
Things Fall Apart is the well-known book written by Chinua Achebe retold by John
Davey (1972). Like The Stranger, it is a reader of the Heinemann Guided Readers but it
is at the intermediate level. At this level the vocabulary is set at around 1,600 basic words
and most tenses are used. Sentences are limited to a maximum of three clauses and
attention is paid to pronoun reference. New words that can be derived from the context
are introduced and difficult allusion and metaphor are avoided while cultural
backgrounds are made explicit. The illustrations are in black and white and there is a lot
of text in the 84 pages of the story.
Things Fall Apart is an interesting choice, as the questions of relevance and afrocentricity
making a book more appealing to an African audience are challenged. The book has been
chosen by only two of the schools, yet is considered in academic circles as a piece of
African literature par excellence. To be fair, the story actually has many things that are
alien to the Ethiopian culture. These include the killing of twins, the killing of adopted
children, the taking of persons from another tribe as compensation for someone killed and
sending children to local gods. The whole theme of adapting to changing times caused by
colonialism was not experienced first hand in Ethiopia, as Ethiopia was not colonised.
However, this books is mandatory reading on most literature courses at tertiary level. The
teachers’ own knowledge of the text could have influenced its popularity, as most
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teachers are familiar with this story in African literature courses they take in teacher
training colleges. The Bird and the Bread
The Bird and The Bread (Howe, 1983) is a Grade 2 book of the Start with English
Readers, which is divided into six grades. Grade 2 basically uses only the simple present
and present continuous tenses and elementary words. The story begins with these
sentences “This is a bird and a tree. The bird is little. It is red. … Look at the Bread”
(Howe, 1983:1). The story is told on sixteen pages with another four pages composed of
an alphabetical picture dictionary. The story is composed mainly of bird colourful
illustrations with very few words, while the dictionary has ten prepositions and fifty-two
words all illustrated by small colour illustrations.
The story is very simple along with the language. It gives the sense of being written to
illustrate the structures and vocabulary rather than having any intrinsic value of its own.
The characters and setting for the pictures are European with the typical British
policeman in his uniform and helmet. Although similar stories exist in children’s nursery
rhymes and memory games, this story appears rather dull for reading despite the attempt
of the illustrations to liven it up. The Bird and the Bread is the most elementary story of
all twelve stories chosen and it is a bit disturbing that this book is chosen as a favourite
amongst students, who have had 4-8 years of learning English as a subject.
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Alissa (Moore, 1989) is a reader at the starter level of the Heinemann Guided Readers
series that is classified into Starter, Beginner, Elementary, Intermediate and Upper. The
vocabulary at this level is controlled to approximately 300 words and the tenses are
limited to the present simple, present continuous and the future. The text is supported
with vivid colour illustrations and it is assumed that a student with a very basic
knowledge of English should be able to read and enjoy a story at this level.
It is not surprising that this book has been chosen. Hill (1997:68) mentions it by name
amongst the Heinemann Guided Readers as an example of the possibility to create “an
interesting story within very limited language”. However, what is a bit disturbing is that
this book was written at the most basic of levels and it is chosen as a favourite amongst
students, who should have more advanced English reading skills. The World Around Us
The World Around Us (Howe, 1984) is a Grade 6 book of the Start with English Readers.
This series is divided into six grades and apparently was first produced by an organisation
called “Guided English Corporation”. It is not a typical reader in that it is not an abridged
version of a piece of literature nor a story written for children. Instead it is more of a
general knowledge activity book with interesting facts about various things. It has fifteen
chapters of around one page each on various topics ranging from the earth to spiders.
Each chapter is followed by some comprehension questions. The chapters are printed on
43 pages and are supported by diagrams and photographs of the topic under discussion.
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A typical chapter is an expository text of the topic. For instance, the chapter about spiders
has a coloured picture of a spider in the middle of its web and explains, “An insect is a
very small animal with six legs and a body with three parts. A spider is not really an
insect because it has four pairs of legs and its body only has two parts” (Howe, 1984:17).
Although this book is not a typical reader and lacks the suspense and excitement that
readers are meant to raise, two schools selected it. This is probably because it fits into the
pattern that most primary schoolteachers and students are familiar with. There is a text
with facts that can be memorised and used to answer questions posed at the end. Perhaps
this reader could serve as a useful bridge between the reading comprehension texts in the
textbook and the stories that most extensive reading schemes use to get students reading. Thirty-Nine Steps
The Thirty-Nine Steps is a simplified version of the same story by John Buchan retold by
Nick Bullard (1994) to suit the Oxford Bookworms Series. This series is divided into six
levels categorised by the number of headwords. The headwords at each stage are 400,
700, 1000, 1400, 1800 and 2,500. Consequently as The Thirty-Nine Steps is at stage four,
it has 1,400 headwords. The story is told on 72 pages and in addition to the
comprehension questions that are found at the end of most of these series, Oxford
Bookworms also has a glossary.
The Thirty-Nine Steps has been made into a famous Hitchcock film and it is not
surprising that this book has been chosen as a favourite. Although it is set in Scotland and
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the pictures portray typical British settings and characters, the sheer thrill of the story has
definitely managed to overcome any culturally difficult concepts like descriptions of the
tide, which could cause problems to students who have grown up in a landlocked country.
However, it is perhaps such difficulties that made this book a favourite in only one of the
schools. Animal Farm
George Orwell’s (1945) Animal Farm has been produced in the Longman “Bridge
Series” as a relatively short novel in comparison to most readers. The language and the
story have been simplified. The story is told on 97 pages of text, which have no
illustrations. It has a short introduction of five pages giving some background
information about George Orwell’s biography and about the social context in which
Animal Farm was written. Moreover, apart from 20 comprehension questions, the book
has an extensive glossary of 22 pages with around 800 words to support weaker readers.
Animal Farm is one of the most popular stories worldwide and has been reprinted almost
twice a year since it was first printed in 1945. This version is its 87th impression printed
in 1995. It used to be compulsory reading in Ethiopia in some teacher training colleges,
until the socialist revolution, which banned it. Most of the teachers can definitely apply
their experiences from the socialist period to enjoying it. The government’s forcing
people into doing work that, “… was strictly voluntary, but any animal who absented
himself from it would have his rations reduced by half,” (Orwell, 1945:41) was a
common feature of Ethiopia’s socialist period. Moreover, the arbitrary changing of rules
and regulations can clearly be reflect upon in the changing of a commandment to read,
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“No animal shall kill any other animal without cause” (Orwell, 1945:62). In fact, some of
the political realities continue even in present day Ethiopia, and people could easily
identify with the animals that see the rising of production statistics by 200% yet “they
would sooner have had less figures and more food” (Orwell, 1945:63). However, it is
unlikely that most Ethiopian children in Grade Eight will have achieved both the English
reading skills and the maturity to read and fully appreciate this book, in spite of its having
been simplified. This is probably why it has been chosen as a favourite by only one
2.5.3 Analysis of Selection
The facts of the findings are given above, but the interpretation and analysis of these
facts can be subjective. Language Level Appropriateness
A very big variance in the level of language can be seen in the above choice of readers.
Books like Animal Friends and The Bird and the Bread are more at a level of the barely
literate, while King Solomon’s Mines and Thirty-Nine Steps are at quite an advanced
level. Renandya and Jacobs (2002:297) actually encourage the use of simple materials in
the first stages of any reading schemes. They say:
Unlike in intensive reading, where the material is typically above
students’ linguistic level, in ER the material should be near or even below
their current level. To use Second Language Acquisition (SLA) jargon,
students should be reading texts at an i+1, i, or i-1 level, with “i” being
their current proficiency level. The rule of thumb here is that to get
students started in the program, it is better that they read easier texts than
more challenging ones. For students who have minimal exposure to
contextualized language and who lack confidence in their reading, even i2 material may be appropriate…
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This may appear reassuring with choices such as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and
Alissa, Animal Friends and The Bird and the Bread are more at an ‘i-4’ level. But this
raises serious questions as to whether teachers are aware that some of their students can
hardly read and have chosen the simplest readers available. Theoretical Interpretations
Simply by looking at the readers selected several different interpretations could be
given, depending on the theoretical bent of the observer.
The first interpretation could be called a Pan-Africanist view in which a call for more
African readers is made. Here, it is interesting to note that the teachers and school
directors said that most of the books were not very culturally appropriate and wanted
more books by African writers in general. This reflects the theories that researchers put
forward such as:
In the Ethiopian situation probably the learners have not identified with or
accepted the input and so their filters are blocked. One of the hypotheses of
this thesis is that if the Ethiopian language learner is exposed to material
within their schematic reality, as a beginning, there is a chance that the filter
will be lowered and so encourage learner-response. ... Comprehensible input
therefore seems to have an important role in language learning and so in the
Ethiopian context probably African literary texts can play this
role,(Abiye,1995:37) .
Yet when we come to the actual selection of titles African Child does not rank first on
any list. Things Fall Apart does rank very well, but it is definitely not the unanimous
favourite. This, in a way, raises questions about the assertion that the writings of one
African country has close connections to the reality of its neighbours. Some of the points
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that Ethiopians might find unfamiliar have been pointed out above. But Pan-Africanists
have argued that there were hardly any African readers in the original list of titles, so the
selection of Things Fall Apart is actually a 50% success rate of African literature. Others
have complained that both readers are actually adult books simplified and therefore are
not comparable to readers intended originally for children, so there is no ground for
comparison. Still others say that stories such as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and
Aladdin and his Magic Lamp actually have their roots in the Middle East and Africa,
ignoring their popularity world wide. The fact that they were chosen could reflect the
preference of children (and adults) for fantasy. However, the fact that one of classic
post-colonial pieces was not top of the list definitely opens the door to the question of
whether there is such a thing as a common African culture throughout the continent.
Moreover one might ask whether African literary pieces are being exalted more for their
political correctness than for their being popular amongst the general public.
The second interpretation can be called a universalist view. Such a view would maintain
that it is the books that have stood the test of time such as Aladdin and his Magic Lamp,
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and King Solomon’s Mines that were chosen almost
unanimously. This indicates that stories that are interesting have universal appeal and
transcend cultural limitations. Consequently, they claim that “cultural appropriateness”
is more a reflection of adult bias than of the actual readers’ preference. Moreover, a lot
of work is studied merely for the fact that they are written by Africans rather than
because of any inherent literary value. So students will not enjoy these sorts of texts, if
they are not appealing in themselves. Good readers, with literary merits from any
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culture, will be readily appreciated and liked by readers all over the world. This view
could explain why books with obviously prejudiced views to Africa, like King
Solomon’s Mines, were enjoyed and selected. However, advocates of such a view ignore
masses of research that proves cultural and schematic familiarity renders texts more
comprehensible to readers (e.g. Duff and Maley, 1990:7).
The third interpretation can be called a Pragmatic View. Here we need not disregard all
appeals for African Literature, but instead we should refine our thinking and realise that
Africa is so vast that what is common knowledge in a certain area might be completely
unfamiliar in another. Therefore we have to reduce our sights to more specific regions or
areas. Achebe (1975:45) talks about African literature being a group of associated units
rather than a single unit in itself. So perhaps we should zoom in on the “Ethiopian Unit”
and examine if such texts are more in tune with students preferences. If we are aiming at
encouraging motivation by making our students identify with the text, then we have to
ensure that the themes and characters do indeed reflect the students’ reality. It is not
wise to ignore completely the research showing the usefulness of schematic familiarity.
Yet at the same time, one should not unquestioningly accept some intangible concept of
pan-African unity, which is created by intellectuals in ivory towers and divorced from
the felt needs and realities of the students’ milieux.
No reader should be dismissed simply because it comes from a “foreign” culture, as good
literature deals with universal human values, emotions and conflicts that transcend
cultures and so will have universal appeal. Nevertheless, an average reader, which comes
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from a familiar setting, is easier for the student to understand. Consequently, Ethiopian
readers should be exposed not to general African stories, but more specifically to
Ethiopian stories, in which they find subject matter that is familiar. So the promising start
of Ethiopian writing for children must be encouraged.
Nevertheless, the selection of appropriate titles is not an easy task. Read (1996:105)
Selection of titles is often undertaken by those who have no professional
training in reading development or in children’s literature. Frequently
selection is more concerned with national, pedagogic, or religious values
than with the identification of materials of inherent interest to the children.
As a result of the pilot study of the Primary Reader Scheme, the British Council has
divided the main project into two. The first one is a carry on from the past with a nation
wide trial commenced in co-ordination with the Ministry of Education. This comprises
ten copies of the twenty selected titles (200 readers) to fifty schools across Ethiopia. The
second is a new project entitled Ethiopian Stories in Simplified English that aims at the
creation of two local readers for each region. Unfortunately, neither of the projects has
been fully implemented and cannot be evaluated yet.
Nevertheless, they are a move in the right direction. Oliveira (1996:87) says that the
biggest obstacle to reading schemes is possibly the limited supply of books in
developing countries and that students are often given unfamiliar foreign books,
typically produced in developed countries. This is not surprising, when one looks at
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what is available on the market. It has been estimated that as little as 1% of all
supplementary readers in the world are set in Africa (Hill, 1997:62).
A direction for future research could be to more effectively and objectively note
students’ preferences and be directed by their actual choices rather than be lead by
theoretical justifications based on dubious assertions.
2.6 Teaching Methodology in Ethiopia
Unfortunately, some educationists take a narrow perspective of education and forget that
it is not an independent entity existing in a vacuum, but it is part and parcel of society as
a whole. Some changes in society have reactions in education. Postle (1988:172)
maintains that most modern societies are in a process of changing paradigms. He says
that there is a move from an old paradigm, which is authoritarian and has its basis in a
domination-subordination relationship, to a new paradigm that stresses democratic
relationships in which power is shared by everyone. Keeping in mind that Ethiopia has
just come out of severely authoritarian governments, it is not surprising to find that this is
reflected in the education system. As education is a product of society and in its turn
shapes society, the paradigms discussed are clearly reflected in the methodology of
teaching. Traditional methodologies reflecting the old paradigm have a generally
transmissive character, whereas modern innovative methodologies follow a more
interactive approach. As a result of their belonging to given socio-economic systems
based on domination, the traditional teaching methods also reflected and were shaped by
it. The teacher was the central figure who had all the knowledge and the power and the
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students were obedient pawns who did what they were told to do. The simile between
students and empty vessels waiting to be filled is one often mentioned. Postle explains
Dominance is covertly built into the social fabric through the educational
system including higher education. Students are controlled and assessed
according to the unilateral, authoritarian judgements of the staff. Given a
predetermined syllabus, encouraged to learn in ways dictated by others and
taught by people who make the final assessment, what do students do? They
conform to the attitudes and preferences of those who decide their future.
Therefore, in the past, when single governments had complete control and civic societies
could not do much to affect the course of their development, only the leaders were
supposed to direct and others were supposed to follow submissively. Similarly, the
teacher was seen as the leader who directed and the students at the people who followed
submissively. Thus, transmissive methodologies, which encourage submissive behaviour,
were apparent in most academic subjects. In the teaching of language, the grammartranslation method, the audio-lingual method and the lecture are the most prevalent
methods. The grammar-translation method gives the teacher the role of the oracle that has
all the answers and understands everything about the foreign language. Students are
simply obliged to apply the rules to decode passages and texts.
Consequently, it is not surprising to find that the teaching of reading in Ethiopia follows
this general pattern. The students are requested to stand up in class and read aloud while
the teacher constantly interrupts, correcting pronunciation or explaining a word, thereby
displaying omniscient knowledge. After the comprehension passage is read aloud, the
teacher once again poses questions from the textbook usually to students he feels are not
paying attention. He finally gives the correct answers, careful to show he already knew
them without consulting the teachers’ guide and then moves on to the next section of the
textbook. The answers are usually whole sentences extracted in their entirety from the
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reading passage. Herein lies the incentive for students to memorise and reproduce texts
without much understanding.
Needless to say, these transmissive methods are not very effective. According to modern
researchers, the average retention rate of a student from listening to lectures and reading
aloud is 5% and 10% respectively, whereas the average retention rate for group
discussion and practice is 50% and 75% respectively, although these figures may not be
accurate and may even show strong bias, as each learner has different rates of retention
and motivation varies. Still they do show a general picture of how ineffective
transmissive teaching methodologies are. Moreover, the most important skills in reading,
such as skimming, scanning, inferring meaning and the like, are actively stifled with such
an approach. Intensive and extensive reading is neglected for the rote memorisation of
grammatical rules without any application on how students can use them to get meaning
from the text.
Discussing methodology, Williams (2000:127) comments:
In language education two restrictions are particularly evident. One is a
kind of ‘stratal’ trap through which teachers of young children are obliged
to spend large amounts of time on relations between phonology and
graphology, as though this stratum were more basic for basic ideas about
language than the stratum of meaning. The other restriction results from an
unhinging of meaning and grammar in education, dating back at least to
the beginnings of compulsory universal school.
Read (1996:99) states that at times, “teachers are entirely dependent on traditional
textbook approaches and find free reading threatening because it could reveal their lack
of subject knowledge”. He also explains that many trained and untrained teachers have no
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experience using supplementary readers. However, Elley (1996:53) is much more
reassuring, explaining that teachers introduced to the potential value of good stories are
much more willing to adopt a literature-based approach once they see the benefits in
terms of students’ positive attitudes and higher achievements.
2.7 The Reading Syllabus
The terms “syllabus” and “curriculum” have both been used to refer to the macro
educational content aims as well as specific course aims, according to the definitions of
the specific author. ICDR, however, appears to produce both macro and micro level
contents in their syllabus, which runs contrary to the educational policy of
regionalisation that allows for specific regions to modify the curriculum to their own
needs and environment. For instance (ICDR, 1997:5), the curriculum states that students
should be able to ask about and describe people. Instead of stopping here and allowing
for course developers to decide what sort of people they would like to describe, it then
goes into specific details and even gives adjectives such as “tall, short fat and thin”.
As this thesis is focussing on reading, which in the Ethiopian context is prescribed by
the ICDR, a brief description of the first cycle language syllabus and the second cycle
English syllabus follows.
2.7.1 First Cycle Language Syllabus
The syllabus for the first cycle primary education (Grades 1- 4) is an integrated syllabus
that sub-divides the subjects into the four general categories of Aesthetics and Physical
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Education, Sciences, Social Sciences, and Languages (ICDR,1997). As a result, English
is found under the general section of languages. The entire syllabus consists of 165
pages, but each Grade is numbered beginning from 1, so the pages relevant for one
grade are numbered consecutively. The language syllabus does not take into account the
fact that some of the students will be first language speakers of some of the languages,
while others will not. Therefore students appear to be required to “read simple words”
(ICDR,1997:26), but no mention is made as to whether this objective is expected to be
achieved at the same time by both first and second language speakers of the national
language. There will be both second and first language speakers of a given national
language due to the existence of spatial multilingualism. So for some of the students in
the class the medium of instruction will be their mother tongue, but for others it could be
a second of even third language. It is the same syllabus for all students. The syllabus
seems to have been written by authors with completely differing concepts of language
education, consequently traditional methods like the distinction of phonemes are intermixed with a functional syllabus like the ‘exchanging of greetings’, without any
apparent attempt at harmonisation or having a consistent language learning theory
underlying it. It is said to have been prepared with the new idea of integration in mind. It
suggests various themes that can be used across the subjects in the various grades
including Members of the Family; Clean Hands; Dwelling Places; Schools;
Playgrounds; Domestic Animals, Trees and Plants, Villages, Houses, Types of Food,
Relatives and Neighbours. Reading aloud is taught here in contrast with reading silently
and methods and techniques like chorus repetition do not lend themselves to a
communicative approach. The use of oral literature can be integrated with the cultural
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aspect in aesthetics, but the use of photographs, recordings, newspapers do not seem to
take the actual situation of most Ethiopian primary schools into consideration. In rural
schools basics like chairs and tables are not available. Only a few of the rural schools
have recently got a solar panel to generate electricity for a single radio to benefit from
radio programmes. Even government schools in Addis do not have access to
newspapers, photographs and tape-recorders.
The general objectives of improving the four language skills as well as developing
knowledge of linguistics and literature objectives are stated at the beginning of each
grade. Although not necessarily related to English, some of the objectives that can be
related to reading in general in Grade One include distinguishing the shapes of various
letters and minimal pairs as they occur in words and phrases, and joining and reading the
words and sentences. In Grade Two the students are expected to read given texts and
respond to them in speech or writing. In Grade Three reading becomes more focussed on
classroom learning, and students are expected to read aloud individually and in chorus, be
able to skim passages and understand the gist as well as learn how to use a library. This
objective appears particularly unrealistic as access to libraries is not very good. In Grade
Four, the focus on reading for academic purposes is further emphasised. Here students
are expected to learn to adjust reading skill to reading purpose. Reading with purpose and
speed along with the ability to scan for information and distinguish themes and topic
sentences are specifically stated for this level (ICDR 1997:18). The syllabus states that
the students will gather and explain information from reference materials, newspapers
and magazines. However, as discussed later on in this thesis, librarians complained that
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these materials are not available in the libraries. In fact, most of the school libraries do
not even allow students in the first cycle of education to even sit in the libraries. In
addition, students are expected to be able to use directories and appendixes, and to make
notes. The peak of the objectives to teaching the students to read appears to be the
reading of poems. Once again, there is nothing tangible as to what sort of poems are
expected to be read by which students in which language. There is no mention of literary
prose or indications of possible texts.
Even though it is not quite clear from the syllabus as to which of these reading skills are
to be acquired in the mother tongue and which in English, the fact that these reading
skills are being acquired should lay a sound foundation for the pupils reading abilities. So
it can be deduced for the first cycle syllabus that all students who have completed Grade
Four should be reading fairly proficiently in at least one language and be able to cope
with reading poems. Moreover, they should also have the basics of reading in English
2.7.2 Second Cycle English Syllabus
The second cycle English syllabus stands alone in a separate booklet of 43 pages
(ICDR,1998) . There appears to be a break with the language teaching objectives in the
first cycle in that this syllabus focuses solely on developing the four language skills
disregarding literature and linguistics. The major themes for the units are spelt out,
bringing it closer to a course syllabus level. At Grade Five, the objectives include asking
and giving personal details, identifying, comparing and describing animals, people and
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objects, and talking about the family. At Grade six some of the major themes include
Ethiopia’s neighbouring countries, the peoples of Ethiopia, the weather and using social
expressions. At Grade Seven the unit themes include telling stories, advising people and
daily routines. Grade Eight includes talking about the future, describing processes and
actions. It appears that the curriculum planners are using a cyclical model as many of the
themes are repeated at all four grades. Although the integrated curriculum does not apply
at the second cycle some of the unit themes appear to be deliberately selected to link up
with other subjects.
There has been a major shift in methodology in the reading component of the second
cycle syllabus. Most of the reading exercises call for individual silent reading. The major
aim for Grade Five has been described as enabling students to read and understand short
passages about a variety of topics. In some units definite mention is made that students
have got to read “Extracts from other simplified books,” (ICDR 1998:23). This statement
supports the objectives of the ESDP to provide the students with supplementary readers.
In other places, teachers are advised to use extracts from books, magazines and
newspapers. However, the advice to use video-cassettes, audio-cassettes and slides does
not seem related to the objective reality of Ethiopia. At Grade Six the major aim of
enabling students to read texts on a variety of topics is repeated. Specific reference is
made to skimming and scanning, intensive and extensive reading, and the need for prereading activities. It is suggested that the teachers use many reading passages with
definite advice given to use supplementary readers and extracts from stories in Unit 13.
The students are expected to discuss a story and compare it with other stories in Unit 24.
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Grades Seven and Eight do not have specific introductions to their syllabus. However,
from looking at the syllabus content, it can be deduced that reading is not neglected. Prereading, while-reading and post-reading activities are recommended. In some units
teachers are told to select reading materials from authentic sources. Consequently, it
would appear that due focus has been given to the teaching of reading at this level.
However, there is obviously a major difference in the educational orientation of the
people who wrote the syllabus for the first cycle and the second cycle. It would appear
that the people who prepared the second cycle syllabus are much more aware of current
teaching methodologies, while those who prepared the first cycle syllabus had not been
up-dated. This mismatch between the teaching of reading between the two cycles, can
have a negative impact on the students reading skills.
2.8 Reading in the Grade Eight Textbook
All students involved in this study are using the Grade Eight English student book
prepared by the Addis Ababa City Administration Education Bureau (AACAEB, 1998).
This book has the unassuming title of “English Student Book: Grade 8” clearly showing
that is was produced for a single title textbook market. It was published in 1998 at Mega
Printing Enterprise and has twenty units and 171 pages. The contents of these units
closely resemble those suggested in the syllabus prepared by ICDR, but some of the
themes have been sub-divided. The student book has no introduction.
Each unit has a traditional reading comprehension adapted from various sources
including a book published in 1967 and several from Ethiopian Airline’s flight magazine.
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For instance, Unit 10 has a passage on Ethiopian Birds, while Unit 11 and Unit 12 are
about Ethiopian Airlines and Addis Ababa International Airport.
There is usually one or two pre-reading questions intended to raise the students’ interest
and expectations, but these do not seem to have been seriously thought over. For
instance, in Unit 11 students are informed that the first and second jet flights of Ethiopian
Airlines were from Bole International airport to Nairobi and Madrid (AACAEB,
1998:97). Then on Unit 12 the title of the reading comprehension is written in big bold
letters as “Addis Ababa International Airport” and the first pre-reading question asks,
“Where do you think is [sic] Bole International Airport?”
There are a variety of exercises in the post-reading questions including comprehension
questions, true /false questions, reference questions, sentences with blanks, tables to be
filled and the like. For instance, students have to decide whether it is true or false that
Bole Airport started its operations in 1964 (AACAEB, 1998:107) and decide what the
theme of Paragraph Four is from four supplied suggestions.
In general, the textbook is not very appealing. It is published entirely in black and white,
and the text runs into the margins, giving it a cluttered appearance. The textbook would
require a very good teacher to bring it to life.
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2.9 Reading in the Grade Eight National English Examination
The Grade Eight national examinations are held throughout Ethiopia and are given to all
Ethiopian students on completing both cycles of primary education. They are meant to set
some kind of uniform national standard to ensure students from all regions have attained
the skills set out by the ICDR. These examinations are set centrally by the National
Organisation for Examinations (NOE). The NOE was established under the present
government as it was felt a separate organisation should do the evaluating rather than the
organisations involved in the teaching. Its main aim is to improve the quality of
examinations to ensure a comparability of standards between regions and schools
(MOE,1998a:18). It has also set the aim of carrying out research to modernise the
examination system, indirectly acknowledging the fact that the present examination
system is lagging far behind the theories of evaluation and assessment.
It is clear that the Grade Eight National English Examination is lagging behind theories
of evaluation and assessment as it only tests one of the four language skills taught.
Listening, Speaking and Writing are all neglected, while grammar, punctuation,
vocabulary and comprehension are all tested through reading. Although it is obvious that
the students’ acquisition of English cannot be measured through such an examination the
vast number of students taking this examination and the need to correct and return results
quickly is used as an excuse not to implement a more balanced examination.
The English examination usually has sixty questions and students are given sixty
minutes to do them. All sixty questions are multiple choice with each question having
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four possible answers for the students to chose from. Most of the questions follow a
cloze text technique with a statement having one word missing. An illustration from the
most recent examination is “Wro Alemitu and ___ husband are teachers,” (NOE,
2000:14). However some direct questions such as, “Which city is found in the Republic
of Ireland?” (NOE, 2000:18) or “Which one of the following words is wrongly spelt?”
(NOE, 2000:17) are also included. All of these are followed by a choice of four answers.
