Reaching out. The place of Small Multi-Grade Schools in Developing Countries: The Case of Ethiopia.

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Reaching out. The place of Small Multi-Grade Schools in Developing Countries: The Case of Ethiopia.

 

Authors: Karl Jan Solstad, Wanna Leka and Alan Sigsworth

2012 Paperback. 250 pages. Prices (incl. postage): US$ 30; EUR 25; GBP 20; NOK 200; ETHB 60 (for Ethiopian customers only)

ISBN 978-99944-993-5-9

Publisher: Image Printers, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

 

Book details:

The main title highlights a major and important obstacle to reaching the generally agreed upon EFA goal by 2015. In many developing countries, not the least in sub-Saharan Africa, where the majority of people live in rural areas with poorly developed infrastructure for school transportation, the tradition of providing relatively large primary schools actually renders school enrolment or regular school attendance impossible for large numbers of school age children, especially girls. Thus, education does not “reach out” to many children.

 

The sub-title sets the scene; when children are unable to reach the school, the school provision must be organized in such a way that basic education reaches the children. The logical solution in sparsely populated areas is to establish networks of small school within reach by a school walk of not more than two-three km. Economically and practically such schools inevitably need to be small one- or two-teacher schools applying multi-grade teaching.

 

During the first three chapters we present a short account of the multi-grade scene, past and present, in industrialised as well as in developing countries, before discussing current conceptions of why literacy and basic education are so vital both from an individual and societal perspective. The point is made that not all elementary schooling is of great value; necessarily it must stimulate learning generally and foster independence, democratic skills and entrepreneurial attitudes among the learners. The education provided needs to be of quality. During the next three chapters we portray the features of quality small multi-grade schools serving small rural communities. The “ideal” features are based on extensive research and literature studies on rural education which are then translated jnto a project proposal for the UNESCO and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. The remaining three chapters, which make up the major part of the book, are devoted to the presentation and discussion of empirical data from internal and external evaluations connected to a follow-up of several multi-grade schools and their communities in rural Ethiopia. The findings strongly indicate that by locating small schools near the pupils homes, by necessity employing multi.-grade teaching strategies, school enrolment may be greatly boosted, especially for girls, without in any way impairing the quality of the education offered.

 

Whilst the focus is upon Ethiopia, the target country for the multi-grade set up and evaluation, the findings and conclusions are seen as generalisable for developing countries, and particularly so for sub-Saharan African countries.

 

 

Reaching out – The place of Small Multi-Grade Schools in Developing Countries: The Case of Ethiopia. The book first clarifies the reasons why universal schooling is a must if social, political and economic development is likely to occur in poor, predominantly rural, developing countries. The point is made that the quality of the education offered is as important as the mere provision. As part of a UNESCO/Norwegian initiative for a large scale development project in sub-Saharan countries, an outline of high quality multi-grade schools to reach children, especially girls, in sparsely populated areas of developing countries was formulated. Although the planned large-scale development programme never materialised, the project ideas were sought implemented in several Ethiopian rural communities. The experiences gained during a five year period of multi-grade schooling are presented. The findings strongly indicate that by locating small schools near the pupils’ homes, by necessity employing multi-grade teaching strategies, school enrolment may be greatly boosted, especially for girls, without in any way impairing the quality of the education offered. More specifically, our data also shed light on the various ways in which small schools close to the living areas of the pupils help in bringing the children to school beyond that of the direct effect of short school walks. Providing big primary schools located in the neighbouring rural town may deter illiterate peasant families from sending their children, especially girls, to school even when physical distances are not especially long. Having a small school in the local community provides opportunities for a positive relationship between school and parents, making education less alien and school enrolment more likely. Small schools in relatively homogeneous rural communities are also in a better position than bigger, more distant schools, to negotiate school schedules which take into account local seasonal demands on the children’s labour, as well as local ceremonial occasions. Furthermore, small schools close to the communities they are serving stimulate the feeling of ownership by the parents and community members, and thus facilitate the involvement of local people in the upkeep and improvement of the school building and playground. The book concludes by offering governments and NGOs altogether eight recommendations for further efforts to approach the EFA target.

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