The English examination is divided into various sections including usage,
vocabulary, comprehension and the like. A closer observation of the reading skills
tested in the examination held in 2000 gives us the following:
Word recognition is tested by the selection of words in a reading comprehension and
then asking students to select a sentence, which means the same things. For instance,
(NOE, 2000:25):
“tricks” (line 5) means ________.
lessons given to train animals
news read on the radio
skilful acts performed to make people happy
sticks used by people to punish animals
Moreover, vocabulary from their English textbook is given in sentences and the students
have to decide which of the given alternatives is the same as the underlined word (NOE,
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Word selection is tested in sentences like “Zerihun does things _______” and the
students have to chose amongst answers like “care”, “careless” and “carelessly” (NOE,
Appropriate letter clusters are tested by students being asked to pick out words that are
misspelt. Therefore, words with letter clusters that are not English like “ksletrs” are
recognised as wrong. These questions simply ask “Which one of the following words is
wrongly spelt?” (NOE, 2000:17).
Sentence formation and structure is evaluated in several ways such as asking students to
chose a sentence that is wrongly formed or asking the students which sentence could be
an appropriate response to a given question. At times, a sentence is given and then four
alternatives are provided and the students have to choose the alternative that has the
same or nearly the same meaning as the original sentence, as in the following example:
32. Gemechu works in a restaurant and so does his brother.
Both Gemechu and his brother work in a restaurant.
Either Gemechu or his brother works in a restaurant.
Neither Gemechu nor his brother works in a restaurant.
Gemechu works in his brother’s restaurant.
(NOE, 2000:19)
Scanning for specific information is encouraged by the placing of information in a table
and then asking the students to answer questions such as “Which city is found in the
Republic of Ireland?” (NOE, 2000:18). The students then have to select amongst
London, Dublin, Auckland and Toronto. It is assumed that the students will not have
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much general knowledge about these cities and will quickly have to scan the table to
find the answer.
Skimming for gist is assessed by the inclusion of a relatively long passage of thirty-two
lines and the question “This passage is mainly about ________.” (NOE, 2000:22).
Although, the students can read the passage intensively and obtain the answer, this
question is obviously intended to encourage the students to skim the passage for the
central idea.
Reordering sentences is tested by the following rearrangement question:
The following four sentences are about the famous Ethiopian Athlet [sic],
Abebe Bikila. The sentences are not in their correct order. Read all the
sentences carefully and decide on their most suitable order.
He started running in 1956.
Abebe Bikila was born in 1932.
He won the race easily.
In 1960, he ran the Marathon race in the Olympic Games in Rome.
(NOE, 2000:20)
The students have to decide which sentence should come first, second, third and fourth
by encircling the letters. This question obviously wants to see if the students can read the
sentences and put them in a generally acceptable chronological order of a paragraph.
Deducing, comparing and contrasting are also assessed to a lesser extent with questions
such as “Which one of the animals is the most intelligent?” and others.
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On the whole, the Grade Eight national examinations do test a wide range of skills in the
reading of English. Admittedly, due to the fact that the whole examination is multiple
choice and provides four alternative answers, it encourages the students to guess.
Moreover, it is an examination on which students could easily copy from one another,
because the answers are simply a row of letters that stand for the correct alternative.
On the whole, several reading skills are tested in the examination. However, even
though several of the skills used in reading are tested, unfortunately, the results of this
examination cannot be used as a means of measuring the students’ reading proficiency
for this study. This is because there appears to be serious doubts on the validity and
reliability of these examinations. One of the activities of the NOE is to “investigate the
predictive validity and reliability of the public examinations, (MOE, 1998a:57). The
Ministry of Education clearly state:
The existing assessment system has contributed very little in facilitating
the teaching-learning process and in improving the state and quality of
education. Therefore it is important to change the prevailing situation and
introduce a modern assessment system in order to serve pedagogical
improvement (1998a:58).
2.10 Testing Reading
To begin with what should be tested, it has been mentioned that reading is a skill
composed of a multitude of sub-skills. Attempts at assessing as many of the sub-skills as
possible have been made with the rationale of sampling as much as the students’ subskills as possible to give a reflection of his reading skill. Such an approach is said to be
based on the “Multidivisibility View” of reading that sees the various components as
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individual independent aspects that have to be measured in their own right. However,
such a view did not stand up to research. Urquhart and Weir (1998:125) explain:
In opposition to a multidivisibility view of reading, a substantial number
of studies have found that it is not possible to differentiate between
reading components, either through empirical demonstration of the
separate functioning of such components when these are operationalised in
language test items, or through the judgement of experts on what the focus
of such test items actually is (see, e.g. Alderson, 1990a; Alderson and
Lukmani, 1989; Carver, 1992; Rosenshine, 1980; Rost, 1993).
An opposing view to this is the “Unitary View”, which assumes that there is an
underlying factor that affects all the components and measuring this gives one good
indications of the students’ entire reading ability. Therefore, if one is able to devise a
single reading test that can measure this underlying factor, then such a test could act as an
accurate measure of all the other components. Although reassuring to the test-designer, in
practice there tend to be two major groups upon which most other skills rest. One is the
reader’s vocabulary stock and the second is his acquisition or mastery of the basic
components of syntax, structure and other microlinguistic features that enable him to
achieve the necessary threshold level to read a certain text. As a result, there is now some
consensus that reading may not be multidivisible nor unitary but rather bi-divisible.
Although measuring these two factors may not exhaustively measure or predict how good
a reader may be at global and other types of reading, they can be considered as adequate
for measuring fundamental reading skills. Research proves the importance of word
recognition and vocabulary. Urquhart and Weir (1998:133) back up such an assertion:
It does seem improbable that students would be able to work out the main
ideas of a text without some baseline competence in the microlinguistic
skills, without understanding some of the relations within at least some
sentences of that text.
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Urquhart and Weir (1998:124) have repeated this elsewhere, saying that processing at the
level of word recognition, lexical access, integration of textual information and resolution
of ambiguity are important aspects of reading.
Some researchers like Grellet (1981:3) and Floyd (1984:90 – 91) divide reading into
skimming, scanning, intensive reading and extensive reading. Urquhart and Weir
(1998:123) provide us with a different matrix of reading types, based on previous work
by Weir (1993) and Pugh (1978).
Global and Local reading are each sub-divided into expeditious or careful subcomponents. The main skills and purposes of each are explained in the table below.
Table 3: Matrix of reading types
A. Skimming quickly to
establish discourse topic
and main ideas. Search
reading to locate quickly
and understand
information relevant to
predetermined needs.
C. Reading carefully to
establish accurate
comprehension of the
explicitly stated main
ideas the author wishes
to convey; propositional
B. Scanning to locate
specific information;
symbol or group of
symbols; names, dates,
figures or words.
D. Understanding syntactic
structure of sentence and
clause. Understanding
lexical and/or
grammatical cohesion.
Understanding lexis/
deducing meaning of
lexical items from
morphology and context.
Consequently, once the two factors of word recognition and lexical access had been
selected as key areas to be measured, then features of a good reading test relevant for
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Ethiopian students were thought over. Urquhart and Weir (1998:115-116) state that a
good test would have to have as little reliance on cultural background as possible. This is
to avoid the compensatory role students’ background and cultural knowledge could have
on their reading skills, allowing them to guess the meaning of the text from their cultural
knowledge. It would not allow chance to be a factor in answering, as in multiple-choice
questions. Therefore, it would also stay away from appreciation and other questions that
are open-ended and could possibly have more than one answer. It would have a variety of
passages to ensure reliability and validity, as well as minimising the advantages any one
student may have on the contents of a passage. Finally, its main focus would be on
comprehension on the local or microlinguistic level skills, as these are easily
discriminated and can be measured with a relatively higher degree of confidence.
To conclude, Chapter Two has given a broad view of the role of reading in English
in the Ethiopian education system by looking at learning materials in Ethiopia along
with the reading passages used in the Grade Eight English Textbook and the Grade
Eight National English Examination of 2000. In addition, the reading syllabi drawn
up by the ICDR was described. The Primary Reader Scheme and the selection of
readers after an initial pilot scheme were discussed. This raised thought-provoking
issues as to cultural familiarity and relevance of titles to be included in any future
extensive reading schemes in Ethiopia. Choices made by schools indicate that titles
ought to be selected based on the observed preferences of students. A working
definition of reading and general approaches to teaching it was also discussed. The
chapter gives an overview of how reading is considered and tested at the end of the
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second cycle of primary education in Ethiopia. Chapter Three follows with a review
of related literature, including what has been said about extensive reading schemes.
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3. Chapter Three: A Review of the Related Literature
Reading is perhaps one of the most fascinating and, therefore, one of the well-researched areas
in language teaching. Surprisingly, however, it still remains one of the least understood areas in
that research has only touched upon the tip of the reading iceberg. Bachman (2000:x) reminds
us, “Reading, through which we can access worlds of ideas and feelings, as well as the
knowledge of the ages and visions of the future, is at once the most extensively researched and
the most enigmatic of the so-called language skills.”
This chapter will give a brief review of Ethiopian and international research on reading. Most
research in Ethiopia tends to be on English skills at secondary and tertiary levels owing to the
fact that attention was disproportionately focussed on these levels. It is only recently that there
has been a shift of interest to primary education. Nevertheless, a review will be made of those
studies on reading skills. These studies usually go along similar lines: they are conducted as
prerequisites to graduation at a post-graduate level. They are conducted on freshman students
and measure the students’ reading ability, which shows the lack of some major skill, or else,
they experiment with a new approach that usually proves better than the one used at the time in
that particular institute. Cases in point are Tsegaye (1982) Hailemichael (1984), Molla (1987),
Mendida (1988), Gebremedhin (1993), Taye (1999), and Gessesse (1999). An exception to this
is the recent Ethiopian National Baseline Survey (NOE,2001), which is pertinent to this study
and will be discussed in greater detail than the others.
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Following this, a closer look at the theory and practice of children’s literature will be taken.
A discussion of factors influencing reading schemes internationally will be given. Then
three studies of students involved in extensive reading in Japan, the Philippines and Yemen
will be reviewed. Finally, the theoretical framework for extensive reading will be
3.1 A Review of Ethiopian Research on Reading
3.1.1 Journals
It would be valuable from the outset of this part to keep in mind that the whole area of
educational research in Ethiopia is very weak. There is a vicious circle in which
researchers have been discouraged from doing research owing to the lack of local
academic journals, which in turn could not flourish because of the lack of publishable
articles. There was an attempt to break this cycle with the establishment of the Institute
of Educational Research (IER) at the Addis Ababa University (AAU). Unfortunately, the
IER journal was perceived to be elitist and tended to be restricted to within the
University faculty rather than serve as a forum of education for scholars nation-wide.
The Ministry of Education introduced The Educational Journal in 1995 in an attempt to
break the next vicious circle, whereby AAU lecturers wrote articles for their colleagues
within the University, forming a closed society.
This journal aimed at extracting
educational research from the AAU ivory tower and provide a forum for all
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On the language education side, although both the above mentioned journals accept
articles on language research, the articles published tend to come from such a wide
variety of fields that they do not prove valuable resource for the language teacher. In an
attempt to fill this gap, the departments of English and Ethiopian Languages at Kotebe
College of Teacher Education started publishing the Journal of Language Studies. The
Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at AAU began the Journal of the
Institute of Language Studies in 1996. Although both these journals were bravely
labeled as ‘bi-annual’ and ‘quarterly’, they are floundering under a lack of funds in
addition to a lack of staff time dedicated to their publications.
Surprisingly, only one of these four journals has published an article on reading and
even that is a shorter version of Gebremedhin’s dissertation (1993). In light of this, it
comes as no surprise that there are no books published on reading by Ethiopian scholars.
3.1.2. Theses
This dearth of research articles about reading in the Ethiopian situation is partially
compensated for by the fact that English majors at both undergraduate and postgraduate
levels are required to write dissertations as a prerequisite to graduate. Consequently,
there are several theses written on reading. Most of these concentrate on the educational
aspect of reading with hardly any on the social aspect and none on the psychological.
Again because the research was done for theses and the majority of postgraduate
students are themselves tertiary level instructors, the research focuses almost exclusively
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on reading at the tertiary level. Following is a rapid review of some of those theses
written on reading. They are discussed starting from the least recent.
One of the earliest studies still available is that of Tsegaye (1982). He set out to measure
the reading ability of first year AAU students using cloze tests. He found the students’
reading ability was very poor.
Hailemichael (1984) tried to improve the reading skills of AAU freshman students by
comparing the effectiveness of what he called ‘traditional’ versus ‘communicative’
approaches to reading. His communicative approach was basically more interactive and
he found it to be beneficial to the students.
Molla (1987) assessed the reading skills of AAU students and stated that their
comprehension skills were relatively good. Nevertheless, their speed of reading was
painfully slow and this in turn affected how many books they could read.
In contrast to Molla, Mendida (1988) aimed at investigating why Bahir Dar Teachers’
College trainees reading ability was poor. He looked into specific skills and discovered
that not only did the students lack knowledge about English grammar and vocabulary,
but they were also weak in using higher comprehension skills. This is probably
significant in that it implies that the students lack major reading skills not only in
English but also in their mother tongue and any other languages they might use.
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Like Hailemichael, Gebremedhin (1993) tried to focus on assisting university students to
acquire reading skills for English for Academic Purposes to help them cope with their
studies. He used an ‘individualised reading approach’ in which he tried to let students
read at their own pace and do exercises individually without worrying where their
classmates were. He maintained that his approach assisted the students in reading.
However, his experiment took place in classes of around 30 students while class sizes in
schools could be triple that size.
Taye (1999) investigated the social background knowledge, academic background
knowledge and language proficiency and their role in reading proficiency. He used ttests and stepwise regression analysis on the results of the tests carried out on freshman
students at AAU. He concluded that academic background directly affected results,
whereby students from the arts stream scored better at social science courses than those
from the science stream. Moreover, he pointed out that the differences in the amount of
extra-textual and intra-textual background knowledge affected reading only up to a
certain level after which the effect diminished. Reading comprehension was directly
affected by language proficiency, and language proficiency had a stronger effect than
background knowledge on reading comprehension.
Gessesse (1999) wanted to experiment if a process approach to the teaching of reading
for first year students at a teacher training college could bring about any marked
improvement in their reading abilities. He set out to determine the effects of this
approach with two experiments and two control groups. Having analyzed pre and post
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test measures using ANOVA, as well as observing classes and collecting data with
questionnaires and open-ended reports, he noted certain changes. He concluded that the
experiment groups both showed a perceived effect in improving their reading ability as
well as positively evaluating the approach in their the reports. However, their attitude
towards reading showed no significant change in comparison to that of the control
On the whole, these research theses all go along similar lines. They are carried out on
first year students. This is probably owing to the ease of setting up experiment and
control groups simultaneously, while the researchers also teach their regular classes.
Then they measure the students’ reading ability, which they inevitably find to lack some
major skill or component, or else they experiment with a ‘new’ approach, which proves
more efficacious than the one used at that particular time and institute.
Probably as a consequence of the fact that these studies are conducted as requirements
for graduation, the studies are shelved and no further attempts to implement the new
approach or to eradicate the deficiencies at primary and secondary levels are made.
Instead the tertiary level instructors smugly lay the blame of ‘appalling language habits’
squarely on the shoulders of secondary level teachers who readily pass on the baton of
blame to the primary teachers. They in turn point accusing fingers at the ‘uneducable’
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3.1.3 The Ethiopian National Baseline Assessment of Grade Eight Students’
Although Ethiopia has a fairly well-established educational system, it was in the
embarrassing situation of not having had any baseline surveys done on a national or
regional level. The National Organisation for Examinations (NOE) rectified this situation
by conducting the Ethiopian National Baseline Assessment (ENBA) on Grades Four and
Eight. ENBA started in 1999 and ended in 2000. The findings were published as The
Ethiopian National Baseline Assessment on Grade Eight Students’ Achievement Summary
Report (NOE,2001a) and The Ethiopian National Baseline Assessment on Grade Eight
Students’ Achievement (NOE, 2001b) in April 2001. This historic survey is discussed
separately in the literature review not only because it is the first review of its kind, but also
because it is the sole existing piece of real research at the primary level so far.
ENBA was conducted to determine the level of students’ achievements at the end of the
second cycle of education by testing over 5000 Grade Eight students in ten regions of the
country. The study focussed on four subjects including English. The major aims of the
study were (NOE,2001a:2):
To determine the achievement levels of grade 8 students in four key
subjects (Maths, English, Chemistry and Biology)
To make a survey of students’ attitude (sic) towards their school
To lay down a baseline of information for monitoring students’
achievement over time,
To identify regional variability in terms of educational inputs and
other factors which may have a relationship with students’ achievement,
To provide policy-makers with information and recommendations
about the different levels of students’ achievement across region, sex, age
and location,
To generate ideas for improving learning outcomes.
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The team of researchers, which included three Ethiopians and two foreigners, set out with
five basic research questions that were (NOE,2001a:2-3):
To what extent have learning outcomes or objectives for the second
cycle of primary school grades 5 to 8 in selected key subjects been attained
across the regions and schools of Ethiopia?
Does achievement differ significantly with respect to the students’
gender, age, school, region and location?
To what degree have the desired attitudes been developed in grade 8
How do schools and regions differ in terms of schools inputs?
Which school factors contribute most to students’ achievement?
The ENBA differs from the present study in that it is conducted in many regions, while the
present study is only in one region and that it covers four subjects in contrast to one skill of
one subject covered here. Both studies recognise that English is a key subject contributing
to students’ success or failure in their academic careers and see student achievement as the
litmus test of whether or not learning has taken place.
Regarding methodology, a multi-stage stratified sampling method was used with the
probability of inclusion proportional to the number of schools in a given region. The school
was considered as the primary sampling unit and the students as the secondary sampling
unit (NOE, 2001a:9). A minimum of 10 sample schools was taken from each region, with a
maximum of 32 from the larger regions. At least 40 students from each school were
included in the survey.
Instruments used for collecting information included an achievement test, information on
the students’ school-based test scores and a student questionnaire. The English
achievement test was a multiple choice test with 40 items across a range of key topics taken
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from the English curriculum. Although, the test was said to have acceptable test internal
consistency with split-half corelations of 0.718, this might have been compromised by the
very nature of multiple choice, which easily lends itself to cheating. The researchers tried to
overcome this factor by running a Pearson Correlation with school based test scores.
Nevertheless, the school tests were also multiple choice tests.
Methods of analysing the data were descriptive statistics, analyses of variance, Spearman’s
RHO correlations and multiple regression analysis. These methods are in accordance with
the aims of the study as they enable comparison of many variables at the same time.
Consequently, the researchers used them to check performance against factors like region,
school location, gender and age.
The overall mean score for Ethiopia as a whole was disappointingly low at 39%, indicating
that the level of English learnt all over the country is very low indeed. It should be kept in
mind that this result was not obtained at an international standard but rather at a national
level with the national curriculum and textbooks used as the springboard for designing the
achievement test. At the regional level, Addis Ababa had the best mean score in English at
46%, which is still below the half way mark.
Interestingly, the Spearman’s RHO Correlations of school-average Grade Eight combined
achievement scores with school inputs and process showed that some factors in the school
infrastructure had a significant association with the students achievement results. These
factors included the brightness of classrooms, the school directors’ narrow focus on school
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matters, the average age of teachers and their use of radio for instruction, the amount of
homework given and the availability of textbooks, teacher guides, pedagogical centres,
laboratories and libraries (NOE, 2001a:18). The availability of libraries is related to the
present study. Unfortunately, however, the effect of these factors was not correlated to
achievement in individual subjects.
The study found that “Having a textbook, listening in school over the radio to
supplementary instruction, and doing homework were the three instructional process
variables most strongly associated with the achievement of grade 8 students” (NOE,
2001a:25). Moreover it stated:
Overall student interest in the subjects of English and Maths are lower than
their interest in other subjects. In that student interest in a subject is
associated with learning the subject, special attention should be devoted to
strengthening the quality and attractiveness of the curriculum, learning
materials, and teacher preparation in the subjects of English and Maths.
The researchers failed to note that both English and Maths are basically skills courses,
requiring active use, whereas the other subjects lend themselves to the traditional rote
memorisation method most familiar to the students. Therefore, if the students are using rote
techniques for English and Maths, and not getting good results, their lack of interest could
be due to their low results and not vice versa. Moreover, the other subjects could be
understood by using reading skills geared to memorisation. However, English and Maths
would require a different type of reading, which requires understanding. Consequently,
ENBA actually lays the ground for this study in that it gives a glimpse of the poor mastery
of English by Ethiopian students in government schools and it also hints at the possibility
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that these students are not able to adjust their reading skills according to the purpose of
their reading.
3.2 The Conceptual Framework for Extensive Reading
The why and wherefore of extensive reading has a history of its own apart from reading,
or more accurately branching off from the types of reading. Lituanas, Jacobs and
Renandya (2001:1) define extensive reading as the kind of reading that is done for
information or pleasure and is necessarily done in large quantities. They stress that the
immediate focus of the reader should be on the content rather than on language or
language skills. Day and Bamford (2000:2) also give a list of characteristics of extensive
reading which include the fact that reading is done as its own reward, dictionaries are
only rarely used and the person involves in such kind of reading for a variety of personal,
social or academic reasons. They state that the readers should have the freedom to stop
reading whenever the materials no longer interest them and that their reading is usually
Nation (1997:1) explains that encouraging such a type of reading among students could
be very advantageous in that it allows for different learners with different reading
proficiency levels, interests and schedules to select materials of their own taste and read
in their own time at their own pace. Consequently, educationists and teachers have been
interested in using extensive reading as a supplementary or complementary activity to
teaching English and reading for a long time. The provision of deliberately graded
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readers to facilitate language and reading acquisition has also been used for many
Bell (2001:1) traces interest in graded readers as far back as the 1950s with the writings
of Michael West. He states that a sustained interest in developing reading speed through
extensive reading got momentum in the 1960s with the studies of Fry and the De Leeuws.
Obviously, this study shows that the interest continues in the present millennium.
It is clear that reading takes place in a social context and is best promoted by interaction.
Therefore many researchers and teachers have used extensive reading and designed
reading schemes to assist their students to improve their reading and language. Lituanas,
Jacobs and Renandya (2001:1) give us a glimpse of the variety of the names of such
schemes which include Book Flood, Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading (USSR),
Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) and Silent Uninterrupted Reading for Fun (SURF).
Others, like the Primary Reader Scheme (PRS), also exist worldwide. Lituanas, Jacobs
and Renandya (2001:1) list the advantages of such schemes as:
Increased knowledge of the world.
Enhanced language acquisition in such areas as grammar,
vocabulary, and text structure.
Improved reading and writing skills.
Greater enjoyment of reading.
Higher possibility of developing a reading habit.
Numerous educators have written articles on how they have used extensive reading
successfully in their classrooms.
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Nation (1997:1) wanted to make sure that such schemes not only improved reading
fluency, but other language skills too. He says that the relationship between language
proficiency and extensive reading is complex in that success in formal study could make
reading more feasible. At the same time, success in reading could motivate students to do
further study and more reading. Moreover, students who speak and listen to English
outside the classroom also do more extensive reading.
He reviews some studies and says that it is clear that students gain in their vocabulary
knowledge and have a greater than normal success rate in their academic examinations.
Nation (1997:7) concludes by stressing:
The research on extensive reading shows that there is a wide range of
learning benefits from such activity. Experimental studies have shown that
not only is there improvement in reading, but that there are improvements
in a range of language uses and areas or language knowledge. Although
studies have focussed on language improvement, it is clear that there are
affective benefits as well. Success in reading and its associated skills, most
notably writing, makes learners come to enjoy language learning and to
value their study of English.
Other scholars like Heal (1998:1-3) give practical examples of how they have overcome
the difficulty of teaching large unmanageable reading classes with unmotivated students.
Heal explains how her students would not come to class and did not do their homework.
So she used extensive reading along with peer-pressure and competition to motivate her
students. She divided her class into groups and then gave them weekly quizzes.
Eventually, there was a noticeable improvement in both the classroom atmosphere and
the students’ reading scores.
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Day and Bamford (2000:1-7) discuss the pleasures and benefits of extensive reading
schemes. Provided that interesting reading materials can be obtained they state that
reluctant readers can be transformed into proficient ones. They say that the benefits are
not only in reading skills, but in writing, listening, vocabulary and other areas as well.
They say the students are weaned away from word-by-word reading through repeatedly
meeting the same patterns of letters, words and word combinations, thereby developing
automaticity and increasing their reading skills. They say that extensive reading provide
the students in foreign language contexts with opportunities for increased exposure to
English and many students also develop positive attitudes to the language.
Day and Bamford (2000:5-6) also discuss how teachers can use extensive reading. They
suggest three options. The first is to integrate extensive reading into the curriculum as it
helps students to read and pass their exams. They recommend having a separate extensive
reading course. If this is not possible, they suggest adding on the extensive reading
portion to an existing language course, as a non-credit activity, or through assigning a
certain portion of the semester’s grades to extensive reading. If both of these are not
possible, then they suggest that the extensive reading scheme be added on as an
extracurricular activity outside the regular curriculum. This third option could be
especially viable in rural schools in Ethiopia, where teachers usually have half days free
and are not involved in income generating activities.
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3.3 A Review of International Extensive Reading Research
Fortunately, the dearth of research on reading in the Ethiopian context is more than
compensated for by the abundance of reading research internationally. Urquhart and
Weir (1998:19) scrutinise the number of articles with the word “reading” in their
titles published between 1966 and 1996 and found in ERIC. They discovered that
the least number published per year was 600 and the most well above 3000.
Alderson (2000:1) admits from the outset of his book:
The sheer volume of research on the topic belies any individual’s
ability to process, much less synthesise, everything that is written.
Similarly, the number of different theories of reading is simply
overwhelming: what it is, how it is acquired and taught, how reading
in a second language differs from reading in a first, how reading
relates to other cognitive and perceptual abilities, how it interfaces
with memory. All these aspects of reading are important, but will
probably never be brought together into a coherent and
comprehensive account of what it is we do when we read.
A review of international research on reading and reading schemes tend to unambivalently
state that the provision of books to children results in improvements in their reading
efficiency. For example, Parker and Parker (1984:184) strongly advocate the use of ‘bookbased’ approaches to the teaching of reading and further back up their claims by references
to Elley and Mangubhai, Spack and Carrell. Krashen (1993:84) also declares that extensive
reading schemes are invaluable to the teaching of reading. He summarises studies
comparing the achievements of studies who received traditional reading comprehension
classes with those who also read extensively on their own and stated that 93% of the 41
comparisons showed that extensive reading benefited the students immensely. This
obviously makes sense from a language acquisition point of view, because as Williams
(1984:204) states, there is so much evidence of learners learning a language along the same
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route that some researchers maintain that teaching cannot alter this order. She (1984:203)
stresses, “what appears to be unquestioned in the literature is the crucial role of language
input – input of language through listening and reading – for the learner to act on in order to
activate and develop his/her own learning mechanisms…”.
Due to the massiveness and impossibility of reviewing all the research on extensive reading,
a review of such reviews will be made of two leading experts in the field of reading,
Urquhart and Alderson. Urquhart and Weir (1998: 219-221) begin their review of research
on extensive reading by stating the surprising fact that there are almost no negative
comments on the subjects. The only disadvantages they come up with are practical
administrative ones like the cost and time of establishing and running such programmes
efficiently, as well as the need for some curriculum time required for private reading.
Nevertheless, it is worthwhile keeping in mind that practical administrative constraints can
disrupt a whole reading scheme, as properly administering a scheme is the most relevant
part of implementation. An invaluable book on practical administrative constraints is one
entitled Promoting Reading in Developing Countries, which is a collection of various
articles that adequately portray the various aspects and challenges of trying to run reading
schemes in various countries around the world (Greaney, 1996).
Urquhart and Weir (1993: 219-221) state that researchers like Rodrigo (1995), Day et al.
(1991), Pitts et al. (1989) and Krashen (1993) have all found that extensive reading
contributes directly to both reading comprehension and vocabulary development. Some
researchers like Hafiz and Tudor (1989:5) are said to attribute this development to the
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tension-free environment in which extensive reading takes place leading to the relaxed intake of large quantities of comprehensible input.
Urquhart and Weir (1998:220) extend their review beyond English speaking countries
and explain that the positive effects of extensive reading programmes have been reported
upon in countries like Japan and Fiji by Robb and Susser (1989) and Elley and
Mangubhai (1983) respectively.
Interestingly, they point out that extensive reading has been positively examined and
recommended by numerous researchers, including Davis (1995), Elley (1991), HampLyons (1985), Krashen (1993), Nation (1997) and others. Despite this amount of
overwhelming evidence, little sustained reading occurred in classrooms throughout
Britian and as little as 15% of classroom time was devoted to reading. Discussions,
questions and other factors associated with the testing of reading took up more time than
the actual teaching of reading. Apparently, this is worse in the USA, where Alevermann
and Moore (1991:974) report that reading strategies do not play a large part in the reading
The only mention of the possibility of extensive reading being anything but a resounding
success is made by Lituanas, Jacobs and Renandya (2001:1). They mention that poorer
countries that lack adequate reading materials, low teacher salaries and in adequate
preparation of teachers, have been found to have implementation difficulties. Perhaps this
is of utmost importance to Africa, as many of the countries including Ethiopia come
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under the ‘Least Developed Countries’ criteria. Therefore, reading schemes, which have
worked in other regions of the world, cannot be replicated without looking at the
specificity of the African context. A lack of reading materials, low teacher training and
motivation, undernourished students and a lack of a reading culture are part and parcel of
the African educational setting in general and Ethiopia, in particular.
In an attempt to be selective and get a flavour of how some studies on extensive reading
were carried out, three studies will be reviewed in more depth. The first study is on the
relationship between extensive reading and its contribution to the students’ reading speed
and reading comprehension as researched by Timothy Bell (2001) on Yemeni students
very recently. The second was a study by Lituanas, Jacobs and Renandya (2001) and
examines if conducting extensive reading in remedial classes can be of any assistance to
weaker students. The third, is a study mentioned earlier by Robb and Susser (1989) which
scrutinises whether extensive reading might actually contribute more than a traditional
skills building course in improving students’ English in a foreign language setting. All
three studies have been selected on the basis that they cover different aspects of extensive
reading and could contribute more to the understanding of the role extensive reading
could have in Ethiopia.
3.3.1 Extensive Reading : Speed and Comprehension
Bell (2001:1) set out from the given premise that extensive reading contributes greatly to
the reading speed of students and that advanced students could increase their reading
speed up to 57% over a couple of years. However, he wanted to research the slightly
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neglected area of whether these remarkable gains in reading speed were at the expense of
reading comprehension. On the other hand, he speculated that perhaps the poor
understanding of slow readers due to the fact that their memory is insufficient to retain
the information in large chunks to enable process of the meaning could be overcome by
this faster reading. Therefore, reading faster improves comprehension.
The research design he used was a quantitative one in which he had a control group and a
test group. “The control group (n = 12) received an entirely different reading program
which was intensive in character, being based on the reading of short passages and the
completion of tasks designed to ‘milk’ the texts for grammar, lexis, and rhetorical
patterns” (Bell, 2001: 2). The exercises included the types of traditional reading exercises
like dictation, vocabulary, comprehension questions, cloze, gap-filling, multiple choice
and true/false questions. The test group, on the other hand, consisted of 14 students and “
received an extensive reading program consisting of class readers, a class library of books
for students to borrow, and regular visits to the library providing access to a much larger
collection of graded readers (up to 2000 titles)” (Bell, 2001:2).
Records of time spent on reading were closely monitored. Then both groups had to sit for
a series of reading speed tests and reading comprehension tests, which though not
sophisticated served their purpose. For example, in the reading speed tests, students had
to mark where they had reached when the teacher banged on the desk. The statistical tool
used to analyse these results was the ‘t’ test for correlated samples.
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The results proved both his hypotheses that the learner in the extensive group would
achieve significantly faster reading speeds and that the learner in the extensive group
would achieve significantly higher scores on the tests of reading comprehension. So he
concludes by stating that there are significant gains in using an extensive reading
programme to improve students’ reading rather than using traditional reading lessons,
(Bell, 2001:7). He stresses this especially as the test group had scored less in their reading
tests before the extensive programme and so the programme had actually reversed the
The biggest limitations to this study, which Bell (2001:8) admits to himself, is the small
number of students used in the experiment and the questionable reliability and validity of
his reading comprehension and reading speed tests. Nevertheless, this study is useful to
Ethiopia in that both Yemen and Ethiopia share similar features in geographical location
and the use of English, and that the study was not set in an English speaking country and
therefore reduces the chances of incidental learning outside the classroom.
A Study of Extensive Reading with Remedial Reading Students
This study is set in the Philippines. Like schools in Ethiopia the school in the study had
around 2800 students and an average of 52 students per class. Their classes last for 40
minutes and the school operates on a shift system. 90% of the students are estimated to
come from low-income families and reading materials are scarce in such environments,
(Lituanas, Jacobs and Renandya 2001:2).
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Lituanas, Jacobs and Renandya (2001:2) started out on their research because they felt:
While much good work in ER takes place, sustained, well-run programs
are more often the exception than the rule. Effective ER programs seem
especially scarce for lower achieving students, as many educationists
express the view that such students lack the desire and skills to read
extensively. Thus further research is needed to develop and test situationappropriate ER with lower achieving students.
Lituanas, Jacobs and Renandya (2001:3) used a Pre-test – Post-test control group
quantitative design. They used two instruments, which were the Informal Reading
Inventory and the Gray Standardised Oral Reading Test. The latter indicates the grade
level, which the student is reading at. The students in the experimental group went
through an extensive reading programme, which lasted for six months and involved 45%
of silent reading time. The control group simply followed the regular English syllabus in
their remedial English lessons.
They used the t-test to compare all the scores and set a familywise alpha level of .05.
They had a degree of freedom of 20 and set the critical value at 2.676 to compensate for
the fact that more than two values were being analysed (Lituanas, Jacobs and Renandya
2001:4). They found that significant differences developed in the reading proficiency
between the groups after the treatment. So they proved their first hypothesis that there
was no significant difference in the pre-test reading proficiency scores and disproved
their second hypothesis that the same would hold true after the six month extensive
reading programme.
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Lituanas, Jacobs and Renandya (2001:7) round off by saying:
In conclusion, students who are not currently skilled, enthusiastic readers
face unnecessary and serious obstacles to realizing their potential
contributions to themselves, their families and to society in general. In this
information age, they will be shut off from the power gained through
obtaining and providing information and from the splendor and inspiration
of good fiction. Thus, educationists need to create and implement
programs to help students who fall behind in reading. The accumulated
wisdom embodied in the current study and the many which came before it
strongly suggests that ER can play an important role in helping students
gain in their level of reading skill, confidence and enjoyment. ER can help
people discover the joy and power that reading brings.
Extensive Reading vs Skills Building in an EFL Context
Robb and Susser (1989) conducted their research in Japan on Japanese college freshman
students. They state that while there is general agreement that reading is the most
important skill in EFL situations, very little data-based research exists on extensive
reading as an L2 pedagogic procedure (Robb and Susser, 1989:1).
They wanted to see if extensive reading alone could bring about an improvement in
students’ reading abilities and if language skills are better learned when specifically
taught. So they set out with 125 Japanese students who had no significant differences in
The experiment group had to do extensive reading during the year. They started reading
at a fairly low level and were allowed to read at their own pace. They were engaged in
silent reading and were allowed to proceed to a higher level after demonstrating that they
had achieved acceptable reading comprehension at the existing level. They were not
taught any skills overtly and were required to read a minimum of 500 pages at home
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during the year. The teachers monitored their work by making them write short
summaries of the stories they read.
The control group had to work through a reading skills textbook with 12 chapters and 2
reading sections in each chapter. Students read the passages individually and did the
exercises in the book. For homework, they had to do an additional section of the test and
were monitored by a two-item quiz at the beginning of each period (Robb and Susser
Robb and Susser (1989:3) used the Multiple Skills Series Midway Placement Tests
before and after the treatment. They concluded that the students in the extensive reading
programme could read faster, understand important facts and guess the meaning of new
words from context better than the control group. Moreover, they were as good as the
control group in getting the main idea and making inferences. Interestingly, the test group
also showed a more marked improvement in their writing skills than the control group.
Therefore, Robb and Susser (1989:7) strongly recommend extensive reading, as students
enjoy it more and also learn more from such an approach.
They (Robb and Susser,1989:6) acknowledge that some of the weaknesses of the study
could be contamination from other English courses and differences in study time between
the groups and they decided to conduct a repetition of the experiment in the next
academic year.
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All three of the studies reviewed came up with findings that reiterated the benefits of
extensive reading programmes on the reading skills of students who use English as a
second or foreign language.
3.4 Using Children’s Literature
3.4.1 The Rationale behind Using Children’s Literature
Most researchers agree that reading provides a unique opportunity to assist the psychosocial development of children. In pre-literate days or in societies with oral cultures, it
was story-telling that had the role of assisting in the child’s development. Fordham,
Holland and Millican (1995:94) say, “Most oral cultures record history and communicate
events through story-telling, and teach moral and cultural values through riddles and
proverbs.” However, with the increase of print, and the availability of books, reading
took over the role of oral literature and added some new aspects of its own. Davis
(1992:3) sees reading as giving children the opportunity to reshape their own lives and
Reading, writing, growing-up, trying to re-understand the past you have
come out of in search of the future you are going into - these seem part of the
project for such people who want to try to make and re-make lives of their
Spink (1989:37) sees reading as being fundamental in shaping children’s lives in the first
place. He argues:
...reading can assist with self-identity in terms of our sexual identity, our
ethnic and cultural and geographical identity, and our religious and moral
selves. Many of these matters are areas of conflict: conflict with parents,
friends, school, or our inner selves.
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Although researchers may emphasise different aspects, they all tend to agree that reading
books enhances the child’s psychological development.
Some say that the reading
process involves conscious attention and automatic activation and that extensive reading
could significantly affect the automatic activation (Urquhart and Weir, 1998:38). How to
go about the teaching of reading, however, is another matter entirely. Some researchers
oppose the practice of teaching reading in schools through the use of phonics and reading
comprehension questions because they feel such approaches bleed the texts dry and take
away the enjoyment of reading for the students. Others see these as necessary steps in
enabling students to read, in contrast to those who regard them as irrelevant obstacles to
acquiring reading. People like Frank Smith (1985) have been arguing against a
‘programmatic approach’ to teaching reading for several decades. Smith in particular
strongly argues that the only end to such exercises are their own instructional ones and
their continued use lies in thoughtless tradition. As an alternative solution he states that
all children should join what he calls ‘the literacy club’. This is basically reading as a
means of obtaining meaning and interacting with others who encourage and enjoy
reading themselves. Although all scholars would probably not agree with the extremist
view of eradicating formal reading lessons, most would agree that creating a nonthreatening environment is advisable. Such an environment would be risk-free owing to
the absence of tests, examinations and questions to answer. Students would read at their
own rates on topics of their own choice simply for the pleasure of reading. One of the
ways of creating such an environment is to have supplementary readers in school
libraries. Therefore, the need to include supplementary reading materials has been
advocated for a long time. Some countries like the UK boast a stock of over 1,621 readers
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at present and this vast resource of language for learners has been used with increasing
interest and theoretical awareness over the years. The basic need for such a resource is
that individual students have individual and at times unique styles of learning. Obviously,
in classes of over 80 students in the Ethiopian situation, a single teacher cannot
accommodate all the individual traits of the students. Consequently, having a library with
graded readers allows the students to study individually at their own preferred rate and in
their own style. Maxwell and Meiser (1997:45) give us a general rule of thumb to
calculate the span of reading levels in an average class. They advise that we divide the
grade number in half. For instance, if we were working with grade 6, dividing it in half
would result in 3. Then the resulting figure, in this example 3, is added on to the grade
level to get the upper level. So 3 plus 6 would give us 9. Then the resulting figure, in this
example 3, is subtracted from the grade number to get the lower level, which would be 3
in this example. Hence to get the individual reading levels of Grade Eight students, we
divide 8 by 2 getting 4. Then we add 4 on to 8 and subtract 4 from 8, which would give
us 4 and 12. Consequently, the individual reading levels of Grade Eight students would
vary from 4th to 12th grade.
No single coursebook could accommodate for such a huge range of reading levels and
would as a result slow down the good readers and prove too difficult for the weaker
readers. The availability of supplementary readers would thus allow for students to read
at their own rates and provide the perfect student centre task. Maxwell and Meiser
(1997:230-231) list the following five points as the basic reasons for using children’s and
young adult literature:
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Students learn to make critical judgements about what they read.
Students learn to support and explain their critical judgements.
Students will gain an understanding of themselves and others.
Students learn about a wider life.
Students’ enjoyment of reading will increase.
Reflecting on this, we can deduce that as students read more and more books they will
prefer some over others and gradually learn to make critical judgements. As these
judgements will vary from those of their friends, they will discuss their differences of
opinion. In order to convince their friends, they will have to support and explain why
they liked or disliked a certain character, event or story. This in turn will develop their
thinking skills. Hopefully, while discussing the characters in the stories, they will be able
to identify with some and get better insights into what people are like. This will assist
them in getting better understanding of themselves and others. The more they read about
characters from other places, the more they will learn about a wider life. Two great
advantages are that the students will be learning all this vicariously and will not have to
actually experience the hard blows of life. Moreover, in Africa, where the economic
status is low, people cannot afford to travel. So books can provide them with glimpses of
the wider world at almost no cost at all. Finally, and most important a virtuous circle of
reading will begin to emerge where the students’ successful reading will increase their
enjoyment of reading and will in turn lead them to read more.
Admittedly, at elementary level the basic aim would be to enable students to develop
good reading habits and discover that reading is a pleasurable lifelong activity.
Consequently, rather than being bothered by literary analysis theories such as historical
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criticism, social criticism and new criticism, students are usually allowed to carry out
‘subjective analysis’, which basically involves talking about their likes or dislikes of a
certain story or poem. Therefore, the children will not see reading as a burdensome task,
but rather as a recreational one.
3.4.2 Optimum Reading Age
Most researchers tend to agree that once an optimum point for reading is past, it is very
difficult to teach reading effectively. Chambers (1972:26) points out, “Studies of
deprived children suggest that those who do not receive the necessary stimulus in early
childhood may never be able to compensate.” This is particularly worrying in the
Ethiopia context where over half the population is said to live below the poverty line of a
dollar a day and 100,000 children are living on the streets. Moreover, Ethiopia has the
highest growth of stunted growth of children in the world.
Chambers (1972:28) points out that from the day a child is born, the environment he
grows up in contributes to his perception and attitude to reading. There is no sharp schism
between a child’s infancy or early childhood and the time he enters school and starts
learning formally to read. If the child is raised in an acquisitionally-rich environment, in
which his parents and siblings are reading and there are colourful storybooks, he is
definitely at an advantage to a less privileged child. Such a context contributes to the
child’s emergent literacy. But even children from less privileged backgrounds can be
assisted in their early school days.
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Clay (1972: 165) stresses this point and says:
perceptual and cognitive functioning change markedly between five and
seven years. It is my belief that, at this important time, we begin the
production of our reading failures by allowing some children to build
inefficient systems of functioning, which keep them crippled in this process
throughout their school careers. As older readers they are difficult to help
because they are habituated in their inefficiency. In the terms of the
computer age, they have been poorly programmed.
Acknowledging the difficulties, Neville and Pugh (1982:88) give us a glimmer of hope
when they state:
Unless, a breakthrough occurs, how can the slow starter (and often slow
pupil) ever catch up? He has not the time to do so in school and, unless he
has very understanding and concerned parents, it is doubtful whether the
home will be able to help much. The school must, then, provide enough easy
material in school or class libraries for leisure reading so that, if interest is
aroused, it is not at once stifled by stories that are too difficult.
What are the implications of these statements for a country like Ethiopia, whose children
have passed through many famines and civil wars and who in the best of time live in a
society that has more oracy than literacy?
Since education aims at bring about change and has to deal with the realities of the
classrooms, many schools feel it to be their responsibility to provide a conducive
environment in which good readers can improve even more and weaker readers can catch
up with their peers. However, if irreparable damage has taken place in early childhood, it
is doubtful if there can be much progress at a later age. Nevertheless, reading schemes
have been implemented in an attempt to help readers. Clay (1972:165) points out:
If the problem reader is young, any “lost” behaviour which he no longer
tries to apply to his reading will not be buried too far below the surface
and with encouragement (that is positive reinforcement) it can be
recovered. The longer the narrow, specialised responding has been
practised the harder it will be to build new learning into the old system.
This is a good reason why reading failure should be detected early.
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However, one ought to keep in mind that a lot of this research has been conducted in the
West, where the major problem is that a child has not received adequate support from the
family regarding reading. In the context of Africa, however, the child might be suffering
from a deluge of problems. To begin with, his mother may not have had good post-natal
and ante-natal care. Next, the child might have suffered physically during delivery. Once
into this world, he might have suffered from malnutrition, which could cause learning
difficulties. Most likely, his parents are illiterate due to the high illiteracy rate in the
country. This would leave him without role models, not to mention an acquisitionallypoor learning environment. Consequently, although we might talk about the “Optimum
Reading Age” for children in general, we ought to keep in mind that though it is desirable
to introduce children to reading at the ages of 5 – 7 at the latest, this might not be feasible
in continents such as Africa.
3.4.3 Reading Schemes
What it takes to have an effective reading scheme has often been discussed by teachers,
practitioners and researchers. Parker and Parker (1984: 181 –182) propose a framework
for reading development. They base their discussion on Brian Cambourne and reiterate
seven key conditions for successful reading development. Thorpe (1988: 9-12) also gives
a complete description of a successful reading scheme, except she gives six major
components for a successful scheme provision, access, staffing, promotion, parental
participation, and reading with friends. Nevertheless, there is a close relationship between
these six components and the seven conditions discussed by Parker and Parker (1984:
181 –182).
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Thorpe (1988: 9-12) mentions the actual provision of supplementary readers as the first
and the most obvious necessity for any reading scheme. Neville and Pugh (1982:98) point
out that a large number of books at various levels of difficulty are necessary for a good
scheme. The selection of the titles of the readers has to be as varied as possible,
especially since reading is such a private cognitive process and each student has his/her
own peculiar preferences and dislikes, so a greater of variety of books could meet the
disparate tastes of readers. Harrison (1980:112) points out that the first years, when a
child is beginning to gain independence in reading, is crucial because the task of
matching a reader to a text is at its most delicate. This is evident in that the first taste of
anything tends to leave a lasting impression in one’s mind. Therefore, if the child find
his/her first book too difficult or not to his/her liking then he/she may be put off from
reading. On the other hand, if the child enjoys his/her first experience of reading, then
he/she may become an addict for life.
Similarly, Parker and Parker (1984:181–182) refer to their first condition as
“Immersion”. Here they are describing the existence of the language in the environment
of the learner in the shape of books, newspapers and other materials, allowing him/her to
have opportunities to read. Here again, a certain socio-economic pre-condition in which a
publishing industry is well-established and infrastructure for the distribution of books is
assumed to exist. As discussed in Chapter Two, a lot of these pre-conditions do not exist
in Ethiopia.
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Thorpe (1988: 9-12) calls her second major component “Access” and states that the mere
existence of books is not very meaningful, unless the students are able to borrow them
and read them whenever they like. Even if books are available in abundance in a school
library, unless the students are able to use them, then they might as well not exist. Neville
and Pugh (1982:98) warn that unless the reading material is freely accessible, a child
might be deterred from reading by the slightest difficulty in actually getting a book. This
warning cannot be over-emphasised, especially in developing countries where books are
so hard to purchase that most books tend to be kept under lock and key, thus not keeping
them only out of the way of the possible thief, but also out of the hands of the eager
Parker and Parker (1984: 181 –182) set a condition they call “Responsibility”. As the
word suggests, this is the condition whereby the learner is independent to select his/her
own reading material. It is the process of ascertaining the learner’s right to choose the
material, place and time to read. If encouraged, this condition helps the learner to develop
a feeling of independence and a penchant to reading out of his own choice. In Ethiopia,
the lack of a wide variety of reading materials, their inhibitive prices and the lack of
libraries all work against the learners developing this characteristic. Staffing
Thorpe (1988: 9-12) uses the term “Staffing” to refer to both teachers and librarians.
Unless active promotion of the materials takes place not much can be achieved.
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According to Greenwood (1988:9) the failure of many class libraries can be attributed to
the expectation of the teachers that students can develop reading and interpretative skills
and a pleasure from reading within a vacuum, without encouragement or guidance.
Both teachers and librarians should play an active role in helping the students to choose
the right books. If a student consistently selects inappropriate readers, it could put him off
the reading process all together. Davies (1995:6) states that social, affective and cultural
factors play a major role in influencing readers’ selection of texts. He says their
interaction with texts and their concepts of themselves as readers or non-readers is crucial
to their reading successfully. These concepts can be determined according to comments
made by the people around them, so teachers have to be sensitive when they correct
Greaney (1996:31) also points out that “teachers should be introduced to sound
pedagogical approaches for teaching reading through long and short term inservice
programs,” as teachers in developing countries may lack the fundamental teaching skills.
Moreover, teachers should give students time in the classroom for silent reading and
serve as reading models themselves. Teachers should also assist in the selection of
readers for the students.
Nevertheless, it is not so easy to select readers. Bradman (1986:70) points out that a child
might listen to tales of ghosts, and ghouls and monsters without batting an eyelid - only
to have nightmares caused by a story about a child who gets harmlessly lost in the forest.
The imagination of a child and an adult differ and it is at times difficult for an adult to
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gauge the tastes of a child. The brighter side is that there are aspects of the readers that
adults can reasonably assess. As Southgate and Roberts (1970:73) explain, a teacher
choosing supplementary story books needs to bear in mind not only the vocabulary but
also the subject matter and interest levels of the basic books which they are supposed to
supplement. Therefore, objective factors like vocabulary and subject matter are much
easier to judge.
Parker and Parker (1984: 181 –182) have a condition they call “Demonstration”. This is
the existence of a reader in the environment of the learner, who can set an example by
actually reading. This role model could be the child’s parents, teachers or peers. The
learner has to understand that reading is a worthwhile activity to imitate. The role model
basically demonstrates that reading is a real activity to do in the real world. In rural
Ethiopia especially, the existence of such role models are few and far apart. Teachers
tend to be the role models for the students as most of the rest of the society are not very
literate. However, the lack of reading materials outside the capital city renders it very
difficult for even those literate teachers to set good examples for the students.
Unfortunately, many teachers are observed trying to get involved in income generating
activities in their spare time and drinking alcohol, playing cards and chewing a local
narcotic leaf for recreation. Good teachers and librarians are necessary for any reading
scheme to be effective.
The condition of “Expectation” set by Parker and Parker (1984: 181-182) is closely
related to “Demonstration” and it is the conscious or unconscious communication to the
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child of what can be achieved through reading. If the role models portray that reading is
an activity that can positively contribute to life, then the child is likely to pick up their
attitude towards reading. On the other hand, if the child is told to sit in a corner and read
quietly, while the adults are watching television, then he/she will pick up the expectation
that reading is an arduous task not related to entertainment. As explained above, teachers
and the society at large are not portraying a positive image of reading in general. To add
to this dismal scheme, economic crisis tend to negatively affect the society’s expectations
to reading and learning in general. Over the last half-century the general positive
expectations towards education have been changing into negative ones due to the fact that
the educated are not perceived to be advancing economically. Old sayings and songs such
as “Better an educated person kills you than an uneducated one” and “ Young bride be
proud you are marrying a teacher” have disappeared from the scene. Instead they are
being replaced by new sayings such as “Owning a grocery is better than having a hundred
degrees” and “If the worse comes to the worst, you can always marry a teacher!” More
discouraging are sayings that actually dissuade students from reading and studying. For
instance the saying, “Better to have good eyes for a day than study for a hundred,”
actually encourages the students to cheat on the day of the examination instead of
studying for the whole semester. Promotion
Thorpe (1988: 9-12) uses the term “Promotion”, which overlaps with some of the ideas of
“demonstration” and “Expectation”. Although good teachers and librarians are necessary
for any reading scheme to be effective, the children have to get into the reading-rooms or
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libraries before the parents and librarians can begin influencing them. To get the children
into the reading-rooms and libraries, parents have to be aware of the existence of the
reading schemes and encourage their children to go there, and students should be
motivated to go there too. Therefore, parents should be informed through various means
of the existence of the scheme and students should find the places to have an attractive
atmosphere. To achieve both these ends, the schools should make a sustained effort to
promote the reading scheme.
This component presupposes that parents are literate and would encourage their children
to go to the library as much as possible. This is not so in most of Africa. Moreover, in
rural areas, children are usually needed for domestic chores like fetching water or looking
after the sheep. Parental Participation
Thorpe (1988: 9-12) stresses that a supportive home environment can have a decisive role
on whether a child adopts the habit of reading and becomes an effective reader. One
especially successful scheme had family reading groups in which whole families actually
went to the reading room and spent evenings choosing, discussing and sharing books.
Parental role models of how reading should be integrated into one’s life are very
important. A parent who makes a child sit in a corner with a book and sits on a couch and
watches a video is sending clear messages of which is the more pleasurable activity.
Whether programmes involving family reading groups would work in a developing
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country where leisure time is scarce and adults and children are involved in income
generating tasks in the evenings is doubtful.
Parker and Parker (1984: 181-182) discuss the need for “Approximation”, which is the
process that allows the learner to gradually acquire greater proficiency in negotiating
meaning with the text. The setting of numerous comprehension questions after the
student reads a book or a text, does not allow for gradual approximation. In the normal
process of reading, the student usually skips unfamiliar words and even whole passages
may be vague. It is only through experience or maturation that the students’ reading
strategies become refined. This is obviously enhanced if the home environment
encourages the children to do as much reading as possible.
This is very important in Ethiopia, where the children might begin school after the
optimum reading age has passed, and has then to make great advances in their reading
skills, especially since the textbooks are demanding. Students whose parents are teachers
have a distinct advantage over others. Unfortunately, most homes do not provide a
supportive environment. On the contrary, many students have illiterate parents, who
might even be uncomfortable if their children read too much in the house. Greaney
(1996:13) describes the difficult home environment in many developing countries by
Home factors that militate against the development of literacy in
developing countries include illiterate parents and elders in the home,
reticence about encouraging reading in the home, lack of appropriate
reading material, inability of parents to purchase any form of reading
materials, lack of space and light, number of household chores, child
labour practices, and in some instance, communal lifestyles frown on
solitary activities such as reading.
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Another related condition discussed by Parker and Parker (1984: 181-182) is
“Employment”. This refers to the continuous reading of books and texts rather than
sporadic one-off attempts performed during the class period. A good reader does a lot of
reading of his own free will. The recent “Harry Potter Mania”, which is sweeping
Europe, is a good example of children feeling addicted to reading. Unfortunately, such a
culture of reading takes many years to develop and is not so apparent in many African
countries that still have an oral culture, where the word-of-mouth of the elders is given
more respect and importance. Reading with Friends
Thorpe (1988: 9-12) explains that peer pressure tends to be an influencing factor
throughout a person’s life. It tends to be especially strong during childhood and
adolescence. Appearing “cool” according to peer standards tends to be a driving force, so
if reading is considered to be an “in thing”, it will be much easier for students to enjoy
reading. However, if reading is seen as a “girl thing”, then it will be difficult for any boy
to do much reading in public, without being teased by friends. Therefore, schools should
try to ensure that reading is regarded positively by the students at a school.
Parker and Parker (1984: 181-182) also set their last condition as that of “Feedback”.
This does not refer to error correction, but rather a meaningful way in which the child
interacts with others about materials he/she has read. It could be an adult asking him/her
for an opinion or it could be the discussing of characters or events with peers. Such
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feedback is necessary for the child’s reading skills not to develop in a vacuum and lead to
the reading process being an act of isolation. Granted, that reading can at times be an act
of escapism. However, this is more of the advanced reader rather than for one just
discovering the reading process and developing his/her skills. Perhaps this is the sole
factor working in favour of the African child. As Africa tend to be an oral society, the
child who can tell a new story from what he has read to his classmates, can receive a lot
of feedback in the form of questions and comments. Others
Although the above points are quite an extensive list, each scheme is unique in itself and
may have special factors that should be included to make it successful. Consequently,
teachers ought to undertake research into their unique environments and constantly
monitor the schemes to ensure that they are having the desired impacts.
To sum up, it is fairly obvious to everybody that a few hours spent on reading instruction
is not going to provide students with adequate reading skills. Consequently, schemes in
which students are actively and meaningfully involved in reading by their own free
choice have to be developed. Setting up reading schemes, book clubs and the like have
been done quite successfully in many developed countries. However, it is unlikely
whether transplanting such schemes to African soils and expecting them to bear the same
fruit is realistic. Such schemes in Africa must be closely monitored to ensure that they are
doing what they are supposed to be doing; making African students members of ‘the
literacy club’.
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Due care must be given to several aspects of the reading scheme. Especially in rural areas
students might actually be living in conditions that are oblivious to the act of reading and
need further support and encouragement to adopt it as a part of their life. In urban areas
too, modern electronic media appear to be taking over the leisure time of students. In
Europe videos and films might be competing with books for children’s attention, but in
Africa reading books has not been a major hobby. Therefore, the setting up of successful
reading schemes are bound to demand innovative approaches for a unique setting.
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4. Chapter Four: Methodology
This chapter describes in detail the aims and objectives of this study mentioned in the
introduction. Moreover, it discusses the region in which the study is carried out and
provides the necessary educational statistics of the region. It justifies the methodology used
to conduct the research in order to make the statistical jargon clear. It goes into the
selection of tests and questionnaires, as well as the methods of analysing the data. The
administrative procedure is discussed and the relevant levels of significance will also be set
here. Finally, it gives the delimitation of the study.
4.1 Statement of the Problem
The provision of textbooks and other teaching materials such as supplementary readers
has been and still is a major obstacle in the teaching learning process in Africa. It is both
the production of good textbooks and making them available to students that pose
problems. In a seminar on the future of indigenous publishing held in Arusha Tanzania,
one of the major recommendations reads:
The rehabilitation of education in Africa, which implies first and foremost
the provision of books and the training of teachers, is the only viable strategy
for development, as other countries, notably in Southeast Asia, have shown.
Therefore, industries that are related to educational development, in
particular book publishing and book distribution, as well as the development
and stocking of libraries, deserve to be prioritised as strategic industries. As
such they should be given all the resources necessary to enable them to play
their important role in preparing Africa’s children for a secure and dignified
future. (Hamrell and Nordberg, 1997:93)
Researchers point out that, although huge resources of language for learners have been
used with increasing interest and theoretical awareness, some readers are so bad that they
could harm the interest of the students. Hill (1997:78) argues:
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It will be clear from the above that, in my view at least, not all the 1,621
graded readers currently in print are equally good. While some approach
the excellent, others are so poor as to damage the reputation of the
medium and harm the interests of learners. It is essential, therefore, that
teachers who are building up libraries or class sets of graded readers
should read the books themselves and pay attention to the feedback they
get from their students… .
It is obvious that if Ethiopian students are to be successful in their education, they will
have to do much academic reading for which they need adequate reading skills. At
present, there is said to be a “… growing realisation of the decline of quality of the
Ethiopian education system” (Tekeste, 1996:60). The provision of supplementary readers
is to be used as a means of improving reading skills in the ESDP. Therefore, it is
imperative to monitor and evaluate whether or not the provision of readers will produce
the required skills. Foreseeing any pitfalls that might arise due to national or local
realities would enable educational planners to make the necessary adjustments ahead of
Therefore, to prevent a decline and hopefully improve the quality of education in
Ethiopia, students will have to be able to read effectively. The provision of
supplementary readers to schools was intended to improve the reading skills of the
students. Nevertheless, no serious efforts are being made to check that the students are, in
fact, improving in their reading abilities. Some non-government organisations are already
investing considerable sums in the production and provision of supplementary readers.
The provision of books is the sole aim of CODE Ethiopia. Similarly, new civil society
groups, such as Writers for Ethiopian Children, are being set up in an attempt to produce
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culturally appropriate reading material. Government is also bound to move along this
path, as it is so committed in the ESDP.
4.2 Aims and Objectives of the Study
This study will investigate if the provision of supplementary readers has brought about
any significant improvement in the reading skills of students in government schools.
Krashen in his comparative study (1993:84) strongly recommends extensive reading for
students because, “they can continue to improve in their second language, without
classes, without study and even without people to converse with.” If this holds true for
Ethiopia, then increased efforts must be made to provide all schools with sets of
supplementary readers. If not, then as one of the poorest countries in the world, Ethiopia
will have to consider additional factors in education to those expounded by developed
countries. Perhaps poor students spend their time out of school earning their living on the
streets and do not have the time or place to sit down and study. Or perhaps the costs of
replacing lost or damaged books prevent the students from actually using their books
owing to fear of damaging or losing them. Because most books are comparatively
expensive, the society might value oral traditions and oracy more than literacy.
Gessesse (1999:33) states:
In a country like Ethiopia where the literacy rate is very low, and where
reading materials such as newspapers, books, magazines and the like are
scarce; more generally in a country where there is hardly any culture of
reading, the adverse impact of socio-cultural factors on the development
of students’ reading ability is great.
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This research will attempt to come up with three major findings:
what the effect of the provision of readers has been on the reading skills of students in
the past.
what sort of utilisation capacity government owned primary schools in Addis Ababa
have to use supplementary readers in English.
implications for the effective utilisation of supplementary readers recommended in
the Education Sector Development Program.
The hypothesis to be proved or disproved can be stated in the following manner:
Hypothesis One: The provision of supplementary readers to primary schools has
produced a statistically significant improvement in the reading skills of the students.
Null Hypothesis: There is no significant relationship between the reading skills of the
students and the provision of supplementary readers.
4.3 Research Methodology
The mixed-methodology design takes a researcher away from the well-known and
familiar landmarks in traditional research and consequently has raised many queries.
Creswell (1994:189) states:
Mixing methods from qualitative and quantitative traditions has
contributed to discussions about their value, especially because they raise
the question of the operative paradigm being used. Whether paradigms
should be linked with methods had led to different schools of thinking.
Mixing methods has also raised a methodological issue as to whether the
other “design” components of a study should follow one paradigm
approach or the other.
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Nevertheless, the researcher has dared to use this unfamiliar research design because the
experiential and cultural insights of the schools, teachers and students that an expatriate
researcher cannot bring to such a study can only be exploited through a qualitative
design. Yet, the subjectivity of getting too close to the subjects and being biased can only
be minimised by a quantitative approach. Therefore, those sceptical of the mixedmethodology are requested to withhold judgement until the end of the thesis, where the
merits and demerits of such a design could be justified or criticised. With this as a
backdrop, the methods used are discussed.
4.3.1. Instruments
The basic research instrument selected for collecting quantitative data was a standardised
international reading test for general proficiency drawn up by the Edinburgh Project on
Extensive Reading (EPER) of the Institute of Applied Language Studies of the University
of Edinburgh. This test is recommended as a standard measure of general proficiency in
reading and is used as a placement test to decide the reading level of learners. The test is
basically a cloze test where a series of twelve reading passages are arranged in order of
increasing difficulty. Each passage has from ten to thirteen words deleted and the
students have to read the passage and fill in the missing words. Discussing the cloze test,
Urquhart and Weir (1998:157) state that the underlying process in such a task is largely
bottom up and emphasises careful passive decoding and local comprehension at the
microlinguistic level.
The total number of items is 141 and the duration of the test is 60 minutes. On the first
page, clear instructions about the test are given. There is also an example of a passage
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with five words missing and then the answers are given. A wrong answer is also
explained in that the students are required to fill the blank spaces with only one word and
the wrong answer is composed of two words, so although it makes sense it is wrong. The
actual test is not included in the appendix for security reasons.
Both the reliability and validity of the test have been proven internationally. The only
possible shortcoming could be that the test and its content may not fit into the schema of
Ethiopian students, so it had to be validated in the Ethiopian setting. To ensure that this
test did not have any incompatibility with the Ethiopian situation, a small pilot test was
run with 12 Grade Eight students from the Sandford English Community School. The
following results were scored by the students.
Table 4: Scores on the EPER Placement Test by Sandford School Students
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Furthermore, because all the above students were in the same grade, the test was also
administered to seven other students from various schools and grade levels selected by
convenience sampling to ensure that the test distinguishes grade level. The students
scored the following results;
Table 5: Results of Students Involved in Test Reliability
Sex Score/141
Std Score
Hope Ent.
Hope Ent.
Danddi Boru
Hiwot Berhan
Dandii Boru
As can be seen from these results, the EPER test is capable of drawing out the range of
reading abilities of the students. The reading ability of the students ranged from reading
unsimplified materials in the case of the grade 10 student down to reading simple
sentences as in the case of the grade 3 student. The scale is capable of successfully
distinguishing the reading levels of the various students. Consequently, the test was
deemed as suitable to apply on Ethiopian students.
Qualitative data was gathered through questionnaires, observations and discussions. The
questionnaire (see Appendix 3) was given to teachers and librarians in the target schools.
Although respondent bias is said to have proven a major factor in previous studies such
as ERGESE (Tekeste,1990:18-22), it was decided that this could be minimised by having
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counter-checking questions and casual observation at the schools. It has twelve items
designed to glean a certain piece of relevant information. The first two questions see if
teachers and librarians consider the variety and quantity of readers in their respective
schools adequate.
The third asks their opinion about whether they think using
supplementary readers assists the students in mastering English. Questions four and five
ask them what percentage of their students use supplementary readers outside class and
what percentage of them are good readers. Questions six to nine are designed to gather
information about the library and ask about the convenience of opening hours, the
existence of a conducive environment, and whether or not teachers and librarians assist
the students in selecting appropriate titles. Question ten asks if the teachers incorporate
supplementary readers into the regular classroom. Questions eleven and twelve see how
familiar the teachers and librarians are with the supplementary readers by asking them to
choose the top two and the bottom two in terms of their appropriateness for Grade Eight
The researcher sat in a few reading lessons to get a feel of each school. Informal visits
were made to the four libraries and informal talks were held with the teachers. These
were recorded by unstructured note-taking. Moreover, teachers and librarians and
selected students were given some issues to discuss, to gather their general perception of
the pros and cons of the teaching of reading in their schools. The students were given
these questions in Amharic to make them feel at ease in a language they are familiar with
(see Appendix 4).
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4.3.2 Administration Procedure
Two sections of approximately 60 students each were taken from Entoto Amba and
Medhanealem junior secondary schools and considered as the ‘treated’ group as these
schools were involved in the Primary Readers Scheme pilot project. As explained in
Chapter Two, the Primary Reader Scheme involved two schools in Addis Ababa city
state in the pilot project of 1996 to see if the provision of supplementary readers would
benefit students. The students were made to sit the tests in May 2001 to ensure that they
had benefited from as much of the instruction in Grade Eight as possible. The sections
were selected at random in the case of Medhanealem, as all Grade Eight Sections were
free in the morning and classes were available. In the case of Entoto Amba, however, no
classes were available so the teachers agreed to give the test in the regular English period.
As the English period lasts for 40 minutes and the test lasts for 60 minutes, 20 minutes
were used from the students’ break-time. Therefore sections had to be chosen on their
availability and the fact that their English periods fell before break-time.
From the sections at Entoto Amba, 8B and 8C were the sections chosen and given the
test. On the day of the exam there was a total of 129 students in both sections. Two
regular teachers invigilated the test.
As all four sections in Medhanealem had classes in the afternoon shift, two sections were
selected at random and requested to come one morning to sit the test. As the students
were taking the 8 grade national examination, they were more than willing to sit for the
test as they saw it as an opportunity to be exposed to an English test which would further
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prepare them for the exam. The construction of a new block of classes solved the problem
of space and once again two regular teachers invigilated the test. However, on the day of
actually administering the test at Medhanealem, the researcher was informed that
volunteers had been taken from all sections of the school.
The ‘untreated’ group was taken from the other government schools, which are similar to
Entoto Amba and Medhanealem junior secondary schools regarding ownership,
textbooks and curriculum, students’ socio-economic background and even the availability
or lack of an adjoining senior secondary school to minimise confounding factors. Both
Entoto Amba and Kebena cater for students in grades 1-8, while Medhanealem and
Kokebe Tsibah have an adjoining senior secondary school, where their students can
continue up to grade 12.
Like Entoto Amba, two sections from Kokebe Tsibah were given their tests during
regular classes. The sections were chosen because their English periods fell before breaktime and could consequently borrow 20 minutes from the break. On the day of the exam
there was a total of 125 students in both sections. The English Department Head teachers
invigilated the test.
As at Medhanealem, the students from Kebena had to take the test outside their regular
shift. However, because there were only ten classrooms, the students had to come in on a
Saturday to take it. Since there were only two sections in Grade Eight, the question of
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selection did not arise. The English Department Head invigilated the test. But only 78
students turned up on the day of the test.
After all the students had sat the EPER placement test and the scores were analysed,
additional information was sought from selected teachers and students through
interviews, classroom observations and focus group discussions.
4.3. 3 Scoring
The placement test comes with a complete test pack including notes for users, answer
sheets, marking key and score guide. The answer sheets were marked by a research
assistant using the key and were then double-checked by the researcher. The reading
levels are divided into ten (see Scores Guide in Appendix 5 and letter of permission to
use the EPER test in Appendix 6). The highest level consists of native-like reading
proficiency where the reader can read any kind of unsimplified material. The next
highest, called Level X, also consists of native-like proficiency but describes the ability
to read unsimplified teenage fiction. The next seven levels are labelled from A to G
consecutively. These refer to reading skills of non-natives, whereby A and B refer to very
high reading skills, enabling the reader to read unsimplified teenage fiction all the way
down to the first stages in a reader programme. Below G is what has been called level S
in this study, and students at this level can only read starter and reading cards, as they
have probably just been exposed to phonics or the alphabet. If one were to rate these
reading levels with the grades in the Ethiopian Education system, then the following
could probably be expected:
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Table 6: EPER Level Approximate Equivalency with Ethiopian Grades
EPER Level
Level S / Starter Cards and Reading Cards
Ethiopian Grades
Kindergarten and Grade 1
Level G
Grade 2
Level F
Grades 3 & 4
Level E
Grades 5 & 6
Level D
Grades 7 & 8
Level C
Grade 9
Level B
Grade 10
Level A
Grades 11 & 12
Level X
Level R
Second Year and above
As discussed in Chapter Three, grade eight students may have reading abilities that would
normally range between grades 4 – 12 in their reading ability and could be expected to
fall within the corresponding levels of A to F.
After the tests were marked, the results of both groups were scrutinised, using measures
of central tendency, the EPER score guide and a non-directional t-test of differences.
There was a slight difference in the overall number of students in the treated group and
the ‘untreated’ group. This was disregarded, as Brown (1988:124) states that only a
marked difference in sample sizes of 3:1 or more will affect the results.
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4.3.4 Analysis Tools
Regarding the descriptive statistics, measures of central tendency used were the mean,
median, mode, and standard deviation. For the inferential statistics Best and Kahn
(1999:327) specifically mention the t-test and ANOVA as robust tests that are usually
appropriate, even if a few assumptions of parametric test are violated. If there is a
difference between the means of the treated and untreated group, its significance will be
assessed using a t-test. Theoretically, the provision of the readers could have affected the
students in two ways. They could have either provided motivation and opportunity for the
students to read more and thus improve their reading skills, or their difficulty could have
caused such a disagreeable experience that the students gave up on reading and their
reading skills actually deteriorated. To accommodate for both these possible effects on
the students’ reading skills, the type of t-test used is a non-directional or two-tailed test of
significance. This plots out the students’ scores on a curve and has a 2.5% rejection area
on either end of the curve to allow both for an improvement in or a deterioration of the
students’ reading skills. The t-test involves the calculation of the difference by comparing
the actual differences in the means with the possible differences that could have occurred
through unrelated factors. This is known as the ratio between the experimental variance
and the error variance. Level of Significance
There were more than 120 students, so the degree of freedom was infinity. Therefore, if
one were to apply the rigorous measure of 0.01 the critical values of student’s distribution
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(t) would be significant at 2.576. However, the less rigorous measure of 0.05 is usually
applied in social sciences, in which case t would be significant at 1.960. Questionnaire Analysis
The questionnaires were analysed in a more qualitative manner. The researcher held
several discussions with the teachers and librarians and also made notes on his various
visits to the school about general conditions. The feedback from the librarians and the
teachers was noted. Then their responses in the questionnaires were triangulated both
with the students’ results and with observations and notes made by the researcher. The
fact that the researcher speaks the same language and comes from the same culture as the
subjects, as well as having spent a decade in teacher training which included supervision
of teaching at this level, gives him useful insights that would not be available to external
4.4 Delimitations
This study is limited to four of the sixty-three government schools that go up to Grade
Eight. In fact, it covers 100% of the schools involved in the pilot project of the Primary
Reader Scheme in Addis Ababa, as only Entoto Amba and Medhanealem were involved,
while the remaining three schools were from Oromia region. Consequently, only two
similar schools could be involved in the control group. Nevertheless, as there are many
students in each school, the number of students involved in the study was high. The total
number of students involved was 454 with 251 of these belonging to the treated group and
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208 to the control group. Numerically, this was approximately 50% of all students in the
schools involved in the Primary reader scheme.
In terms of reading, it focussed on the microlinguistic level of syntactic and lexical
knowledge and proficiency. It basically ignored important aspects like background
knowledge, inference skills and enjoyment derived from extensive reading, due to the
unsatisfactory instruments for measuring and describing these aspects.
To conclude, Chapter Four has discussed the methodology and given an in-depth analysis
of which methods have been chosen and why they have chosen. It also justifies the choice
of the EPER test and has proved that it is both reliable and valid in the Ethiopian context.
Chapter Five continues with the results of the study.
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5. Chapter Five: Findings and Analysis
Chapter Five states the findings and analyse them in light of observations made during
school visits and the general Education Sector Development Program. The individual
scores are available in appendices 6 and 7. At first, the students’ results in the EPER
placement test will be examined. The general reading levels of the students will be
commented upon, followed by statistical descriptions and inferential analysis. Then the
questionnaires and observations will be discussed. Finally implications for the ESDP will
be discussed in relation to the findings from the two.
5.1 Reading Levels
The reading levels given in the EPER score guide have already been explained in Chapter
Four. Tabulating the results of the 454 students provides us with a very grim picture of
the students’ reading ability in all groups. Tekeste (1990:32) warns of an imminent
educational crisis due to the fact that both “teachers and students concentrate on the exam
rather than on the acquisition and retention of knowledge.” This statement was made
during the previous government, which believed in a planned economy. Therefore, any
graduate was guaranteed a job and salary under the socialist system. As a result, students
were more interested in getting a degree or a diploma by any means rather than ensuring
that they had marketable skills.
Furthermore, Tekeste (1990:87) states that the system during the last government was
only involved in “the creation of a pool of unemployable citizens with expectations that
could not be met by that society … .” This is slightly harsh in that the previous
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government was trying to produce all-rounded socialist citizens and was experimenting in
polytechnic education. However, the results are indisputable in that many graduates
lacked the skills which their diploma or degree certified that they had.
Unfortunately, this legacy appears to have continued with the present government. The
reading levels indicate that the Grade Eight students lack the reading skills that students
at this level require.
Table 7: Reading Levels of Students on EPER Placement Test
% at S
% at G
% at F
% at E
Table 7 tells us that the majority of Grade Eight students in government schools cannot
read with sufficient proficiency in English to cope with their studies. 86% or 392 of all
the students tested are at the kindergarten level of only being able to distinguish the
alphabet and read word cards. The figure is almost the same for both groups at 90% and
81%, implying that the students will not have benefited or suffered from the presence or
absence of readers as most of them cannot read in English in the first place. Levels G and
F are both outside the accepted reading levels of a Grade Eight student and these two
levels make up for 12% of the students. The lowest acceptable level for a Grade Eight
student of E barely accounts for 2% of all the students. It is to be remembered that the
lowest grade of the private school (Sandford) Grade Eight students was a level D.
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With 86% or 392 of all the students able only to distinguish the alphabet and read word
cards, deductions can be made as to what kind of readers the majority of the students are.
Alderson (2000:19) states that less proficient readers are basically “word-bound” and
lack the skills of rapidly and accurately recognising the words. As a result, this slow pace
of lexical identification impacts negatively on short-term memory and other aspects that
enable the reader to make meaning out of a text. It is highly unlikely that word-bound
readers would be able to read between or beyond the lines, as they find simply stringing
the words together into sentences a particularly laborious task. Word recognition,
knowledge of syntax and structure and some background knowledge about the content of
the subject being read, all have to interact simultaneously. The aim of extensive reading
is partially to develop automaticity in these areas and a word-bound reader cannot read
fast enough to enable these factors to interact meaningfully.
Alderson (2000:18) says that good readers are both rapid and precise in their word
recognition. They take in the letter features simultaneously and recognise all the letters in
the words. He states that this ability is a key indicator of general reading ability.
Proficient readers after initial word recognition are able to move on to prediction and
monitoring, as they use less capacity to analyse visual stimulus. It is self-evident that
these word-bound readers cannot develop these skills.
The majority of the students either lack the simplest reading skills that the supplementary
readers are meant to develop or have not acquired the threshold level that is necessary for
reading. Urquhart and Weir (1998:72) comment that “The notion of a threshold level
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seems commonsensical: no matter how good are reading skills are in the L1, or how
expert we are in the content area, we are not likely to make much of a text in a language,
which is totally unknown to us”. Therefore, there is the possibility that these students
have some reading skills in Amharic but are unable to transfer them to English because
they lack a fundamental grasp of English.
There is also the possibility that what the students encounter on the page is in no way
related to their experiences of life and their way of thinking. Urquhart and Weir
(1998:69) state that there is ample research to prove that background knowledge plays a
crucial part in reading. What a student knows about reading and literacy, as well as what
he knows about the subject matter, affects both his comprehension and his system of
The Ethiopian students who were used to validate the test come from middle class and
upper class backgrounds and could possibly have a significantly different orientation to
literacy and to background knowledge. Moreover, they learn in smaller sized groups and
the teachers are better motivated owing to better salaries and more efficient
administration systems. The students in government schools tend to be mainly from
lower-middle class and lower class families and could conceivably lack sufficient
awareness and sensitivity to literacy and reading texts. Teachers tend to be demotivated
and the whole learning atmosphere could be improved. Individual students who are high
achievers tend to be good, owing to individual efforts. However, what is more frightening
is that starting from Grade Nine, regardless of socio-economic background, the medium
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of instruction switches completely into English, leading to “frustrations connected with
their inability to follow the teaching–learning process” (Tekeste,1990:26).
If these scores are accepted as valid and reliable, then we can conclude that the ‘Null
Hypothesis’, which states that there is no significant relationship between the reading
skills of the students and the provision of supplementary readers, will hold true.
However, to avoid making any hasty generalisations, it is advisable to look at more of the
results before ascertaining the Null hypothesis.
5.2 Statistical Description of Results
The raw scores were all entered into a computer and a statistical software package (excel)
was used to compute the central tendencies. The measures of central tendencies were the
Table 8: Scores on the EPER Placement Test by Treated Group
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Table 9: Scores on the EPER Placement Test by Untreated Group
The statistical measures are ironic in that they appear to portray that the untreated group
did slightly better than the treated group in the placement test.
5.2.1 The Mean
The mean of the treated group was 10.5. Medhanealem scored 14.7 and Entoto 6.5, so
the average of these two is 10.5. On the other hand, the untreated group had a higher
mean score of 15.1, with Kokebetsibah and Kebena scoring 17.9 and 10.6 respectively.
On the whole, the untreated group’s mean of 15.1 was greater than the treated group’s of
10.5. At the school level, the schools were intermixed with the treated school scoring
second and fourth and the untreated school scoring first and third. It is of interest to note
that the mean of the first school was more than double that of the lowest scoring school.
Therefore, this would suggest that there are factors that do enhance the learning of
students. This intermixing of treated and untreated schools also points in the direction
that the donating of readers to certain schools has produced no marked effect on the
reading skills of the students. It is discouraging to note that the means of both groups
barely reach 10% of the entire 141 questions, once again reconfirming that the students in
Grade Eight are hardly literate in English. In light of the fact that Ethiopia had now
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moved on to a free-market economy and people are not guaranteed jobs, these students
face the danger of finding themselves without jobs in the future.
The Median
The median was 8 and 12 for the schools involved in the project and those not involved
respectively. Once again, this would indicate that the median of the untreated group is
higher than that of the treated group owing to a better performance by the group as a
whole, rather than by a few high scoring students. The fact that the means differed could
have been because of exceptionally high scores by a few students. But the median
difference shows that the scores differed because of the performance of the group as a
The median of the individual schools was 6, 9, 13 and 15 for Entoto, Kebena,
Medhanealem and Kokebetsibah, respectively. Once again, the school with the highest
median is more than double that of the lowest, indicating that though the scores as a
whole are unimpressive, some are much worse than others.
5.2.3. The Mode
The mode for the treated group was 3, and for the untreated group 9. At school level, this
broke down into the modes of 5, 7, 3 and 9 for Entoto, Kebena, Medhanealem and
Kokebetsibah respectively. It is interesting to note that Medhanealem had the lowest
mode while both its mean and median are the second highest. This is why it is necessary
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to go into all the measures of central tendency as only looking at one could give a partial
The Variance
The variance of the treated group at 85.035321 was less than that of the untreated at
109.6511678. This probably indicates that the scores of the untreated group were more
greatly distributed around the mean than that of the treated group.
The Standard Deviation
The standard deviation is more commonly used as an indicator of the dispersion of the
scores in a distribution. The standard deviations of both groups were very similar at
9.2214598 and 10.47144535 for the treated and untreated groups, respectively. This is as
expected in that both groups were basically selected from a similar body and should be
fairly close to the mean.
5.3 Inferential Analysis of the Results (t-tests)
The above five measures basically give one a general idea of the common characteristics
of the groups and descriptively provide a relatively exact picture. However, to discover
general principles and relationships between variables, one is forced to generalise and
make predictions not only about the sample taken, but of the entire population as a whole.
Therefore, inferential data analysis, in this case the t-test, is used to come up with
generalisations about the entire population.
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Although it has been ascertained that there are differences between the means, medians
and modes of the treated and untreated group, it has to be ascertained whether or not
these differences have come about through mere chance. They may have occurred owing
to individual difference or to one group being exposed to conditions that have brought
about a meaningful or significant change. As it was the untreated group that scored
relatively higher, common sense would tell us that that the differences are not significant.
However, this remains an opinion rather than a fact until so proved by the parametric ttest.
If the distribution of the scores of the untreated group vary more than 2.5% at either end
of the distribution curve, then one can safely state that there is a significant difference
between the two groups. The result of the significance level of the distribution, otherwise
known as the t critical value, is obtained from a t-table which for this study of over 120
students sets the t critical value at 1.96 at .05. This means taking into consideration
factors that normally vary in the social sciences, if the difference between the two groups
is greater than 1.96, then one can safely conclude that the variance is not caused by
coincidence, but rather by an interfering factor. The result of the t-test on the two groups
came up with the value of t at 1.19 stating unequivocally that there is no significant
difference between those schools involved in the Primary Readers Project and those that
did not receive the donation of readers.
In research terms, one could say that there has been a rejection of Hypothesis One and an
acceptance of the Null Hypothesis. Hypothesis One proposes that the provision of
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supplementary readers to primary schools has produced a statistically significant
improvement in the reading skills of the students. The Null Hypothesis maintains that
there is no significant relationship between the reading skills of the students and the
provision of supplementary readers.
In short, the question of “What effect has the provision of primary readers had on the
reading skills of students?” has been answered with the blunt reply of “no effect
whatsoever.” This is staggering when one considers the time and money used to actually
obtain and distribute these readers to the schools. It also has serious implications about
the efficiency of the teaching-learning process as the vast majority of students in
government schools have spent eight years of their life learning English and can hardly
read in the language. There are several possible explanations that could be forwarded to
elaborate on this apparently bizarre result.
The first one is the minimum threshold of linguistic knowledge. Anderson (2000:38)
states that students will not be able to transfer any of their reading skills from their
mother tongue to the second language, if they have not obtained this minimal threshold.
He explains Clarke’s “Short-Circuit” hypothesis that posits that successful first language
readers cannot compensate for reading deficiencies in the second language because
inadequate linguistic knowledge of the second language short-circuits any possible
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Another possible explanation is that the students have not actually used the readers. In
elaborating in the advantages of mixed-methodology research design (Creswell,
1994:183) actually gives an illustration of a study that found that there was no significant
difference in the occurrence of infantile diarrhoea between children coming from homes
with refrigerators and those from homes without refrigerators. The qualitative part of the
study came up with the findings that the infant formula bottles were not kept in the
refrigerators, which were used for making and storing ice for the family to sell and get
Lituanas, Jacobs and Renandya (2001:1) refer to a study that developing countries may
not actually benefit as much from extensive reading schemes due to a combination of
factors including a lack of materials, overloaded and demotivated teachers and the like.
Consequently, a further investigation of the other results may shed some light on the
matter as the questionnaire and observations deal with the kind of utilisation capacity
government owned primary schools in Addis Ababa have for effectively utilising the
Nevertheless, these results clearly portray the fundamental need for closely monitoring
and evaluating projects, and then using the feedback to modify future projects. A vast
project entitled “Support for English Language Teaching”, which changed the entire set
of English language textbooks and trained curriculum developers, teacher trainers and
English teachers was not evaluated in the past. The Ministry of Education’s stand was
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that it was obvious that this project would have brought about positive changes.
Therefore, the whole evaluation project was seen as a donor’s effort to give itself a pat on
the back. The Ministry said that it would rather spend the money that was to be used for
the evaluation exercise for funding another project. These results clearly show that such a
complacent attitude is misplaced in that projects and interventions proved beneficial
abroad may be hampered by specific local conditions in Ethiopia. Therefore, all projects
must be proven to function properly and produce results in the Ethiopian context. Small
funds saved by not carrying out evaluation exercises might lead to the wasting of huge
funds owing to improperly executed or unfruitful projects.
5.4 Staff Questionnaire and Observations
Librarians and teachers of Grade Eight completed the staff questionnaire. The
questionnaires have been divided into those filled out by the teaching staff and those filled
out by the librarians. The analysis of the answers to the questionnaires is slightly unorthodox
in that questionnaires are usually used to gather quantitative data, whereas in this study the
responses are looked at qualitatively. Anderson (2000:91) reminds us that complex research
designs could reveal greater complexity among variables and the analysis of the
questionnaires through the researcher’s observations and insights are meant to complement
and add flesh to the quantitative findings about the students’ reading abilities.
5.4.1 The Librarians
All four librarians appeared uncertain about their ability to read and understand the
questionnaire and chose to complete it with the researcher or go over it again with him after
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completing some of the questions. This provided good opportunities for insights into how
and why the librarians answered certain questions. Noticeably, one of them was literally
terrified of doing the ‘wrong’ thing and went out in the middle of filling the questionnaire to
check that the officials had given permission for her to complete the questionnaire. The
same librarian wanted to see the questionnaires filled out by other librarians to ensure that
she was not saying anything radically different or possibly offensive to the administration.
On being denied this request, she repeatedly sought reassurance from the researcher that her
answers were acceptable and seemed terrified that this was some hidden evaluation of her
with unspecified consequences for her employment and promotion. Sadly, the same attitude
was reflected in a deputy-director who was co-operative and friendly on the first visit, when
the director happened to be absent, but then became unsure and evasive on further visits,
when the director was present. Fortunately, the director turned out to be co-operative, giving
the green light to conduct the research. Nevertheless, an unhealthy suspicion of the unknown
and fear of doing the slightest thing without approval of superiors was evident in the
schools, as it is in other government institutions. The researcher’s prior contact with most of
the schools and some of the staff members helped them to open up and frankly discuss the
questionnaires and their difficulties to some extent. Bio-data
Three of the four librarians chose to fill in their names on the questionnaire, which
was optional and they could have remained anonymous. This probably reflected that
they trusted the researcher to use the information ethically.
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None of the four had formal training as librarians: two were trained as teachers, one
as a secretary and the other as an accountant. Two of them had been assigned to the
library when their pervious posts had been cancelled in a restructuring exercise. The
third felt that she had been “down-graded” from being a library assistant in a
secondary school to librarian in the primary school in the same restructuring
exercise. The last one had been assigned to the library owing to health reasons
exacerbated by classroom chalk. This use of the library as a “hold-all” or
“miscellaneous” department of the schools was further exemplified in one of the
schools where the library was not even swept regularly as the cleaners had “too
much work elsewhere on the school compound.” The librarian did her own
sweeping when the dust reached intolerable levels.
Regarding experience, the librarians had 10, 7, 4 and 3 years of experience working
in a library. Some of them had up to 30 years work experience, but this was in the
respective professions for which they had originally been trained. Obviously, the
duties of a librarian were considered as so commonplace that anyone could perform
them. Variety of Readers
The two librarians in Entoto Amba and Medhanealem schools felt that the English
supplementary readers in their libraries were ‘sufficiently varied’. Considering the
fact that they had 124 titles from the Primary Reader Scheme and another dozen or
so from the Ethiopian Stories in Simplified English project and other donations, their
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answer is acceptable. One of the other librarians also felt that her library had
“sufficiently varied” readers, but seeing that the library hardly had a dozen fiction
books, her response should be taken with a grain of salt. The last librarian stated that
the readers were “not varied” and seeing her stock, her answer is acceptable.
However, she pointed out that Plan International was about to donate 2,305 books
worth 32,000 Birr and these included English supplementary readers. Quantity of Readers
Regarding the quantity of the readers, three of the librarians stated that the quantity
was “insufficient”. Considering the number of students in each school, this was
certainly the best answer to choose from the alternatives. A fourth stated that the
library had “only single copies”, but was later embarrassed to find out that around
six titles of readers donated through the British Council’s Ethiopian Stories in
Simplified English project had over 40 copies each. This was a clear indicator of
how unfamiliar this particular librarian was with the books in her library. Reading Relevance to Language Mastery
In responding to what extent they felt supplementary reading contributes to mastery of
English, three of them chose the answer “A lot”. The fourth chose “Not much”, then went
on to explain orally that as the children rarely did any supplementary reading, she felt that it
did not contribute much to their English proficiency, or lack of it. She explained that
students usually went to the library as a quiet place to do their homework, rather than as a
resource centre for books. In a number of visits to the libraries in these schools, students
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were indeed observed almost always doing their homework and only using textbooks,
dictionaries and grammars from the shelves. Here lay the key issue. The donation of the
books alone is considered sufficient to ensure that the students do reading. But in actual
fact, the “treated” group were not treated. The conscientious use of the readers by the
students could have improved the students reading skills, as has been proved all over the
world. However, as owing to a variety of reasons the students did not use the books their
reading skills were no different from those of schools that did not have supplementary
readers. Reading for Pleasure
Three of the librarians said that they thought that hardly any of the students read for
pleasure and that at most they opened the books to admire the coloured pictures inside. So
they opted for the “0-35%” answer and the results of the EPER reading levels confirmed
their observations. The fourth hesitatingly selected “36-70%”, but this seemed to be more
as a justification for her continued employment in the library. English Reading Proficiency
Asked to estimate what percentage of Grade Eight students are able to read well in English,
two of the librarians preferred the non-committal option of “insufficient opportunity to
observe”. One defensively stated that she could only say that they sat down with the books.
Another said that knowing about the students’ reading skills was the teacher’s
responsibility. This compartmentalisation of duties and responsibilities was observed in
several areas and will be commented upon later in this paper. The fourth librarian said that
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“36-70%” of the Grade Eight students read well in English; however, reviewing the results
in the test, this figure appears an optimistic hope. Librarian Assistance
In response to the question if librarians assist the students in selecting appropriate readers,
three automatically chose “Always”. The fourth wavered between “Often” and
“Sometimes” and decided upon the former. She then truthfully explained that since the
students hardly ever ask for assistance, this answer reflected how she would be willing to
assist them. Seeing the lack of knowledge of most of them about the readers in their
libraries, it is very doubtful as to whether they could offer assistance and guidance if the
occasion arose. Moreover, as the present government has introduced various evaluation
means, the librarians felt that they were facing enough criticism without self-criticism being
added to it. Teacher Assistance
Ironically, this fear of criticism did not extend to criticising others. Two of the librarians
selected “Never” to the question whether teachers assisted the students in selecting
appropriate readers. To be on the safe-side, the third first chose “Insufficient opportunity to
observe”, but then realising that this was not an option as she was in the library changed her
response to “Sometimes”. The fourth defensively chose “Always” to cover for her
colleagues. However, this was in vain, as the English teacher said that she was not familiar
with any of the supplementary readers in the library.
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Three of the librarians forthrightly said that none of the teachers used the supplementary
readers to supplement the textbook, so opted for “0-35%”. The fourth modestly said that
she had “Insufficient opportunity to observe”. Appropriacy of Titles
When asked about the most and least appropriate titles for Grade Eight students, only one
of the librarians showed obvious signs of having read them. She stated that Girl Against
Jungle and Little Women were quite enjoyable and she thought them appropriate whereas,
Things Fall Apart and Stories from Many Lands were difficult to follow and so probably
least appropriate. Although her choices were based on her own tastes, she, at least, had
something to say about the readers.
The other three could not even come up with the titles of the readers and had to physically
go to the shelves. They simply picked out any book, which readily came to hand. Under the
most appropriate titles came The Boy and The Donkey, The Flying Spy, The Good Wife and
Other Stories from Afar, The First Gift and Other Stories from Gambella, The River Line
and The Company of my Shadow. Interestingly, the third and fourth were produced in the
Ethiopian Stories in Simplified English and were earlier described by one of the librarians
as never even being looked at because their pictures were not in colour. The last two were
simply the two biggest books on the shelf and are probably too difficult for senior
secondary students. However, having chosen them as the most appropriate, this librarian
said that none of the books were inappropriate. The other two librarians randomly picked
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out At the Farm, Helicopter, Another Love and Love Changes Everything and claimed that
they were either too easy or too difficult for Grade Eight. Library Opening Hours
All four libraries had opening hours that basically corresponded to the school timetable.
They opened at 08:30 and closed at around 16:30 with the librarians taking an hour or so
off for their lunch-break. As the students have classes consecutively during their shift, they
have to come back to the school in the other shift, if they want to use the library. One
school had a library period during the week. Of the four schools, only one was regularly
open whenever the researcher went to the schools. The others were often closed with
excuses such as the librarian was sick, or that she had not returned after the lunch-break, or
that students had exams on that day. One of the libraries was even closed for a whole
month for a paint job in the middle of the semester. Moreover, none of the libraries was
ever observed with more than 40 or so students in them during visits by the researcher.
Nevertheless, three of the librarians said they felt the opening hours were “Excellent”. The
fourth said they were “Unsatisfactory” as the students had no free time in the school
compound when the library was open. The three probably selected “Excellent” as they
might have feared that suggestions for improvement would negatively impact on their
working hours as they might be expected to work inconvenient hours. Relevant Materials
Three of the four librarians felt that the amount of relevant material was “Unsatisfactory”,
while the fourth felt that it was “Good”. Unsurprisingly, the fourth was from one of the
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schools that had benefited from the Primary Reader Scheme, Ethiopian Stories in
Simplified English, and donations from an NGO called Emmanuel Home and the Kennedy
Library of Addis Ababa University. Despite all these donations, many of the books were
not written for primary level, but the relatively greater number of books probably
influenced her reply. Number of Tables and Chairs
One of the schools had four small tables and fifteen chairs for teachers, and fourteen
students’ desks (i.e. a bench for three attached to a table). The second had eighteen fairly
big tables with six chairs around each, adding up to one hundred and eight chairs. The third
had only seven students’ desks. The fourth had thirty-two students’ desks, and two small
tables with eight chairs for teachers. Ironically, the librarian of the third and smallest library
felt the number of tables and chairs was “Satisfactory”. The librarians of the first and fourth
schools said they were “Unsatisfactory”, while the librarian of the third school said the
number was “Excellent”. When comparing the number of students in each school with the
number of tables and chairs, all the libraries could be said to have inadequate furniture.
However, comparatively speaking, the number in the second school is indeed “Excellent”.
Much more worrying is that the chairs were never fully occupied on even one of the
researcher’s visits to the schools. At most three fourths of the chairs were full. Size and Ambience
The four librarians selected the four choices of “Excellent”, “Good”, “Satisfactory” and
“Unsatisfactory” to describe the size of the libraries. The sizes of the libraries were
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approximately 72m2, 64m2, 40m2 and 12m2 . Ironically again, the library with a floor space
of 12m2 was rated as “Good”. Once again the size is incomparable with the number of
students the libraries are supposed to serve.
Regarding ambience, three of the libraries were in secluded corners of each school, while
the fourth was in a corner not far from the main gate. Two of the librarians said that the
ambience was “Excellent”, while the third felt it was “Good”. Seeing how empty and quiet
the libraries were, these were valid answers. The fourth said her library ambience was
“Unsatisfactory”. As her library was the one to which a cleaner had not been assigned and
had a fine layer of dust over everything, her answer was also justified. Access to Books and Borrowing Facilities
All four libraries did not allow students to borrow books to take home officially. One of the
librarians said she sometimes let a few good students take books home over the weekend,
while another said special students belonging to the “library club” could take books home.
In three of the schools, students in Grades One to Four were not even allowed into the
libraries, while in the fourth this prohibition was extended to students in Grades Five and
Six as well. This decision seemed to have been made with the opinion that the students in
higher grades were more mature and could take better care of the books as well as exploit
them more effectively. To make matters worse, even the existing books could not be
handled by the students given access to the libraries, unless the librarians gave them
specific permission to do so. The usual procedure was that the librarian would take the
books off the shelves and give them to the students.
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Despite all this, only two of the librarians felt that access to books was “Unsatisfactory”.
The other two felt that access was “Good” and “Excellent”. Even the almost non-existent
borrowing facilities were labelled as “Excellent” and “Satisfactory” by two of the librarians
and as “Unsatisfactory” by the other two. It is these types of answers that cause a great
disparity between the situation on the ground and what is planned on paper, further
confounding educational planning. Promotion of Books
Three of the librarians felt that the promotion of books was “Unsatisfactory” as there was
no means for the students to know about the books that existed in the libraries. Apparently,
however, they did not appear to feel that the promotion of the books was their duty, as there
was no evidence of their trying to make promotional posters or other means of promoting
the books, whatsoever. The fourth said that the promotion of books was “Excellent” and
justified her answer by saying that the members of the library club told others about the
books in the library. Situation and Access to Library
Two of the librarians stated that the situation and access to the library was “Excellent”, the
third said it was “Good” and the fourth that it was “Satisfactory”. As the libraries were
physically on the school compounds and fairly close to the classrooms, these answers
appear acceptable. A long flight of steps to one of the libraries would obviously not make it
so accessible to physically handicapped students. However, in light of the small number of
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students using the libraries, one must ponder over the fact if they are psychologically
inaccessible. Other Information
The “terrified” librarian did not volunteer any additional information, but seemed rather
relieved that she had got through the given questions without incurring any wrath from an
invisible presence.
The librarian who had obviously read the readers was very enthusiastic and forthcoming
with information. She stated that the library actually had a budget to buy books with but
that this was used for other purposes by the school officials. She explained that she had
managed to get staff to pay for books they had lost, but even this income was used
elsewhere. She complained that the major problem with the library was that the books were
not available on the local market, so once they were lost, they were gone forever. She
candidly admitted her lack of training and library management know-how and requested
the researcher to draft her letters to submit to various organisations for short-term training.
She stated that if allowed to use the library budget, she would buy local newspapers and
journals to attract the staff into the library. At present, she felt the library was being used
more as a quiet room for reading textbooks as it had nothing new and relevant to entice
potential readers. She appeared very conscious of the shortcomings of the library and eager
to overcome them. Unfortunately, it appeared there was no one to support and encourage
her endeavours.
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The third librarian was very defensive and said that her library had a good stock of books
acquired by various donations. In addition, the library had a budget of 900 Ethiopian Birr
with which she could purchase books from the local market. She said that the library club
was very active and that “student agitators” promoted and publicised the books adequately.
She stated that the students were good readers and that any shortcoming in their skills were
attributable to problems in the first cycle of education (Grades One to Four and obviously
out of her perceived range of duties and responsibilities.)
The fourth librarian was an interesting mixture of stoicism and realism. When informed
that another librarian had pointed out the possibility of the existence of training
programmes, she stated that she was not interested in training as she had only two years to
go to retirement. She obviously felt that she had been put to pasture in the library and said
as much. She stated that librarians were not really librarians in the true sense of the word,
but rather storekeepers or guardians of books. This was because the stock of books was
expected to remain intact with no safety margin for wear, tear, losses or weeding.
Consequently, a librarian who took over a library with 1000 books was expected to hand
over 1000 books in perfect condition when she left the library, even if it was two decades
later. If she did not, theoretically she could be fined for negligence of government property.
To make matters worse, even if she knew staff members who lost books, they could not be
replaced, as they were not available on the local market. Therefore, librarians were more
concerned with keeping books out of the possible way of any possible damage and the
resulting bickering. She stated that this was the major reason that lending arrangements
were not made and that younger students in grades 1- 4 were not allowed to use the
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libraries. This was in spite of the fact that the optimum reading age for young students was
probably being neglected by prohibiting first cycle primary students from using the library.
Body searches were conducted on all students leaving the libraries to ensure that no books
were stolen. This was not considered to be humiliating for the students nor as a repellent
from the library. Books are seen as fragile irreplaceable resources that must be kept out of
the damaging hands of students.
Here basically lies the crux of the matter. The EPER placement test objectively showed the
surprising fact that there was no significant improvement in the reading skills of the
students in the schools that had received the readers in the Primary Reader Scheme project.
The questionnaire and discussion with the librarians came up with the reason for this. The
students had been unable to use the readers, as they had basically remained inaccessible to
them. Rather than being used for reading, the readers were simply being used as shelf
decorations. This obviously has implications for the whole ESDP, which will be discussed
after an examination of the questionnaires completed by the teachers.
5.4.2 The Teachers
Questionnaires were distributed to the teachers and seven of them were completed and
returned. One teacher disappeared at the end of the term and did not return his
questionnaire. Interestingly, another one of the teachers completed his information on two
copies of the questionnaire. It was not clear if he was trying to gain “an extra vote” for his
opinions or whether he was trying to please the researcher by filling out all the
questionnaires that came in his reach. The second copy was disregarded. Discussed below
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are six questionnaires completed by six English teachers teaching in Grade Eight.
However, one teacher did not complete questions 11 to 20 regarding the library, so the
teachers’ feedback on the situation of the library is based only on the responses of five
teachers. Bio-data
Three of the six teachers chose to fill in their name on the questionnaire, while the other
three preferred to remain anonymous. Nevertheless, they were willing to discuss some of
the questions they were unsure about with the researcher. This probably reflected that
though they trusted the researcher, who had incidentally taught three of them in a teacher
training college, they still preferred the option of remaining anonymous to any wider
audience that might be involved in the research.
Five of the six teachers were trained as teachers, while the sixth was still training in an inservice programme. It is interesting to note that the sixth has a diploma in library sciences
while none of the librarians do. In an informal interview he explained that as the promotion
structure and salary scale of librarians was restricted, he had turned to teaching.
Their years of experience ranged from 6 to 30. Some of them lamented the lack of
opportunities to change their profession. This is consistent with previous findings stated by
Tekeste (1990:27) that said that as many as 50% of secondary teachers would rather be in
other professions. The teachers had 6,11,18, 27, 29 and 30 years of experience in teaching
at elementary schools. Far from the teaching profession being a stepping stone to other
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fields, it would appear that irrespective of their desires, teaching was a life-long career for
these teachers. Disturbingly, there did not seem to be planned staff development and
promotion, leading to some of them being highly demoralised. Some complained that
promotions were based on political loyalties rather than professional merits, though they
conceded that there were greater opportunities to innovate in their schools under this
government than under the last one. Variety of Readers
Although some of the teachers admitted to their ignorance of the presence of readers in the
library when they had to select appropriate and least appropriate titles, all of them
responded as to the variety of readers. Again, three of them stated that the English
supplementary readers in their libraries were “Sufficiently varied”, while the other three felt
that the readers were “Insufficiently varied”. Quantity of Readers
As for the quantity of the readers, two of the teachers declared that the quantity was
“Sufficient”. The other four said the quantities were “Insufficient”. As those teachers in the
schools that had received a donation through the British Council’s Ethiopian Stories in
Simplified English project with over 40 copies each, had not actually used the readers, the
usefulness of their responses was doubtful. The two who said the quantity was “Sufficient”
were from one of the pilot schools; however, they later said that they hardly knew that the
books existed. This could be because they hoped that complaining about the quantity of
readers would miraculously lead to some sort of donation of books. In fact, the researcher
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was approached on several occasions with requests for possible sources of donations. This
indicated that the existence of a hidden agenda might well have influenced the responses. Reading Relevance to Language Mastery
The teachers were asked whether they thought using supplementary readers assisted the
students in mastering English. They responded with two answers of “Extremely” and with
four of “A lot”. One must ask if they were truly convinced of this, or if they were
responding with what they felt were the expected or “right” answers. This is more so,
because none of the teachers had actually done anything to motivate the students to use the
readers on their own, let alone incorporate them into classroom activities. Reading for Pleasure
Five of the six teachers stated that “0-35%” of the students read for pleasure. The sixth said
that he had “Insufficient Opportunity to Observe”. This clearly indicates that the teachers
knew that their students were hardly reading any English for pleasure outside the
classroom. Yet, surprisingly, it would seem that they perceived their own responsibility as
covering the English textbook rather than giving the students reading skills that could be
further developed outside the classroom. One of the teachers whose school had not
received any donations said that there was nothing for the students to read for pleasure
outside the classroom. Although such statements probably lead to requests for schemes
such as the PRS and donations from NGOs, this study has proved that this is more an
excuse than a reason.
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003) English Reading Proficiency
When asked what percentage of their Grade Eight students were able to read well in
English, two of the teachers said that “36-70%” of the Grade Eight students read well in
English, while four said “0-35%”. Viewing the results in the test, it would appear that these
four had a realistic idea of the students’ reading skills. But when asked why they were not
doing something about it, they used the well-worn excuse of blaming the teachers below
them in the first cycle. Librarian Assistance
In response to the question if librarians assisted the students in selecting appropriate
readers, it would appear that the teachers were less harsh on the librarians than the
librarians were on the teachers. Three said “Sometimes”, the fourth chose “Often”, while
the fifth truthfully selected “Insufficient Opportunity to Observe”. Only the sixth said
“Never”. However, it is doubtful if the teachers have truly observed this in the library as
none of them seemed to use the libraries regularly. Teacher Assistance
Asked if teachers assisted the students in selecting appropriate readers, five of the teachers
said that they “Sometimes” assisted students. This is in direct contradiction of what the
librarians said. Moreover, in selecting appropriate titles, it was quite obvious that most of
them were not at all familiar with the readers, let alone being able to assist others in
choosing them. One of the teachers truthfully responded that he “Never” assisted students.
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003) Supplementing the Textbook
When asked if they used the supplementary readers to supplement the textbook, two of the
teachers chose “0-35%” without actually saying they never used them. Three chose “3670%” but then said they sometimes used them to extract reading passages for tests and
exams. Although this was an extended understanding of ‘supplementing the textbook’, it
did allow them to defend their response. The last said “71 – 100%” in direct contradiction
of her saying that she did not know of any readers in the library and could not select
appropriate titles. Most and Least Appropriate Titles
Similar to the librarians, the questions about the most and least appropriate titles for Grade
Eight students proved to be the acid test of whether they knew the readers. Unlike the
librarians, they could not go to the shelves and pick up some reader at random. Therefore,
two of the teachers left this section blank, as they could not even come up with the titles of
the readers. Another two simply wrote the titles of reading passages in the textbook
probably hoping that the researcher would mistake them for titles of readers. When the
researcher asked them for clarification, they at first said they had thought the question
referred to the textbook. The researcher explained that he was asking about the
supplementary readers and told them they could fill in the titles again. Only then did they
admit that they were not familiar with the readers.
Of the last two teachers, one (the trained librarian) obviously enjoyed reading and had read
all the readers in the library. The second had no idea of the readers, but instead of “losing
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face” asked her colleague for titles and filled them in. The first teacher chose Jane Eyre and
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as the most appropriate and The King of the Forest and
Other Stories from Afar and The Rat King’s Son and Other Stories from Oromiya as the
least appropriate. He justified his choice by saying the first two were exciting and the
second two were not. This obviously reflected his taste. The second teacher chose King
Solomon’s Wives [sic] and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as the most appropriate and The
King of the Forest and Other Stories from Afar and Inspector Host as the least appropriate
stories. When the researcher said that he had not heard of a reader entitled King Solomon’s
Wives, she shot a glance for assistance in the direction of her colleague. He tactfully came
to her assistance suggesting that perhaps she meant King Solomon’s Mines. She agreed, but
when asked what the story was about, covered up her lack of knowledge by saying that she
had forgotten it. Although the teachers had been given the questionnaires and been asked to
complete them at their own leisure, it was obvious that they had done them together.
This appears to be a clear example of teachers being aware of what they should know but
preferring to hide their ignorance through various evasive tactics including copying from
others to avoid losing face. It is little wonder that students resort to copying from each other
if the teachers set such examples. The concept of losing face will be discussed later on. Opening Hours
Two of the teachers appeared to agree with the librarians and said the opening hours were
“Excellent”. A second said they were “Good”, while two said they were “Unsatisfactory”.
The last two pointed out that the whole purpose of the library should be for the students to
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use it, therefore, the library had to be opened at times when the students were not in class.
They agreed that this would cause administrative inconveniences but said that solutions
could be found. Relevant Materials
All five of the teachers stated that the amount of relevant material was “Unsatisfactory”.
Seeing that two of the schools had benefited from the Primary Reader Scheme, Ethiopian
Stories in Simplified English, and donations from other sources, it would appear that a lack
of relevant materials was being used as a scapegoat for much more serious and deep-rooted
maladies in the whole teaching-learning process. This is especially so as no apparent efforts
were made either to use the existing materials or produce materials of their own.
5.4.2. 13 Number of Tables and Chairs
Two of the teachers selected “Insufficient Opportunity to Observe”, when asked about the
number of tables and chairs. This could be because of the format of the questionnaire,
which probably made them think the lowest letter was equivalent to the least satisfactory
situation. It is unlikely that these teachers were actually saying that they had never or hardly
ever been to the library. Two of the other teachers said the number of chairs and tables was
“Unsatisfactory”, while the fifth said the number of tables was “Satisfactory” and the
number of chairs was “Unsatisfactory”.
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003) Size and Ambience
Four of the teachers said that the size of the libraries was “Unsatisfactory”, while the fifth
chose “Insufficient Opportunity to Observe”. These descriptions were used to describe all
four libraries of approximately 72m2, 64m2, 40m2 and 12m2, so probably the teachers’
point of reference were the big libraries they had used in their teachers training colleges and
universities. The ambience was described as “Satisfactory” by three of the teachers, while
one chose “Insufficient Opportunity to Observe” and the last simply left this question
unanswered. Access to Books and Borrowing Facilities
Four of the teachers said that the access to books was “Unsatisfactory” and the fifth
selected “Insufficient Opportunity to Observe”. The same held true for the question on
borrowing facilities, except that different teachers chose “Insufficient Opportunity to
Observe” for each of the items. All the stock is open to teachers and teachers can borrow
books as much as they want. They might have given their responses from a student’s
perspective or else they were simply condemning the whole library system. Promotion of Books
Three of the teachers stated that the promotion of books was “Unsatisfactory”. The fourth
left this question unanswered. The fifth opted for the choice “Satisfactory”. It is worth
noting that this teacher is from a different school to that of the librarian, who said that the
books were adequately promoted by members of the “library club”. Therefore, instead of
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assuming that books were promoted satisfactorily in one of the schools, it would appear
that both teachers and librarians were attempting to gloss over the fact that the books were
not being promoted. Again the teachers did not seem to perceive that promoting the books
was as much the responsibility of the teachers themselves as that of the librarians. Situation and Access to Library
One of the teachers said that the situation and access to the library was “Good” and another
said that it was “Satisfactory”. Three said that it was “Unsatisfactory”. It would appear that
these three teachers were negatively biased to the library as a whole, as the libraries were
observed to be in relatively accessible places. On the other hand, it could be that owing to
a general fatigued and demoralised state of the teachers, they could no longer perceive the
positive points of their profession and schools. Other Information
Only one of the teachers did not write anything in the place provided on the questionnaire
for additional information. The rest wrote down some interesting comments.
The first stated that the library basically only had different textbooks for the students.
Nevertheless, because of the silence and the good lighting, it provided a good study area. It
is surprising to note that this teacher belonged to the school that had a relatively better stock
of books, having received donations and being involved in the British Council projects.
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A second stated his frustration with the existing English textbooks. He stated that textbooks
had to be prepared by concerned groups of people and not by individuals.
The third explained that the books could not be promoted as desired when untrained
librarians were put in the libraries. In addition, he said that it was individuals who had
problems who were put in the libraries, as a result, these people had no incentive to do their
job and therefore “do not function well”. He argued that because teachers were better paid
than librarians, qualified librarians were not attracted to work in the library. It is worth
observing that this teacher was himself trained as a librarian. Moreover, he expected
incentives, training and other things to come from the outside, rather than taking the
initiative and conducting some in-house training for the librarian himself. This attitude of
dependency is reflected by the other teachers and librarians too.
The fourth blamed English teachers in the first cycles for not developing the students’
reading skills. She called for a cross-curriculum approach to reading, with all subject
teachers encouraging students to do supplementary reading. She said that each school
should prepare awards for students who were active readers and that English teachers
should prepare workbooks and reading schemes to improve the students reading.
The last teacher started by saying the present textbooks were well above the students’
reading abilities and the reading passages were too long and boring. Then he called for the
textbooks to be rewritten by concerned professionals according to the ability and class level
of the students. He condemned free promotion in the first cycle, saying: “The free
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promotion policy in the lower classes contributes limitless disadvantages for reading
purposes in and outside the classes.” Finally, he called for well-qualified English teachers
who should teach the language and give special attention to reading. As he had both a
certificate and diploma in teaching and was undertaking summer courses for his degree, the
last statement was obviously directed at other teachers in the school.
It would appear that the teachers were willing to blame poor educational policies, poor
librarians and libraries, poor textbooks, poor students and teachers for the general state of
education. Nevertheless, they do not seem to be doing anything individually or in groups to
improve the situation. On the contrary, all they seemed to be doing is complaining and
expecting some omnipotent external power to come and rectify things. Although it would
be easy to blame the teachers, one should note that this attitude is typical of disempowered
groups that do not feel that they can make a difference.
5.5 Utilisation Capacity of Government-Owned Primary Schools in Addis Ababa
It is obvious from the above discussions that government schools do not have much
utilisation capacity for supplementary English readers. The reason for this cannot be
ascribed to any single factor. It is more than a mechanical formula whereby one factor
leads to the presence or absence of utilisation capacity. It would be pretentious to claim
that if certain measures were to be taken, the students’ reading abilities would improve.
This would be equivalent to changing the fuel filter of a car with many faults and
expecting it to run smoothly. The whole education system, in addition to several socioeconomic factors, in the country would also have to be modified. Numerous issues can be
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raised and discussed, based upon the findings as well as observations and information
gathered at the primary schools. A few of the possible solutions can be touched upon by
mentioning the need for a systems approach, the need to empower teachers, the need for
sustained staff development, the need for setting up a meritology within schools, ways to
improve the human resource capacity through means such as volunteerism and the need
to deal urgently with the problem of overcrowding.
5.5.1 A Systems Approach
Heneveld and Craig (1996: xvi) say:
Finally, and most disappointingly, none of the twenty-six projects deals
explicitly with issues related to school climate (high expectations of
students, positive teacher attitudes, order and discipline, clear learning
objectives, and rewards and incentives for students) or to
teaching/learning processes (high learning time, variety in teaching
strategies, frequent homework, and frequent student assessment and
Similarly, in the schools observed, a striking feature of the way things are done in the
primary schools is the carrying out of one’s duties in what can be called a “linear
approach”. This is where each individual sees his duty as simply doing “his bit” and not
worrying about the entire picture. In a factory, this can be compared to a worker on a
conveyor belt being concerned about his fitting tyres to a car body and not bothering if
his colleague up the line has mounted the motor. It is very discouraging to see the
libraries being used simply as quiet areas and the librarians not being seen as part of the
learning environment. Unless the whole library is integrated into the school system and
teachers see to it that they are familiar with the readers and encourage the students to read
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for pleasure, nothing can improve. The simple donation of readers is a waste of precious
Unfortunately, the linear approach appears to be the dominant approach to education in
the schools visited. Instances of such an approach were reflected in various aspects of the
work. In one school, for example, the administrator was only concerned about the
maintenance and repair of the buildings. Therefore, the library was closed to be painted
for over a month in the middle of the semester. His concern was probably to finish the
allocated school budget before the end of the fiscal year in June, irrespective of the fact
that the closing of the library would disrupt the learning-teaching process. The problem
was that though schools are closed in July and August, the new funds are not released
early enough in the next fiscal year to do repair work before classes commence. Both the
Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Education are only concerned about performing
their duties and are not interested in being flexible and accommodating in order to
improve general efficiency. In another school, the director said that her most pressing
need was funds to build a higher stone wall to prevent the students from jumping over it
and escaping from the school compound. If the director cannot see that this is an
indication that the whole teaching-learning process must be improved to keep the
students interested, then even building the great wall of China will not keep the students
At the individual level, some teachers were observed using the ‘radio period’ as time off
to relax. They had done their bit of covering a section in the textbook and it was up to the
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people at the Department of Educational Mass Media to cover their syllabus on the radio.
Admittedly, there are committed and devoted teachers, as one was observed marking her
students’ tests during her tea-break so that the students could get back their results on the
same day. But they tend not to be actively supported and encouraged. This leads to
teachers seeing their sole duty as merely to cover the textbooks and not to go beyond that
and provide the students with life skills. They do not supplement the textbook with the
readers, yet, at the same time, complain that the reading passages in the textbooks are
boring and the textbooks poorly are written. Unless, the teachers see it as their
responsibility to write and use supplementary materials and encourage the students to
read extensively, then the few passages in the textbook cannot provide enough texts for
the students to improve their reading skills.
There is the serious problem that the overall effectiveness of the educational system is not
being taken seriously as everybody’s collective responsibility. The coefficient of
efficiency calculated by the Ministry of Education is simply a quantitative measure
counting ‘bums on seats’. If a qualitative measure of how much is actually being learnt
were measured, then the measurement would show catastrophic results, as the test
indicated. Actually, this was rumoured to have been suggested by one of the Annual
Review Missions of the ESDP, which are not made available to the general public.
The supervisors are only interested in how the teachers teach. The teachers are only
interested in covering the textbook. The students are only interested in being promoted.
The parents see their sole responsibility as sending their children to school. Educational
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researchers are only interested in getting their bits of ‘significant data’ and publishing
their findings or writing their thesis. But nobody appears to be interested in making a
sustained effort at making the system work. A few who have tried probably ended up in
frustration at the immensity of the task.
The opposite approach would be a systems approach. Here everybody would be
concerned with the outcome of the system. That is, in this case, the production of an
educated person, with skills and knowledge that would make him employable. Although
people would still have their respective jobs to do, they would be chiefly concerned with
the output of the whole system. The teacher would see it as his duty to stop the school
guard turning back a small boy from the school because he had not put on the bottom half
of his school uniform that was wet from the previous day’s rain. The Ministry of
Education would engage in talks with the Ministry of Finance because their fiscal year
did not facilitate the optimum utilisation of the educational budget. Together, solutions
would be found, like finding the schoolboy funds to buy a second uniform, or making
special arrangements to enable the school to roll over the funds to paint the library during
the summer break.
If things are to change, then a systems approach will have to be adopted and this will
demand both top down and bottom up initiatives to break the traditional vice of the linear
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Lynch (1994:68-69) goes further than looking at the schools system and calls for a review
of the whole context with a holistic and developmental approach. He calls for
intersectoral initiatives, interdisciplinary interventions and interprofessional cooperation
to address the problem of the fragmentation of the child’s needs. He stresses that the
integration of health and nutritional support with educational services will contribute to a
developmental continuum. He states that the basis for a holistic and developmental
approach is that there are several factors of a child’s early development that will affect
the extent the child can benefit from primary education. Thus, teachers not only have the
responsibility to teach but should also scan the children for emerging health and
nutritional problems and refer them to other professionals. Although such an approach
may sound too sophisticated, there is evidently a need for investigating it further.
5.5.2 Empowering Teachers
The empowerment of teachers is a complex and delicate process in itself. It does not only
involve giving them more money, though this is an obvious need, but also embraces
facilitating several other factors. Obanya (1999:183) says:
…empowerment involves developing and liberating the potentials of every
individual to be fully aware of the major issues at stake in one’s own life
and in the wider society and to mobilise individual potentials for service to
the collective good of society. (1999183)
He states the major ways of empowering teachers is by giving them access to general as
well as specialised knowledge, offering them opportunities for life-long selfimprovement, as well as making them aware of their rights, responsibilities and
privileges. Finally, he says that they must be organised in unions and associations
(Obanya, 1999:183-184).
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In the Ethiopian case, the first factor in empowering teachers could be to give them good
access to information of what is going on in the educational sphere. Several of them
complained that they did not have any idea of what was going on and why. They are
simply told to fill out forms and do a lot of paperwork, without their being informed of
the purpose or the eventual outcome. It would be easy enough for the Ministry of
Education to send each school a copy of its annual statistics report. Although this does
not require any significant financial costs, effective communication needs an
environment of openness and transparency, which appears lacking. Consequently,
teachers simply feel like unappreciated pawns and this damages their self-esteem as well
as their motivation to take the initiative and do things. Teachers should be made to realise
that they are independent from both government and party politics. Their voice could at
times be highly political, while lobbying policy-makers for change in educational policies
or campaigning for the rights of their students, who are least able to help themselves and
require assistance from their schools. However, they are important stakeholders in the
whole education process and it is actually people at their level who know what is ailing
the education system the most. As a result, their empowerment is a crucial factor in
making the education system work.
The second factor would be to involve them in materials preparation, both for the main
textbook and in supplementary materials. It is evident that teachers are actively
complaining about the new textbooks, but are not making any attempts to improve or
supplement them. A sustained effort to involve the teachers in the materials preparation
process would not only increase their skills in materials development, but also enable
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them to appreciate the work that has gone into the present textbooks. In a search for new
materials, they would turn to the readers and then encourage their students to read them.
Provided that similar readers existed in many of the schools in Addis Ababa, the
Regional Education Bureau could assist teachers in making worksheets for individual
readers and then exchange them with other schools. Macmillan are now engaging in
producing new primary English textbooks and are involving teacher trainers and teacher
trainees for Debre Berhan Teacher Training Institute. Although there is hardly any
financial motivation for the trainees, a marked difference in attitude in the institution as a
whole was observed by the researcher with an interest in the final product, which they felt
they had a stake in. From a more entrepreneurial angle, such worksheets could even be
duplicated and sold, thereby giving the demotivated teachers some financial incentive to
involve in doing additional work.
5.5.3 Staff Development
At present there appear to be serious flaws in the structure of staff development. Staff
development can be divided into ways of improving teachers’ formal qualifications, and
into other ways of improving their knowledge.
With regard to formal qualifications, in one school the English Department Head was told
that she could not continue her studies and obtain a first degree. This was because she
would not serve for many years after graduating as she was close to retirement.
Obviously, she felt insecure, as other staff members would be studying for their degrees
and she felt that her subordinates were leaving her behind. Others could not improve their
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qualifications because the costs of evening classes were high and they could not afford to
pay them. No funds exist for teachers seeking to study on their own.
With regard to non-formal staff development, there appears to be no system that actively
encourages staff to improve their knowledge. There are skills and knowledge within the
school that is not being exploited. A good example is the teacher who had switched to
teaching after he had graduated from library sciences, as the promotional structure and pay
scale for librarians was less than that of teachers. Ironically, the school had a qualified
librarian teaching and a qualified teacher acting as the librarian. However, no steps had
been taken to encourage the trained librarian to train the untrained one. The price of books
is very prohibitive for teachers. In countries such as Germany, publishers have been
encouraged to give teachers buying books a special discount. Such measures simply require
the government’s approval. Workshops and in-house training are usually conducted
without consideration of the needs of the staff. A system whereby staff are asked what sort
of training they want is not in place. Moreover, teachers hate attending workshops because
they regard them as irrelevant and an additional load to their work. When opportunities
exist for staff to improve their capacity, as in the case of The Educational Journal, which
pays an honorarium for staff publishing research articles, teachers remain unaware of these
5.5.4 A Meritology
At present, as in the past, promotions and assignments are seen as being rewards for
political correctness rather than an evaluation system based on merits. As a result, teachers
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who are better qualified or more effective in carrying out their duties are greatly
demoralised when they see others being assigned to posts as Principal or Vice-Principal.
The Ministry of Education should have a public list of criteria that should be fulfilled for
promotion. All promotions should be on merit and an appeals procedure should be around
for disgruntled staff members. The present situation makes it impossible to differentiate
between those who have genuine cause for being disgruntled and those who are simply illnatured.
Even with major issues such as staff promotion at tertiary institutions, the Ministry of
Education has a policy that staff should be promoted if they publish an article in a reputable
journal. However, they do not even have a list of reputable journals, which makes the
whole process of getting promotions unnecessarily bureaucratic. Even journals published
by Oxford
and Cambridge presses have to be checked, causing needless delays in
Therefore, the Ministry of Education would have to draw up a democratic and unbiased
procedure of reviewing staff and promoting them. Then it would have to implement an
effective monitoring and evaluating procedure to ensure that the promotion system was in
fact being implemented appropriately. In fact, the Ministry has a lot of reflection and
action to do towards creating a democratic culture within the educational sector. In recent
months, it has been creating many discussion forms with government and public
institutions. This is a positive step that will have to be followed up by tangible actions.
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5.5.5. Increasing Human Resource Capacity Through Volunteerism
A World Bank study states that one of the shortcomings of its projects is “Little explicit
attention is given to bringing the school staff and the community closer together, to
involving community members as learning resource people …” (Heneveld and Craig,
1996: xv).
An obvious alternative for increasing financial resources to education is to
reduce the recurrent budget by involving volunteers. The common complaint for the
absence of staff is the lack of a sufficient budget. Teacher-assistants are needed to handle
large classes, but the school cannot afford them. The library could be opened for longer
hours and over weekends, but there is no money to hire another librarian. Reading cards
and tasks could be produced for the few readers that do exist, but there is nobody who has
the time to produce them. However, these shortages in human capacity can be overcome
through asking for volunteers.
Volunteerism is a possibility to amplify the knowledge of a few professionals, without
significant extra cost. Volunteers usually work efficiently owing to their commitment and
devotion. In fact, voluntary action is an integral part of education in many countries.
Many professional Ethiopians are willing and able to do voluntary work. However, there
is no formal structure through which schools can contact them. For instance, the
Education Sector Development Program could be better explained to the teachers at large
by educationists. Many Ethiopians are willing to facilitate teaching and they can
contribute local skills and knowledge, which is unavailable in the schools. Unfortunately,
there is a lack of systematised information on people willing to do this. Another untapped
resource of professional potential are the spouses of foreigners working in diplomatic
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missions and international bodies, who do not work but could provide educational
voluntary services, if they are so inclined and qualified.
Just as the professionals, there are many non-professional people willing to give
voluntary services. Once again, there is no formal structure through which schools can
contact them. Here also are the spouses of foreigners working in diplomatic missions and
international bodies, who do not work but could provide general voluntary services.
Admittedly, such measures would not be effective in rural areas, but with the current
trend of decentralisation, many more educated people are now working in rural areas and
could be asked to volunteer.
In the case of English, some might be mother-tongue speakers who can bring in new
accents and some cultural knowledge, too. If schools could effectively exploit the
existing human resources in their areas, they could find different role models for reading
and volunteers could help in setting up reading clubs and donating books to the schools.
5.5.6 Dealing with Overcrowding
Although overcrowding might appear to be only one out of several problems preventing
teachers from effectively using the readers or teaching in general, researchers have stated
that this is the single most disruptive factor to the educational system as a whole. Tekeste
(1990:51) stresses: “ In a country where most of the teaching takes place in the
classroom, overcrowding ... is self-defeating.”
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The teachers’ abilities to deal with large classes can be improved with in-service training
courses such as “working in difficult circumstances”. Unfortunately, many of these
teachers have not had any sort of methodological training on how to deal with large
classes, although such courses are now becoming commonplace in the international
educational arena. Hoffman is quoted in Urqhuart and Weir (1998:231) as having
identified 12 features of effective schools. Some of these features include high
expectations for students, individualisation and careful evaluation of students progress.
All three of these features cannot realistically be attained with the present class size in
Another indirect way of dealing with large classes in Addis Ababa is to give the private
sector free rein in setting up schools. Although several private schools have opened under
the present government, many people have been complaining through the mass media,
that the circumstances for opening private schools are not encouraging.
A third way would be to divide classes in two for skills courses such as languages and
maths. This would necessarily entail administrative juggling due to a lack of classes,
teachers and the like. Innovative solutions to the challenges are already appearing in the
private schools, where the fear of losing fee-paying students is spurring the teachers and
administration to find solutions rather than excuses to complain. Even in government
schools, both Medhanealem and Kokebetsibah have new buildings under construction
and these might reduce the problem of classrooms. If volunteers can be drawn upon, then
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the dividing of classes may not necessarily mean the doubling of the workload for the
teachers, as the volunteers could handle some of the classes.
All of these ways of reducing class sizes will enable teachers to pay more attention to
individual students and assist them in areas such as reading that require special attention.
Implications for the ESDP
Although the findings of this study are discouraging, it has some serious implications for
the ESDP. One should bear in mind that these are still early days in the sector development
programme. Insights gained globally and from hands-on experience must be considered
and, where valid, incorporated to ensure goals are achieved. It has been noted in other
projects that the major defect is the treating of inputs like supplementary readers as discrete
quantifiable instruments with insufficient consideration of how they will interact with other
inputs and processes, especially at the school level (Heneveld and Craig, 1996: xv). Several
issues that arise from this are quality assurance, culture, decentralisation, capacity-building
and better communication systems.
5.6.1 Quality Assurance
Ethiopia should learn not only from other African countries, but from the former socialist
countries, with whom we share a common past. The first thing that the ESDP has to
remedy is the lop-sided concentration on quantitative achievements rather than qualitative
ones. After appraising 26 World Bank supported primary education projects, Heneveld and
Craig (1996: xiii) concluded that these projects were not achieving the standards of quality
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that they were aspiring after. Admittedly they are right in saying, “ … quality is itself a
complex concept comprising both changes in the environment in which education takes
place and detectable gains in learners’ knowledge, skills and values” (Heneveld and Craig,
1996: xiii). Nevertheless, sustained efforts must be made at measuring this complex
concept. In Bulgaria, the basis for judging quality in the school system is unequivocally set
as student achievement, (Fiszbein, 2001:35). Having more students going to school and
being able to give them individual copies of textbooks is all well and good, but the most
important thing about students going to school is that they actually learn something.
Consequently, tangible quality assurances must be put in place here and now, not in the
second or third phases of the ESDP, as some officials defensively say when confronted
with this shortcoming. A review of the Hungarian education system clearly states:
The significance of quality and the uncertainties involved in resolving the
problem require an independent government strategy for a comprehensive
quality assurance system. This means having an overview of research and
development in the area and applicable international experience. It means
identifying other institutions and actors, establishing a public consensus
about the concept of quality in public education, analysing problems such as
content regulation or teacher employment, and improving the relation
between quality assurance and legal or financial regulations. (Fiszbein,
This is not to imply that the MoE has not tried to include measures for quality assurance,
for instance, teachers are evaluated by students, parents and staff. They have to go to the
library and do research to get promotions. Despite this, one has to first acknowledge that
these mechanisms are not working. Perhaps it is because of a lack of public consensus, as
has been shown in some comments in the feedback from the questionnaires about free
promotion in the first cycle of primary education. Perhaps it is owing to the mechanisms
being too mechanical, as in the case where a teacher might go into a library to get his
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promotion and simply daydream instead of reading or doing research. Or there could
simply be a need for the passage of time for people to be able to shake off the passive
culture inherited from the socialist era and become active participants in the educational
5.6.2 Cultural Conflict
At present, it would appear that many of the stakeholders in Ethiopian education are too
passive. Such a culture of passivity is not restricted to Ethiopia, as can be seen from a
review of the Romanian education system:
A Culture Resistant to Change? The decentralisation of educational services
is based on a system of shared responsibilities, a participatory decisionmaking process, and very intense vertical and lateral communication within
the educational administration or with actors outside the administration.
Decentralisation has been highly debated for about eight years, but here is
little progress to show for it. A very strong paternalist tradition reflected in
social and organisational habits discourages the public from becoming
involved in public service governance. Can the devolution of power to local
communities go forward without a change in this cultural legacy? (Fiszbein,
Such a description of the Romanian educational situation could just as easily have been
written for Ethiopia. People are very discontented with the present approach to having
multiple media of instruction and several other aspects of the ESDP, yet they have not
developed the culture of participating in the decision-making process. To be fair, the MoE
also has not yet developed the organisational habits of listening to the public, as was
demonstrated in 2001 by the request of university students to have the military university
guards replaced by civilian guards, which ended in civil disturbances. In July 2002, the
MoE ran a three-week capacity building course, in which teachers nation-wide were
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involved in discussing the education policy. Although this is seven years too late, it is a
right step in setting up a participatory culture.
The problems of culture can be seen in many aspects of the education system. The fact that
students have developed a culture of cheating in exams could probably be related to the fact
that the country as a whole is suffering from diploma disease. Therefore, the qualification
that one holds, rather than the knowledge that one has, tends to be the key factor in securing
a government job. Consequently, students are more interested in getting the certificate,
diploma or degree, rather than actually acquiring knowledge (Gizaw, 2001:25). Moreover
the whole skill of reading can be related to culture. Perez (1998:4) reminds us:
All literacy users are members of a defined culture with a cultural identity,
and the degree to which they engage in learning or using literacy is a
function of this cultural identity. Literacy cannot be considered to be contentfree or context-free, for it is always used in service of or filtered through the
culture and culture identity. Literacy is always socially and culturally
The fact that the information from the questionnaires was so contradictory to the facts on
the ground also reflects a culture where being “politically correct” or “saving face” is more
important than telling the truth. Therefore, there is obviously the need for a change in
attitudes, values and culture as a whole.
5.6.3 Decentralisation
There are many who think that the education system is decentralised. But this assumption
must be scrutinised further. Making Ethiopia’s education system a viable one is not a
preferred option, but rather a necessity for survival. The World Bank (1999:1) warns:
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The stakes are high. Choices that countries make today about education
could lead to sharply divergent outcomes in the decades ahead. Countries
that respond astutely should experience extraordinary progress in education,
with major social and economic benefits, including “catch-up” gains for the
poor and marginalized. Countries that fail to recognize and respond risk
stagnating or even slipping backwards, widening social and economic gaps
and sowing seeds of unrest.
In the process of drafting the ESDP, various regions submitted identical suggestions with
only a change of figures and the names of regions. Mistakes were even made in the
changing of names in a few instances, indicating that the drafts had been drawn p centrally
rather than in the regions. It might have been natural at a time when regions lacked the
capacity of developing their own plans and programmes that they should imitate a central
blueprint, especially when the completion of a draft was a prerequisite to the release of
funds. Such a situation is not unique to Ethiopia, as can be seem from a review of the Czech
It is true that schools make decisions about planning and organising teaching
and learning; using central pedagogical documentation; managing student
admissions and personnel; and using funds. At the same time, the Bacik
study showed that most decisions of primary schools are made and taken
within a ministerial framework according to centrally approved guidelines,
after consultation with school offices. (Fiszbein, 2001:50)
Therefore in Ethiopia, further decentralisation has to be made. Schools, Woreda
Educational Offices and Zonal Educational Bureaux should be able to make their own
locally appropriate decisions without waiting for the green light from the Regional
Educational Bureau or the Ministry of Education. A World Bank publication on effective
primary school education unambiguously stresses that only when schools have greater
autonomy can academic results improve (Heneveld and Craig, 1996:xv). However, they
found that although fourteen projects talked about increasing local autonomy and
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flexibility, most only devolved decision-making power to local authorities and not to
schools. This devolution is not good enough, as it is the schools and not the local
educational authorities that are at the cutting edge of education, and they have to be
mandated to make changes and adaptations within the general policy framework to adjust
to realities on the ground.
5.6.4. Capacity Building
The lack of capacity of the schools is not a problem that is going to disappear overnight.
They need long term and innovative solutions that involve all stakeholders. Nevertheless,
some immediate issues for consideration include the need for a systems approach, the
need to empower teachers, the need for sustained staff development, the need for a
meritology, the need to improve the human resource capacity and the need to deal
quickly with the problem of overcrowding.
Students cannot simply be expected to become good readers in a learning environment
that is not conducive to learning and reading. Unless the libraries are well run, teachers
encourage reading and librarians are supportive, then the students will not be attracted to
According to Heneveld and Craig (1996:107), in Swaziland, factors contributing to
making the school have an enabling environment are:
An adequately qualified head of school
Regular supervision to enhance effective management
Adequately qualified teachers
Regular in-service training for teachers
A positive, cooperative attitude in the community towards the
development of the school
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5.6.5 Better Communications
For educational reform to be successful, all stakeholders have to participate and make
themselves heard. Moreover, there has to be awareness at all levels as to what is going on.
Furthermore, efficient mechanisms for getting feedback have to be in place. The key for all
of this to happen is an efficient communication system. Good communication is the basic
requirement for accountability, transparency and monitoring. Out of Hoffman’s (Urqhuart
and Weir, 1998:231) 12 features of effective schools, one is the communication of ideas
across teachers. Unless synergy is created through the sharing of information and ideas, it is
highly improbable that one department or individual, no matter how qualified and
committed, can bring a substantial change to the system.
Unfortunately, such a system is not in place in the Ethiopian education system. Instead,
word of mouth appears to be the main method by which information is carried. Educational
newsletters and the like are only published erratically and their distribution is poor.
Authorities do not feel obliged to transmit information they are aware of, a good example
being a building with classrooms being constructed in Medhanealem school and the
teachers not knowing who was constructing it and from where the funds had come.
Periodic workshops and seminars are not adequately publicised, and even when
participants from schools are involved they usually fail to pass on what they have learnt.
Although public media such as television and radio do have wide coverage, they tend to
focus more on sensational issues like politics and only pay attention to educational matters
when disruptions occur. The lack of synergy between all these aspects fails to build the
momentum that is required for producing an appropriate learning environment. It is
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encouraging to see the Debre Birhan Teacher Training Institute has managed to build some
momentum of its own and has recently been up-graded to preparing teachers for secondcycle primary education as well.
If the ESDP is to be successful, greater emphasis must be given to the transmitting of
information both vertically and horizontally, not only within the administrative structure,
but also within the society on the whole.
The Education Discussion Group of Ethiopia (EDGE) was set up by NGOs, donors and
government to meet monthly and discuss relevant educational issues. Unfortunately, due to
hypersensitivity of the government to what was perceived as criticism, as well as the lack
of the culture of transparency, government officials were reluctant to attend and participate
regularly. The EDGE meetings have gradually fizzled out, due to a lack of persons willing
to organise the meetings. At the beginning FINNIDA had taken the responsibility, then
when the director left, the deputy director of the British Council had taken over. When he
left the country, nobody took over. Such initiatives could easily be supported actively by
the Ministry and expanded to a larger audience. Several of the EDGE meetings had
revolved around what various donors and NGOs have been doing to improve the
production and supply of supplementary readers. This work has to be taken a step further
and work by various stakeholders should be synchronised.
Chapter Five has looked at the students’ results, the teachers and librarians questionnaires
and the general utilisation of the schools along with the implications for the ESDP.
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Consequently, especially as related to the ESDP, the discussion has been forced to consider
wider issues than those directly and simply related to supplementary readers and reading.
The next chapter will discuss the limitations of the study and general recommendations.
However, it will then become more specific in that it will deal directly with the
recommendations on how to build upon and expand the Primary Reader Scheme of the
British Council.
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6. Chapter Six: Summary and Recommendations
Chapter Six will state the limitations of the study, followed by a general conclusion
summarising the whole study. Then some recommendations for future studies and action
will be given. Finally some general implications will be stated.
6.1 Limitations
Due to the unfavourable examination conditions and the students’ liability to cheat, it is
possible that all the results are not accurate measures of the students’ reading abilities.
Moreover, the fact that most of the students had not been exposed to cloze tests as they
are used to answers being provided in multiple-choice formats, could have distorted the
results. Nevertheless, the fact that 450 students were involved would have hopefully
lowered the
margin for error.
In addition to this, it would appear the teachers had other concerns such as questions of
prestige and school image or ulterior motives like getting additional readers or leverage
for further opportunities of networking and staff development. As a result, some of their
answers in the questionnaires and focus-group discussions, may not be as forthright as
they might have been. Finally, the fact that the schools were all urban schools might have
skewed the results.
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6.2 Summary
This study set out to measure the effect of the Primary Reader Scheme that had provided
supplementary readers to five primary schools with the intent of improving the students
‘reading skills in English. It began by looking at the readers given to the schools and
coming to the conclusion that supplementary readers should be selected on the observed
preferences of students using them. Theoretical and philosophical rationalisations did not
correspond to the actual preferences of the students. The students chose as favourites
some readers that could be considered “politically incorrect” as to the attitudes reflected
about Africans and Africa. It then reviewed the existing research on extensive reading
and noted that there is a firm foundation both in theory and practice on the benefits of
conducting extensive reading schemes. It scrutinised the two hypotheses of whether the
provision of supplementary readers to primary schools has produced a statistically
significant improvement in the reading skills of the students or whether there is no
significant relationship between the reading skills of the students and the provision of the
supplementary readers.
The study took four primary schools in Addis Ababa, two that had benefited from the
donation of supplementary readers and two that had not received books. From these
schools, approximately 125 Grade Eight students were taken from each and made to sit
for an international reading placement test prepared by the Institute for Applied Language
Studies of Edinburgh University.
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In direct contradiction to almost all international research, at first glance this study
proved the Null Hypothesis that the readers had had no statistically significant effect on
the reading skills of the students. It was established that due to a variety of administrative
factors, including accessibility of readers, teacher and librarian training and others, the
supplementary readers had hardly been used by any of the students. To answer the
question of what sort of utilisation capacity government schools have to use
supplementary reading materials, the qualitative study proved that most schools had very
little or no capacity to use the readers. Basically, teachers lacked support, motivation and
training to use the readers. Librarians also lack both support and motivation. None of the
librarians were trained as librarians. Finally, the schools lack effective administration
both in running the schools in general and the libraries in particular. Consequently, it is
not surprising that the readers have not influenced the students’ reading abilities.
Regarding the third objective of looking into possible implications for the effective
implementation of the Education Sector Development Program, it would appear that the
students at the end of the second cycle of primary education can hardly read in English.
Nevertheless, they are expected to continue their studies in English as English changes
from a class subject to the medium of instruction in secondary school. This highlights the
World Bank (2001:38) observation that “The main weakness identified in the preparation
of sector-wide programs was the lack of systematic analysis of implementation capacity”.
A decade ago, Tekeste Negash (1990:23) commented that the gap between school
realities and educational objectives was very wide. Despite a new government and the
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ESDP, this gap does not seem to be decreasing in terms of the quality of education being
Consequently, all recommendations from Annual Review Missions, studies like the
Ethiopian National Baseline Assessment and graduate research have to be seriously
considered and quickly accommodated into the ESDP. If not, then the Ethiopian
Education Crisis, which is consuming the country’s financial resources yet implementing
a highly irrelevant curriculum and creating a pool of unemployable citizens (Tekeste,
1990:83-87), will continue to occur.
Finally, the British Council may want to revisit its PRS project and take steps to improve
it. The British Council should explore ways to improve training, access, participation,
promotion and other aspects of the project.
6.3 Recommendations
6.3.1 Recommendations on Measures to be Taken
It is obvious that a series of serious measures have to be taken as the Ethiopian
Educational system is indeed in severe crisis, as Tekeste Negash (1990) had warned.
How to come out of this crisis is a controversial issue. Realistic Timeframes
To begin with, timeframes set seem to be totally blind to differences in historical
background, cultural values and existing infrastructure. Simply looking at the global map
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of gross enrolment ratios of primary education (World Bank, 1999:55), shows one how
unrealistic the goal of Education For All by the year 2000 was. Even though setting one’s
standards high could be seen as having a vision, on the ground it could lead to many
educational administrators becoming disillusioned and writing off whole programmes as
wishful thinking. On being challenged on the attainability of the targets set for one of the
backward regions in the ESDP, the regional bureau head responded that such targets were
what donors requested before releasing funds!
Regarding the historical background, many Africans are still either the first or second
generation to attend formal schools. The idea of sending all children to schools may be a
well-established tradition in Europe and America, but it is still catching on in Africa.
Consequently, setting targets for achieving universal basic education in twenty years’
time is not feasible. It will take at least two or three generations for all parents to be
willing and able to send their children to school.
As for cultural values, attitudes that do not favour co-education, secularism or the
spending of children’s time and labour away from the house, farm and animals can only
be changed gradually. For instance, the researcher was informed by an elder in
Benshangul region, that during the reign of Emperor Haile-Selassie, they used to pay
taxes for education, but deliberately kept their children away from school, out of fear that
they could be converted to Christianity. A decade or two cannot change such deep-rooted
beliefs and attitudes.
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Regaring infrastructure, some regions of Gambella are cut off from any contact with the
outside due to rivers without bridges during rainy seasons. Schools have generators,
which do not function due to a lack of spare parts. Even with plentiful financial
resources, such problems cannot be solved overnight.
Heneveld and Craig (1996:51) raise the same issue while calling for more flexible
timetables in World Bank projects. They say that the usual pattern is to set as tight a
deadline as possible and then frequently roll forward due dates. They recommend: “ …
mechanisms should exist for Task Managers to lay out slower timetables in the beginning
and justify any, and presumably less frequent, delays by showing how they will enhance
participation and ownership.” Realistic Expectations
Statements like, “Education will determine who has the keys to the treasures the world
can furnish” (World Bank, 1999:1) and “Education – more than any other single initiative
– has the capacity to foster development, awaken talents, empower people and protect
their rights” (UNICEF,2000:47) make education seem to be the panacea of all the ills of
Educationists must be careful not to perpetuate this myth, as it can only lead to
frustration, if education alone is focussed upon. Although an educated Ethiopian is far
better off than an uneducated one, he will still be disadvantaged due to his socioeconomic surroundings, colour and social contacts in the international arena. A cart-
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driver in Southern Nations and Nationalities People Region once told the researcher that
he was better off than his educated peers, because they were begging on the streets, but
he was earning an honest income. Related factors like a viable economy providing jobs, a
stable society ensuring personal security and fair employment procedures protecting
against discrimination, are all as equally important as education to improve the life of a
person. Lynch (1994:69) warns that there is a whole range of related areas that directly
affect educational achievement. Some of the major ones include; health status,
employment opportunities, family dislocation and migration, environmental conditions
and political unrest and conflict. Unfortunately, Ethiopian students come from a country
that has had several major famines, terrible wars and is one of the poorest of even SubSaharan African countries.
Tekeste (1990:83) challenges the vaunting of education as the panacea for developing
countries. He points out that economic development is dependent on several variables
and if these are disregarded or quality education is not delivered, then results could be
undesirable. He warns:
In a desperate search for the means to overcome backwardness, the
Ethiopian government saw education as the magic formula … the
expansion of the education sector far beyond the country’s financial
resources and the implementation of a highly irrelevant curriculum led to
the serious decline of the sector with far reaching implications. Support School Level Initiatives
In the final analysis, it is the schools that are at the delivering front of quality education.
Therefore, schools should be given autonomy and authority to modify, adjust and initiate
sound pedagogical practices. In the case of the teaching of reading, these would include
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allowing for silent reading in the classroom, encouraging the students to read extensively
outside the classroom, allowing the students to take readers home and moving away from
tests that encourage simple recall. Although reservations about the schools’ capacity to
do this are well taken, capacity can only be developed through doing. Therefore schools
should be encouraged to run in-house training and provide incentives to staff that perform
At present, the ESDP is trying to support 106 pedagogical centres to provide school
supervision, in-service teacher training, assistance in curriculum modification and
development, research and other operational services to schools (Heneveld and Craig,
1996:39). However, this does not go far enough. Heneveld and Craig (1996:43)
comment, “ even those countries that planned to increase autonomy and flexibility only
planned to extend it as far as regional and local education authorities. No projects
presented plans for a significant increase in the individual schools’ autonomy, just as
none planned to give meaningful authority to communities.”
In a country and world, where top-down decision-making has been the practice for
centuries, it is difficult to conceive that “lower” level schools could have the foresight
and capacity to manage themselves better than the “upper” authorities. Nevertheless, if
the schools are given control over and made accountable for their individual budgets,
they will be able decide their own priorities and needs. In fact, they may decide to
mandate the higher bodies to conduct certain functions for them, as in the case of
Regional Education Bureaux mandating ICDR to produce primary English textbooks.
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There is no doubt that some activities are better done from central/higher organs to ensure
economies of scale. However, at present the central/higher authorities seem to consider
that they are doing the schools a favour, and do not deliver most of the services on time.
But even in such cases, the power relations will have be reversed, so that the schools
could demand the services from the higher authorities, rather than waiting dependently
like beggars for alms. As they will also be handing over certain funds with the request for
services, hopefully they will also follow through the actions and ensure the purchase of
items and rendering of services are done on a timely basis. Mobilising and Utilising ELT Experts
As the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa has the lion’s share of ELT experts in the
country. The Department of Foreign Languages and Literature of Addis Ababa
University alone has a dozen PhD holders in ELT. Other colleges like Kotebe College of
Teacher Education, Addis Ababa Commercial College, Unity College/University and St.
Mary’s College all have well-qualified ELT experts.
Unfortunately, there is no formal mechanism by which these experts can channel their
expertise into primary and secondary schools. Most of them have spare time, which they
spend doing extra teaching and other language related jobs to supplement their incomes.
However, a lot of these jobs do not require expertise in ELT and could as easily be done
by English teachers with their first degrees. If these experts could be paid a reasonable
sum of money proportionate to what they could get teaching part-time classes elsewhere,
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they would definitely prefer to provide support to the teaching in primary and secondary
They could spend a day in the schools every week providing technical support, as well as
conducting research on and monitoring the ESDP. The existence of such experts in
school would overcome the dilemma teachers have over supervisors, who are there to
evaluate and support them. Despite the fact that supervisor visits are rare, they usually
lack both credibility and expertise to give the teachers tangible support. Moreover, it is
not practical to expect the teachers to discuss their own weaknesses with a supervisor
who ultimately will be evaluating them.
Therefore, having one expert supporting one or two schools could provide the teachers
with recent knowledge and support, develop strong relationships between schools and
higher institutions of learning, and even increase the experts’ opportunities to ground
their research firmly in the reality of the schools. Promoting Literacy
In many Western countries, literacy is a part of the students’ every day lives. This is more
so for students from the middle class, whose day starts with their fathers reading the
morning papers. Then if they go by bus they have to read the bus timetable at the busstop and probably see someone reading a book on the ride to school. The announcements
on the notice-boards at school, are yet another example of the benefits of literacy
apparent through out the day.
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In African countries, however, the exchange of information in social life tends to revolve
around oracy. The village crier starts the day by announcing deaths and funerals and the
walk to school is done talking with a friend. Even at the schools, the diagrammes and
maps painted on the classroom walls, tend to invite their meaningless memorisation
rather than active reading and understanding as they usually do not change for the twelve
years the student is at school. This is more so in rural areas, where the basic materials for
preparing reading materials like poster paper and pens are both scarce and expensive.
Countries like Zimbabwe are actively trying to promote literacy and not only have
reading weeks in the country, but actually have mobile libraries with books taken on
donkey drawn carts into remote villages. Other countries have reading weeks and other
similar occasions to promote literacy. Following the massive literacy campaigns
conducted under the last Ethiopian government, not much is being done to promote
literacy in Ethiopia nowadays. Individual efforts like Alliance Francaises’ “Lire Fete” are
only drops of water on a desert and much more has to be done in this respect.
6.3.2 Recommendations for Further Studies on Reading
The call for more research and analysis of most theses has probably become a wellknown feature of the landscape. Nevertheless, it is a necessary request. The World Bank
(1999:26) has stressed that there is a strong and consistent link between good analytic
work and high quality projects. It states that as staff are over-worked, analytic work tends
to get ignored. It says that clear thinking about how best to improve educational
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outcomes is what is necessary, rather than lengthy reports. Despite this, there has been a
decline in the World Bank’s role in research. Therefore, there is great potential for
encouraging the academic community to undertake relevant research.
In Ethiopia, on the whole, as discussed in the review of Ethiopian literature, there are
hardly any significant studies of students’ ability in English at primary level, except for
the Ethiopian National Baseline Assessment. In order to ground all practices firmly in
empirical research and findings, numerous studies have to be carried out in reading.
Simply duplicating studies conducted abroad and seeing if they hold true to the Ethiopian
situation, is probably one of the easiest steps that could be taken by researchers. Other
areas include minimal threshold levels necessary to read, the effect of Ethiopian stories in
English on the students’ reading comprehension, ways to modify attitudes towards
reading, and differences in reading and reading habits between students at government
and private schools.
The Centre for Women in Development (Certwid) at Addis Ababa University is amassing
a significant number of studies in gender issues, simply by offering a token grant for
undergraduate students and a reasonable grant for post-graduate students to carry out
their dissertation research on gender. There is a good case for both the Institute for
Educational Research and the Institute for Language Studies at Addis Ababa University
to follow Certwid’s example and offer grants for areas of interest, such as reading.
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
From this thesis alone, several interesting topics could be derived for further
investigation. The first could be a comparative assessment of English reading skills in
government and private schools. If, as the validation of the EPER reading test has
suggested, there is such a difference, then studies could be conducted to see what aspects
and features differ in government and private schools that lead to this difference in
English. Such studies could focus on the threshold levels necessary for activating
students’ reading abilities in English. The second major area for further research is an
intensive study of what reading skills and strategies primary students use to read. If the
students are literate in their mother tongue, then an interactive compensatory approach
would prove indispensable in studying their reading habits. Thirdly, the relation between
reading methodology courses in teacher training institutions and their effects on the
actual teacher’s behaviour is yet another fertile ground for exploration.
In fact, it is possible to say that the whole area of reading in English at the primary level
is a goldmine waiting to be discovered. Three fields that could be looked into are the
areas of cultural familiarity and reading, difficulties of language or reading, and minimal
English threshold levels.
While some researchers dismiss the idea that cultural unfamiliarity can pose an
insurmountable obstacle to reading (Duff and Maley, 1991:7), others call for culturally
familiar stories to enhance the reading circle. Ethiopian researchers have also questioned
the cultural appropriateness of using foreign readers in the past (Gebeyehu, Getachew
and Tesfaye, 1992:16).
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Nevertheless, some projects are coming up with stories that are familiar to Ethiopian
students. Investigating if these books do in fact enhance the students’ understanding is a
worthwhile area. Other research done into students’ schema and their effect on their
reading comprehension, provide the necessary starting point. In fact, the researcher is
currently trying to study this aspect with a teacher training institute by providing
Ethiopian stories in English to fourteen schools. However, the funds for purchasing and
providing the books to the schools is proving to be the main stumbling block.
It is also necessary to investigate whether Ethiopian students actually have the necessary
reading skills in their mother tongue or other local media of instruction. If they do not
have the necessary reading skills in any language, then it is pointless to try to teach them
to read in English. Instead, serious studies will have to be conducted focussing on how to
help them transfer from an oral approach to education to one based on literacy.
Provided that the students are sufficiently literate in another language, then investigations
should be conducted into what minimum thresholds in English are required for students
to start reading in it. For an extensive reading programme to be successful, students have
to be familiar with most of the words being used in the stories. Therefore, what levels of
English are necessary could well be investigated. Along with this, the readability of the
existing English language textbooks and their correspondence with the students’ reading
skills need to be researched into.
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On the whole, there is no shortage of areas to be researched, but rather the need to
conduct intensive research and then to ensure that the findings are acted upon.
6.4 Revisiting the Primary Reader Scheme
Actually implementing real-life projects is much more difficult than conducting pilot studies
and experiments in a controlled setting, where the variables are manipulated. What has
transpired in the previous chapter, does in no way detract from the praiseworthy effort of the
British Council to inculcate and enhance reading skills in primary students. Having
reviewed various studies, Elley (1996:53) states:
… the difference in school literacy levels between developed and developing
nations is substantial … much of this difference is attributable to a dearth of
reading resources and literacy traditions in developing countries. …
education systems could do much more by supplying large quantities of
suitable library books to schools and by developing programs that encourage
students to read often and enjoy them.
So the PRS is definitely an appropriate project in the right direction. However, it would be
wrong to pretend the project is a complete success and neglect the opportunity of developing
and learning from it. This section suggests specific actions on how to build upon and expand
the Primary Reader Scheme. It begins with the selection and production of appropriate
primary readers, moves on to the training of teachers, librarians and school administrators,
and concludes by examining possibilities for synchronising various projects within the
British Council and the education arena at large. It will review the PRS in light of the
necessary factors in running reading schemes that were described in the review of literature
in Chapter Three.
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6.4.1. Provision
As has been discussed, the actual provision of supplementary readers is the first step in any
reading scheme. Greaney (1996:25) states that “supplementary reading materials that meet
students’ interests are rarely found in classrooms in developing countries”. The PRS was
successful in the initial provision of books to the schools, ensuring that they actually reached
the schools without unnecessary delays. However, what has been neglected is how these
books can be replaced if lost or damaged. The British Council has to make replacement
copies available at minimal costs to encourage the actual use of the readers, as fear of the
lack of replacements is inhibiting their use. Admittedly, this will not only involve the routine
processes of importing the books, but will also involve renegotiating its agreement with the
Ethiopian government to allow cost-recovery sales of books.
A second point that has to be revised is the selection of titles. Apparently, the actual
preferences of the students have not yet been adequately studied. What occurred in the
original evaluative workshop now appears to have been more a reflection of what the
teachers thought was appropriate. Hill (1997:62) estimates that only 1% of international
readers currently in print are set in Africa. This is not necessarily to say that readers set in
Africa are more appropriate. However, moving from the known to the unknown is a basic
principle in teaching methodology. Oliveira (1996:88) explains, “Relevant reading materials
about places and people with whom children can identify help make children interested and
enthusiastic about reading”. In fact, when the PRS commenced there was only one
Ethiopian supplementary reader in English, which had gone out of print. Currently, there are
over thirty, a large number of which the British Council itself has produced under the ESSE
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project. However, readers produced for one region are not currently being distributed to
other regions and there is no synchronising between the ESSE and the PRS. More attention
must be paid to the attractiveness of the ESSE readers because readers are invariably chosen
by children more for their length and their appearance than any other factor (Hill, 1997:65).
In fact, one of the librarians said that the students picked up, then put down the ESSE
readers on finding that they did not have coloured illustrations. The attractiveness could be
improved by using better quality paper and using coloured illustrations. Although improving
the appearance would raise costs, Hill (1997:66) warns that the transient joy of the
accountants in saving a few pounds may lead to certain misery for the learner who throws an
unattractive reader away in despair. In the final analysis, however, the selection of what are
appropriate readers must be based on the actual borrowing/reading patterns of the students
themselves. Such observations of borrowing/reading patterns have been carried out at the
secondary level for the Bulk Loan Scheme run by the British Council and should be
replicated for the PRS. The different regions might possibly come up with preferences for
different titles, which should be considered in providing them with additional readers.
6.4.2. Access
Access has proven to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks of the PRS. The difficulty
caused owing to the lack of replacements has been discussed above. The lack of library size
and space was also pertinent. However, the Ethiopian Social Rehabilitation and
Development Fund (ESRDF) has over the past few years been involved in constructing new
classrooms and a library for primary schools nation-wide. One of the schools observed
already had a new block of building constructed by the ESRDF, another was constructing a
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new building with the assistance of Plan International, and a third clearing a site for
construction with funds from the ESRDF. The British Council is in an ideal position to
ensure that these libraries have a minimal stock of supplementary readers that are accessible
to the students. Workshops could be held for librarians, schools administrators and teachers
to convince them of the necessity that all students, especially those in the first cycle, must be
allowed free access to the libraries.
Visits to the libraries of private schools might be one method of overcoming the initial
resistance to innovation that is a common phenomenon. Almost all the government schools
in Addis Ababa have a private school within walking distance. Therefore, arranging such
visits should not incur significant costs.
6.4.3. Staffing
The Bulk Loan Scheme (BLS), which began prior to the PRS, was a success without the
British Council having to pay much attention to training either teachers or librarians. The
reasons for this were that it took place at the secondary level. Here students are more mature
and self-directing, and the books provided were directly related to the Ethiopian School
Leaving Certificate Examination, which all students have to sit and succeed in, if they are
going to have any sort of an academic future. Irrespective of the differences, it was assumed
that the PRS would also be a success by simply providing supplementary readers, as had
been done with the BLS. However, this was a wrong assumption because of several factors,
including the fact that librarians are not trained at the primary level, supplementary readers
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are not related to any examinations, and primary teachers especially are under-paid and tend
to be demotivated.
In addition to the provision of books, the PRS must include the components of training
teachers and librarians. Elley (1996:53) states that teachers, who have been introduced to the
potential value of good stories during in-service programmes, allow time for silent reading
and encourage students to read often. On the other hand, Read (1996:99) discovered that “A
high proportion of both trained and untrained teachers have no experience using
supplementary reading materials and trade books in the classroom”. Therefore, the British
Council should collaborate with teacher training institutions and colleges and introduce a
module on how to use supplementary readers.
Even before teacher-training programmes are modified, it is possible to give short
workshops for English teachers. English Teachers Network (ELTNET) could be a valuable
group to conduct such training, provided that they are themselves trained on how to use
supplementary readers. Tentative steps are being taken by the ELTNET, supported by the
British Council, to produce exercises for existing Ethiopian readers in English. However,
care should be taken because:
Whether these [comprehension questions] assist the process of reading or
enhance comprehension and appreciation is doubtful. … Such questions are
really controlling devices that turn reading books into a chore, largely
included in deference to teachers who want to test whether reading has been
done. (Hill, 1997:64)
In the long run, however, the recommendation that Greaney (1996:30) forwards for
developing countries is also applicable to Ethiopia. He states:
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The present general substandard level of teaching can be improved by
attracting better students for teacher training, enhancing salaries, providing
relevant preservice and inservice teacher training to meet the expressed
needs of the teachers, and regularly monitoring and evaluating teaching
performance in classrooms.
Regarding the training of librarians, the British Council is already giving short-term training
to librarians. Regrettably, this training is not linked with the PRS and when one of the
librarians from the pilot schools applied to attend a course, she was turned down owing to a
lack of funds. Unless the librarians are actively involved in the PRS and assist students to
chose appropriate books, then the scheme cannot be successful. It ought to be relatively
simple to allow librarians from schools involved in the PRS to attend summer courses with
minimal disruption to their work.
Fortunately, the government appears to have taken a renewed interested in building the
capacity building of staff and has run a three-week course for all teachers and librarians
nation-wide in July 2002. Such opportunities could be used by the British Council to follow
on with short courses, with minimal expense, because transport and other costs will already
by covered by the government. Greaney (1996:29) has some words of comfort from other
developing countries stating:
As national economies develop, governments are better able to divert
resources to health services, teachers salaries and training, school libraries,
and textbooks and supplementary reading material, and to restrict child labor
practices, all of which increase the likelihood that children will learn to read.
6.4.4. Promotion
There has to be active promoting of all supplementary readers to raise the awareness of
students, parents, teachers and librarians of the existence and usefulness of supplementary
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readers. Training the teachers and librarians will be a step in this direction, while they
themselves could produce posters and the like to promote the readers. The British Council
could also have various activities to promote the supplementary readers.
It is interesting to note that the Oxford University Press has had a launching in Addis Ababs
of the five Ethiopian readers it has produced and bright colourful posters were on display.
Such occasions do a lot to raise awareness. The Christian Relief and Development
Association (CRDA) celebrates the international literacy day annually. As CRDA is an
umbrella NGO with over 300 members, collaborating with them would not only introduce
the supplementary readers to a wider audience, but could possibly come up with sponsors
from the NGO sector to finance book donations and training.
In collaboration with Ethiopian Television, stories from various readers could be read for
children during children programmes, further increasing the awareness of students and their
parents. Modern bookstores are now experimenting with ‘reading mornings’. Even though
these tend to cater for the better off, the British Council could monitor these events and run
similar events in government schools involved in the PRS.
6.4.5. Parental Participation
Parental participation will definitely pose challenges to the PRS. Nevertheless, the
government curriculum is already suggesting ways in which teachers could use parents to
get involved in their children’s education. Teachers are advised to encourage students to
gather oral literature from their parents and write them up in class. Although this would take
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place in the mother tongue, it would be a start to involving parents. An interesting
development in 2002 was the publication of the first bi-lingual collection of Amharic and
English children’s stories by a group calling itself “Writers for Ethiopian Children”. If this
group lives up to its promises of producing more bi-lingual readers, then these could serve
as the ideal inter-face in the sharing of stories between parents and students.
The increasing role of parents in running government schools under the new education
policy can also be exploited to lure parents into the whole concept of extensive reading.
Although it is unlikely that Ethiopia will have the successful reading schemes with family
reading groups in the foreseeable future, simply having parents encouraging their children to
read can do much to ameliorate the present situation.
6.4.6. Reading with Friends
Anderson (1996:62) says that an average Grade 5 American student reads one million words
per year, while avid readers may read as much as five times this amount. The observations
made while visiting the schools indicate that Ethiopian students in government schools
hardly read at all outside the classroom, except to do their homework. Consequently, the
British Council could attempt to build positive peer pressure to influence the students to
Two of the schools have what they call “reading clubs”; however, the doubtful duties of the
few members are body-searching other students leaving the library and helping the
librarians shelve the books. On the contrary, the HIV/AIDs club members are actively
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involved in disseminating information and the environmental club members arrange outings
to plant trees in collaboration with organisations like the Ethiopian Heritage Trust. The
relative vitality of the last two groups appears to stem from the support and attention they
get from various NGOs.
The British Council could seek ways to support the reading clubs and set them up in schools
where they do not exist. In the original evaluative workshop conducted in 1997, many of the
teachers had good ideas like having discussions about the stories, transforming them into
plays, and making colourful posters to advertise them. Other ideas could include giving
supplementary readers as awards to outstanding students, having a “star chart” on which the
titles of the readers are written and the students put a star against those they have read.
Collecting stories from their communities and writing them down could also prove a
valuable activity at the higher grades, preserving the disappearing oral traditions as a biproduct.
Thorpe (1988: 9-12) has discussed the pivotal role of peer pressure and if it could be made
to bear on the students to regard extensive reading as an exciting thing to do, then the
students just might get into the habit of reading. Once the habit is formed, providing a
sufficient amount and variety of readers will be the challenge. Therefore, the British Council
should investigate ways of how to encourage the students to read with their friends.
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6.4.7. Others
The British Council is actively involved in several projects in the Education sector and has
built itself a good reputation across the country. However, it should take measures to ensure
that the various projects do not go their separate ways with little linkage and co-ordination
with each other. Harmonising and synchronising the projects could easily create a synergy
and have a greater impact than any one of the projects could have individually. Some
preliminary steps that could be taken to further strengthen the PRS follow.
To begin with the ELTNET, English teachers have set up a nation-wide network and have
even managed to publish a newsletter. If this newsletter is published regularly, then it could
devote a column to extensive reading. As mention earlier, ELTNET could provide a cadre of
professionals who could conduct training for many of the teachers in primary schools. This
is a valuable core group that could easily be guided and assisted to act as the backbone of
training for ELT.
Secondly, the ESSE project is only using one British author and one Ethiopian illustrator. A
lot could be done to build the capacity of the local publishing capacity by training authors,
illustrators, designers and the like. Durand and Deehy (1996:167) remind us that “there is a
symbiotic relationship between donor and recipients, and together they must strive toward
the development of a mutually supportive rapport”. Walter (1996:144) advocates the use of
local authors, while Durand and Deehy (1996:169) see the role of book donations as being
one of complementing the local publishing industry and fulfilling the urgent gaps in book
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supply. The whole issue of book distribution and marketing is another area, where the
British Council might consider developing.
Thirdly, the “Women to Women” gender project initially started by training a group of ten
women to write stories for children, but then transformed into a magazine. Women have
been encouraged to produce a creative story in various issues. A collection of these stories
could easily be compiled into a supplementary reader to be included in the PRS list.
Fourthly, the British Council has been supporting under-graduate and post-graduate
programmes in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at Addis Ababa
University for decades. However, no serious attempts have been made to encourage
researchers to research and evaluate projects run by the British Council. A small grant along
with a list of possible areas the British Council would like to have researched could provide
an annual flow of research that could provide an invaluable objective source of feedback on
British Council activities.
Finally, there are numerous projects for which British Council staff have to go on field trips.
The library staff, in particular, often go to schools to ensure the BLS is functioning. If all
staff could find space in their schedules to drop into schools involved in the PRS, this would
encourage the schools to come up with varied innovative practices to show for the next visit.
This is especially important, as many of the primary teachers feel neglected and
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To conclude, the British Council must not see the PRS as a completed project and let inertia
settle in. Instead, it should constantly review the project and ensure that the funds that have
gone into the project are having the influence that they were intended to have. The PRS
should not be shelved now that the donors have got a report on how their funds have been
spent, but it should be built upon and expanded into a vibrant sustainable project.
6.5 General Societal Implications
The World Bank (1999:42) is urging:
Education Network staff need to work with clients to seize the opportunities
this initiative presents for education, and to monitor HIPCs’ progress closely
to ensure that benefits from the initiative are indeed going to the poorest, in
terms of improved access to quality basic education services.
It has been argued that “Most African countries have during the last two decades failed to
produce a competent elite capable enough of negotiating with donors,” (Tekeste Negash,
1996), so the designing of a truly Ethiopian PRSP requires the widest participation
possible. The pressure and influence of external donors to pressurise Ethiopia into
including items on their agenda is great. As a participant in the team that formulated the
ESDP commented, “The World Bank’s role is always going to be pivotal in an
experience like this: they have the most money, the most intellectual resources and the
most influence,” (Martin et al 2000:38).
Nevertheless, community participation is a must for ensuring that quality education is
given. Parents and the community are seen as providing an indispensable element in the
education process, they are the ones to ensure that children come to school healthy, fed
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and ready to learn. They usually provide financial or material support to the school in one
form or another. If given the chance they can effectively participate in school governance
and even by assisting in the instruction. At the primary level especially, the parents can
be considered as the indirect or even direct beneficiaries of the school. Therefore,
although they cannot be forced to participate, everything possible must be done to
encourage them to take an active role in educating their children.
In the original ESDP greater emphasis had been placed on access to education rather than
quality. However, since that time, even the World Bank (1999:25) has realised the defects
in such an approach and is talking about a changing focus from constructing and
equipping buildings to curriculum reform, technological innovation, language of
instruction, teacher labour reform and management decentralisation. There is a renewed
call stating that access is only the beginning and that quality is the key to a successful
education system.
Perhaps it would be fitting to finish this thesis with two quotations. One from the World
Bank (1999:6) on the goal of Education says:
The long-term goal for education should be nothing less than to ensure
that all people everywhere have the opportunity to (1) complete a primary
and lower secondary education of at least adequate quality, (2) acquire
essential skills to survive and thrive in a globalizing economy, (3) benefit
from the contributions that education makes to social development, and
(4) enjoy the richness of human experience that education makes possible.
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The other is from Greaney (1996:32), who after studying extensive reading in developing
countries concluded by saying:
Persistent, focused, informed programs; courageous leadership; good
management of limited resources; and informed enthusiastic teaching are required
if we are to achieve the long-term goal of helping children in developing countries
learn to read. When this goal is realized, these children will have access to new
sources of knowledge, insights and pleasure that can help illuminate and change
the quality of their lives.
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Appendix 1: Kachru’s Concentric Circles of World Englishes (Kachru 1985)
1. Inner Circle = English is a primary language and the country is norm-providing. E.g.
Australia, United Kingdom and USA
2. Outer Circle = English is one of the two or more official languages and has an
extended functional range of usage in the society, which tends to be norm-developing.
E.g. India, Kenya and Zambia.
3. Expanding Circle = English is an international language only and is norm-dependant.
E.g. China, Israel and USSR.
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Appendix 2: Titles Selected As Top Choices
11. Worth a Fortune
1. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
12. People and Things
2. Aladdin and his Magic Lamp
3. The World Around Us
4. Animal Tales
1. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
5. Animal Friends
2. Aladdin and His Magic Lamp
6. Dangerous Game
3. The Prisoners
7. King Solomon’s Mines
4. At the Zoo
8. The Terrorists Attack
5. Animal Friends
9. Exploring our World
6.Lost and Found
10.Things Fall Apart
7.The Stranger
11. Island of the Volcanoes
8.The Man in the Big Car
12. Inspector Holt: The Bridge
9. The Magic Barber
13. Tales from the Arabian Nights
10.There was an Old Woman
14. On the Road
15 The Bird and the Bread
12.Rich Man - Poor Man
16. Girl Against Jungle
13. Going it Alone
14. Four Short Stories
15 Car Thieves
1. The Magic Garden
16. On the Road
2. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
17. The Bird and the Bread
3. Professor Boffin’s Umbrella
18. The Fox and the Stork/The Bird and
4. The Queen of Death
the Glass
5. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
19. The Boy and the Donkey
6. Aladdin and His Magic Lamp
20. Four Clever People
7. The World Around Us
8. King Solomon’s Mines
Entoto Amba
9.The Stranger
1. Aladdin and His Magic Lamp
10. Tales from the Arabian Nights
2. Treasure Island
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3. Thirty Nine Steps
14. Adventures of Sinbad
4. Old Macdonald’s Farm
15. Treasure Island
5 King Solomon’s Mines
16. David Copperfield
17. Silas Mariner
18. Kidnapped
1. Shane Jack
19. Animal Farm
2. Things Fall Apart
20. Dangerous Journey
3. Seven Stories
21. King Solomon’s Mines
4. Down the River
22. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
5. Meet Me In Istanbul
23. Girl against Jungle
6. Inspector Holt
24. Shane
7. The Stranger
25. In the Beginning
8. Alissa
26. Chinese Necklace
9. On the Road
27. Operation Mastermind
10. Adventure Story
28. Old Mali and the Boy
11. Tales from Arabian Nights
29. Queen of Death
12. Aladdin and His Magic Lamp
30. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
13. The Adventure of Lila
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Appendix 3: Questionnaire on the Effect of Primary English Readers on Reading
Skills in Ethiopia
Dear Colleagues,
I am doing some research on the Effect of Primary English Readers on Reading
Skills in Ethiopia and I would greatly appreciate your frank responses in filling out
this questionnaire.
Thank you,
Name (optional) __________________________
Educational Qualification __________________
Years of Experience _______________________
1. How do you regard the variety of English supplementary readers in the school?
a) Extremely varied
b) Sufficiently varied
d) Not varied
c) Insufficiently varied
e) Insufficient opportunity to observe
2. How do you regard the quantity of the existing supplementary readers in the
a) Extremely sufficient
d) Only single copies
b) Sufficient
c) Insufficient
e) Insufficient opportunity to observe
3. To what extent do you feel supplementary reading contributes to the students mastery
of English?
a) Extremely
b) A lot
c) As much as other language activities
d) Not much
e) ) Insufficient opportunity to observe
4. What percentage of Grade Eight students read the readers for pleasure outside class?
a) 0 – 35 %
b) 36 – 70%
c) 71 – 100% d) Insufficient opportunity to observe
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5. What percentage of Grade Eight students are able to read well in English?
a) 0 – 35 %
b) 36 – 70%
c) 71 – 100% d) Insufficient opportunity to observe
6. Do the librarians help the children in selecting appropriate readers?
a) Always
b) Often
c) Sometimes
d) Never
e) Insuffient opportunity to observe
7. Do the teachers help the children in selecting appropriate readers?
a) Always
b) Often
d) Never
e) Insuffient opportunity to observe
c) Sometimes
How often do English teachers use supplementary readers to supplement the
a) 0 – 35 %
b) 36 – 70%
c) 71 – 100% d) Insufficient opportunity to observe
9. Which two titles do you regards as most appropriate for Grade Eight students?
a) ___________________________________________________________________
b) ___________________________________________________________________
10. Which two titles do you regard as least appropriate for Grade Eight students?
a) ___________________________________________________________________
b) ___________________________________________________________________
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Please tick the following aspects of the library as convenient to students where
A=Excellent, B=Good, C= Satisfactory, D=Unsatisfactory and E= Insufficient
opportunity to observe
11. Opening Hours
12. Amount of relevant materials
13. Number of tables
14. Number of chairs
15. Size
16. Ambience
17. Access to books
18. Borrowing Facilities
19. Promotion of Books
20. Situation and access to library
Please add any other information you feel relevant to the study
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Appendix 4: Discussion Questions on the Effect of
Primary English Readers on Reading Skills in Ethiopia
Dear Colleagues,
As you know, I am doing some research on the Effect of Primary English Readers
on Reading Skills in Ethiopia. I would greatly appreciate your discussing the
following issues in groups and giving me your responses in writing.
Thank you,
Name of School __________________________
1. What are the factors that hinder students from using the supplementary English
readers in the library?
2. What sort of background encourages students to develop an interest in reading?
3. What sorts of factors discourage teachers from using Supplementary English readers?
4. How do students and their friends perceive supplementary reading?
5. What other issues facilitates or hinders the use of supplementary readers?
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Appendix 5: EPER Notes for Users and Score Guide
Notes for Users
1. Range of levels
Test A is one of 5 parallel tests which have been designed to measure a complete range of
English language proficiency.
2. Use of the test
EPER offers these 5 tests primarily as Placement Tests within an extensive reading
programme organised according to EPER reading levels. Scores are matched against the
EPER levels and test performance indicates a student's entry level into the reading
These tests should not be used to measure progress within a reading programme. This is
because a test of general proficiency will not always reflect specific progress in reading
These tests are strongly recommended, however, as tests of general proficiency. Different
versions, administered at suitable intervals throughout a course, will give an accurate
picture of the progress made by each student.
3. Marking the test
It is very important to accept only the answers on the Marking Key, (even if you can
think of other correct answers), otherwise you will get an inaccurate reading of the
students' levels, since the test validation applies only when this Marking Key is used.
When marking, the easiest way is to place the Marking Key on top of the student's
Answer Sheet. First, mark the left hand column of answers with the Marking Key to the
right of that column, then mark the right hand column of answers with the Marking Key
to the left of that column.
4. Using the Scores Guide
The Scores Guide at the back of this User's Guide indicates which EPER reading level is
most suitable for a student.
5. Using the Standard Scores
With this Guide, you have received Test A. However, there are four other tests also
available. The scores for each of the five different tests (A, 8, C, D and E) are calculated
on to a common scale. This is called the Standard Score and equivalent Standard Scores
are given in the Scores Guide for each possible score on test A. This means that, should
you wish to use two different tests (for example you might use Test A at the beginning of
the year and Test B at the end of the year), you can make a direct comparison between
the results simply by using the Standard Scores.
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
6. Confidentiality and Security
This test is strictly confidential. Under no circumstances should students be told the
answers to the questions. If the answers become known to students, then the test cannot
be used again.
To ensure the security of the test, these steps should be taken:
a) Keep the Question Papers and the Marking Keys under lock and key when they are not
being used.
b) Number all the Question Papers, Marking Keys and Answer Sheets and use these
numbers when issuing papers to teachers and when checking them on return.
c) Collect all the Question Papers from the students, making sure that the Same number
are returned as were handed out
d) Collect all the Answer Sheets from the students.
e) Do NOT return the Answer Sheets to the students after they have been marked and do
NOT discuss the answers with the students. When the marks have been safely recorded,
BURN the Answer Sheets.
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Appendix 6: EPER Letter of Permission to Use Placement Test
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Appendix 7: Scores on the EPER Placement Test by Treated Group
Abdurazak Negash
Abeba Mezengia
Abebaw Tekle-Markos M
Abebayhu Tafesse
Abebe Bejiga
Abebe Negash
Aberash Akalu
Abiot Asamenew
Abraham Admasu
Abraham Alemayehu M
Abyiot Adane
Adane Wondimu
Adanech Bekele
Aklilu Teklu
Albem Demsa
Alem Mulushewa
Alemitu Asres
Alemnesh Moges
Alemtsehay Negussie F
Amare Neka
Amredin Kemal
Antene Getachew
Anteneh Mekonen
Asanafe Molla
Asegedech Gattu
Asfaw Alemu
Askale Shewa
Asnake Beferdu
Asnaku Kebede
Asres Deme
Assefa Gasolo
Atsede Terefe
Ayelech Daba
Aynalem Ankala
Aynalem Debela
Azalech Eshetu
Banehalem Mitiku
Bate GebreMedhin
Bayush Mekuria
Bedelu Dessa
Behailu Zewde
Standard Score
Reading Level
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Bekelech Kefelegn
Bereket Abebe
Bereket Tufis
Berhana Melo
Berihun Tesfaye
Bethelehem Belay
Bethelehem Berhanu
Bethelehem Getachew
Bethelem Guta
Bethlehem Belayneh
Bethlehem Bogale
Bethlehem Degfu
Bezaneish Gblae
Biniyam Abera
Biniyam Negussie
Birtukan X
Bizu Kuma
Bizuayehu Habte
Bruktawit Anbessie
Dagmawit Alemayehu
Daniel Getachew
Daniel Haile
Daniel Jote
Daniel Mekonen
Daniel Sengo
Daremyelesh Lebarge
Dawit Debashu
Dawit Lemma
Dejene Gemechu
Derege Girma
Derege Kebede
Deressa Wodajo
Deribework Asrate
Efrem Amsalu
Elleni Fisseha
Elsa Almey
Elsabet Derege
Elsabet Shume
Emebet Wondimu
Endalkachew Tekle
Endalu Adadu
Endweich Werke
Ephrem Assefa
Eshetu Abebe
Eskale Ejigu
Eskedar Abraham
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Etaferahu Birru
Etalem Abebe
Etemolye Menda
Eweal Getaneh
Eyob Sebsibe
Fanos Bogale
Fasika Endale
Fekadu Bedada
Fekadu Habte
Fekeret Demea
Felegush Siemeneh
Fikete Tegegne
Fikru Tesfaye
Frehiwot Tesfaye
Gemechis Bulti
Geremew Seraw
Getahun Tassew
Getinet Alemayehu
Getu Taye
Gezahegn Fekadu
Girma Tola
Gizenesh Girma
Habtamu Girmu
Hadas Welay
Haileyesus Taddesse
Haimanot Mideksa
Haimanot Sewaso
Hana Hailu
Hanna Mekonnen
Hanna Melese
Hanna Tefekefegne
Henok Hailu
Henok Mekonen
Henok WoldeMichael
Hewan Girma
Hirut Mammo
Hirut Tesfaye
Hiwot Ayalew
Hiwot Tadesse
Hiwot Tekle
Homa Mulisa
Jemanesh Melkasa
Jemila Siyar
Jerusalem Yitayew
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Kasech Reta
Kassahun Mekonen
Kassahun Shewa
Kebede Gesges
Kedir Kassahun
Ketema Fekadu
Kidist Gemechu
Kidus Esayas
Lidya Amaha
Mahilet Tesfaye
Mahlet Yohannes
Marta Eshetu
Marta Gebre-Meskel
Marta Legesse
Marta Lulseged
Matewos Girma
Mehammed Adem
Mehiret Melkamu
Menbere Shiferaw
Mentesinot Wendimu
Menwar Ahmed
Merima Mohammed
Mesay Yetimgeta
Mesele Melaku
Meseret Hailemariam
Meseret Nigus
Meskerem Abebe
Meskerem Mitiku
Messeret Shiferaw
Micele Getachew
Michael Wolde
Mihirtab Zewdu
Million Demessie
Minweyelet Berhanu
Misrak Aklilu
Mohammed Seid
Muluken Manaye
Natnael Andarge
Nebiyu Fanta
Nuria Kassahun
Nuru Hussein
Ousman Nuru
Rahima Ibrahim
Robel Abera
Saba Shiferaw
Samson Aweke
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Samuel Haile-Yesus
Seble Gemechu
Seble Taye
Seblewerk Amsalu
Seid Bedru
Selam Goshu
Selamawit Geresu
Selamawit Mossissa
Selamdengel Demsay
Selamnesh Sulu
Semera Muzmil
Semir Nesru
Semira Asfaw
Semira Shkur
Senait Hadgu
Senait Lutle
Serkalem Aweke
Shegitu Bulcha
Sinidu Abebe
Sintayehu Felege
Sintayehu Kebede
Sintayehu Tesfaye
Sirgut Yohannes
Sisay Debele
Sisay Sahle
Solomon Hailu
Tagel Mada
Tariku Benti
Tariku Kibret
Tedla Yeshitila
Tekalegn Tola
Tekalign Bezuneh
Temesgen Guade
Tesfa Kebede
Tewdady Abebe
Tewdros Getitnet
Tewdros Kassahun
Tewodros Shimelis
Tigist Birru
Tigist Boke
Tigist Gashaw
Tigist Tesfaye
Tigist Tsegaw
Tilahun Damtew
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Tsedale Bante
Tsedale Befekadu
Tsega Mulugeta
Tsige Bizuneh
Tsige GebreMedhin
Tsion Berga
Wakgira Lemma
Werknesh Teshome
Weyneshet Abebe
Weyneshet Ada
Weynishet Mulugeta F
Woldu Mekonnen
Worku Agama
Yaltayework Deneke F
Yenemelk Amare
Yenenesh Wakjira
Yergalem Mesfin
Yeshi Beyene
Yeterulek Aerga
Yigrem Zewdu
Yohannes Negussie
Yohannsha Takele
Yonas Bekele
Yosef GebreEgziabher M
Zebiba Shikur
Zelalem Fenta
Zelalem Molla
Zemzem Mohammed F
Zemzem Shefa
1.194E-06 1.12642E-05
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Appendix 8 : Scores on the EPER Placement Test by Untreated Students
Scores on the EPER Placement Test by Untreated Students
Abeba Debebe
Abebaw Gizaw
Aberash Moges
Abey Getachew
Abi Gezahegn
Abraham Amha
Abraham Teferi
Adane Mammo
Adane Worku
Addis Agegnehu
Addisalem Assefa
AddisAlem Layke
Addisu Tena
Aedom Abera
Agardech Bashaw
Alem Asne
Alemayehu Amare
Alemtaye Tena
Alemu Mesfin
Almaz Getachew
Amaha Asmelash
Aman Muzeyen
Amsal Glana
Andualem Masresha
Ashanafi Getachew
Asresashe Teshome
Ayelech Tegegne
Azmera Takelezere
Bashehe Endale
Beiza Tesfaye
Belay Mulat
Belaynesh Ketema
Berhane Shewandagne
Berhanu Ayele
Beruk Fisseha
Besrat Mengistu
Bethelhem Kebede
Bethlehem Assefa
Bethlehem Fekadu
Standard Score
Reading Level
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Bethlehem Gidey
Bethlehem Teffera
Bethlehem X
Beza Legesse
Bezawit Seyoum
Biniyam Lakew
Biniyam Tekalign
Biniyam Tilahun
Biruk Tadesse
Bisevio Tefferi
Dagmawe Tsegaye
Dagmawi Teshome
Dagme Tebebu
Dagnachew Geremew
Daniel Tadesse
Daniel Tsegaye
Dejene Gemeda
Delil Hassen
Derege Hailu
Edget Beyene
Egegu Tizazu
Elsabet Debebe
Emebet X
Enane Muheye
Ermias Goshu
Esgnaye Tiruneh
Etagu GebreYohannes
Etenesh GebreMaraim
Eyerusalem Solomon
Fasika Ashebere
Faven Nigatu
Firehiwot Aregaw
Firehiwot Solomon
Fireweini Girum
Fisseha X
Fitsume X
Genet Ayele
Genet Bekele
Genet Hassun
Girum Zegeye
Gizaw Berhanu
HaileMichael Gebru
University of Pretoria etd – Ambatchew, M D (2003)
Hailu Mekonnen
Hailu Urgaecha
Haimanot Temesgen
Hana Negash
Hana Tafesse
Haregwein Aschenaki
Hashim Waba
Helen Kebere
Henok Belay
Henok Getachew
Hilina Terefe
Hiwot Tamene
Jemanesh Demissie
Kalikidan Solomon
Kebreab Endale
Khalid Amhedine
Kidane Alemu
Kidist Gudeta
KinefeMichael Tiruneh
Kinfe Asmamaw
KinfeMichael Tsegaye
KinfeMIchael Yilma
Koinget X
Kokebe Kebede
Kumelachew Bogale
Lakech GebreMeskel
Ledate Zerihun
Legawork Yimer
Lehasab Damtew
Leyouwork Berhanu
Lina Tesfaye
Lishane Tadesse
Mahilet Workie
Mahlet Kebede
Mahlet Shiferaw
Mahlet Tekle
Mariamawit Taye
Marta Haile
Mekdes Sahle
Mekdes Tadesse
Mekdes Teshome
Melaku Nigussie
Melat Admassu
Meron Getachew
Meron Zerihun
Meskerem Jemaneh
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Meskerem Worku
Messeret Amaha
Mikial Ambatchew
Mikias Taye
Mila Tesfaye
Million Mergia
Muluken Tadesse
Muluwerk Yeshaw
Nebiyou Seyoum
Nebiyou Tafere
Nebiyu Merid
Negsti Tadesse
Nigist Addis
Rahel Wondimagen
Rebka Tegas
Robel Gidey
Roman Tegegn
Saba Mergia
Saba Solomon
Sadet Yemame
Samuel Tadesse
Seife Abebe
Selamawit Solomon
Selenay Bireuen
Seleshi Maloro
Seniesh X
Sennait Moges
Sennait Takele
Serawit Tiruneh
Shewangizaw Muleta
Shewarege Haile
Shimelis Tadesse
Siefu Kumele
Simret Abebe
Sintayehu Goshu
Sintayehu Nigusu
Sissay Berhanu
Surafel Zewdu
Tarik Eshetu
Tariku Amare
Tariku Balch
Taytu Workineh
Temesgen X
Tenaye Bekele
Tezeru Haile
Tibebu Tadese
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Tigist Ababu
Tigist Getachew
Tigist Habte
Tigist Mammo
Tigist Mammo
Tirusew Bizuneh
Tizita Girma
Tsedale Tenkir
Tsefaye Girma
Tsion Habtu
Washiun Kebede
Wesenyelesh Yemame
Weyneshet Lemma
Weynishet Bekele
Wondwessen Mulat
Workineh Mammushet
Yared Wolde
Yenesh Mekuria
Yergalem Alemu
Yeshak Kebede
Yeshi Degsew
Yonas Deres
Yonas Lulseged
Yoseph X
Zelalem X
Zelalem X
Zerihun Fekade
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NB: Ethiopians do not use surnames. Therefore for publications within Ethiopia the usual
style is that their name and their father’s name is given. However, for works published
abroad, their father’s or grandfather’s names are usually assumed to be surnames, so it is
common to have the same person referred to differently due to this inversion of names.
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