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Quest of Traditional Education in Ethiopia: A …-traditional education in ethiopia

Research Journal of EEdduuccaattiioonnaall Sciences __________________________________________________________________________________E-ISSN 2321-0508
Vol. 4(9), 1-5, November ((2200116) Res. J. Educational Sci.
Short Review Paper
QQQuuueeesssttt ooofff TTTrrraaadddiiitttiiiooonnnaaalll EEEddduuucccaaatttiiiooonnn iiinnn EEEttthhhiiiooopppiiiaaa::: AAA RRReeetttrrrooossspppeeeccctttiiivvveee SSStttuuudddyyy
Eyasu Gemechu
Wolkite University, Ethiopia, PPPhhhDDD ssstttuuudddeeennnttt aaattt SSSccciiieeennnccceee aaannnddd mmmaaattthhheeemmmaaatttiiicccsss eeeddduuucccaaatttiiiooonnn,,, AAAddddddiiisss AAAbbbaaabbbaaa UUUnnniiivvveeerrrsssiiitttyyy, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
AAvvaaiillaabbllee online at: www.isca.in, www.isca.me
Received 2nd MMaayy 2016, revised 3rd September 2016, accepted 5th October 2016
Ethiopia is one of the known countries ffoorr struggle of independence during colonial time; a hhoommee of archeological findings
like Lucy; a center of religious belief like Christian, Muslim and Waqefata; obelisks like rock of MMuukkaattuurrii of Showa, Aksum
obelisk of Tigray, Lalibela church of GGoonnddeerr,, Sof Humor of Bale, and so forth. Like that of hhiissttoorriiccaall victories Ethiopia is
also known for her traditional education ttoooo.. This study uses qualitative research approach to aannsswweerr the research question,
starting point of tradition education aanndd specifically retrospective research design of hhiissttoorriiccaall research method was
employed. The source of the data was sseeccoonnddaarryy data that was collected by different researchers aatt different time. Similarly,
I used different archaeological finding tthhaatt was collected by different scholars. Hence, this article figure out that traditional
education was not introduced since 4th cceennttuurryy that stick to introduction of Christianity in EEtthhiiooppiiaa but rather it goes back to
the history of ancient Cushitic people of EEtthhiiooppiiaa..
Keywords: RReelliiggiioouuss eedduuccaattiioonn,, CCuullttuurraall eedduuccaattiioonn,, PPhhiilloossoopphhyy ooff eedduuccaattiioonn,, HHiissttoorryy ooff eedduuccaattiioonn..
Introduction Church and Islam respectively4.. TThhee mmaaiinn ffooccuuss ooff tthhee tthheenn
ttrraaddiittiioonnaall eedduuccaattiioonn wwaass ttoo pprreesseerrvvee cchhuurrcchh tteeaacchhiinnggss5. By the
EEtthhiiooppiiaa iiss aa ccoouunnttrryy llooccaatteedd iinn eeaasstt AAffrriiccaa wwhhiicchh hhaass mmoorree tthhaann ssaammee ttookkeenn tthheerree wwaass aa ttrraaddiittiioonnaall eedduuccaattiioonn tthhee wwaayy tthhee ssoocciieettyy
96.6 million people today1.. EEtthhiiooppiiaa hhaass lloonngg hhiissttoorryy iinn aallll ((CCuusshhiittiicc PPeeooppllee,, tthhee iinnddiiggeennoouuss ppeeooppllee ooff EEtthhiiooppiiaa,, aarree AAffaarr,,
aassppeeccttss lliikkee eedduuccaattiioonn,, ccuullttuurreess,, nnoorrmmss,, vvaalluueess,, rreelliiggiioouuss,, SSoommaallii,, OOrroommoo,, SSiiddaammaa,, AAggeewwoo,, HHaaddiiyyyyaa,, KKaammbbaattttaa,, aanndd ssoo
ffaarrmmiinngg ssttyyllee aanndd ssoo ffoorrtthh.. OOnn tthhee ttoopp ooff tthhiiss,, EEtthhiiooppiia is also ffoorrtthh)) lleeaarrnn aanndd ttrraannssmmiitt ccuullttuurraall hheerriittaaggee,, vvaalluueess,, nnoorrmmss aanndd
known for being hhoommee ooff ddiiffffeerreenntt nnaattiioonn aanndd nnaattiioonnaalliittyy ppeeooppllee indigenouss rreelliiggiioouuss ddooggmmaa ttoo tthheeiirr cchhiillddrreenn6. There was a
lliivviinngg ttooggeetthheerr iinn ddiivveerrssiittyy.. TThhee ffooccuuss ooff tthhiiss aarrttiiccllee iiss oonn tthhee wwoonnddeerrffuull aanncciieenntt CCuusshhiittiicc ccuullttuurraall eedduuccaattiioonn tthhaatt ddiisssseemmiinnaattee
eedduuccaattiioonnaall aassppeecctt ooff EEtthhiiooppiiaa,, ppaarrttiiccuullaarrllyy oonn tthhee ttrraaddiittiioonnaall ffrroomm aarreeaass lliikkee MMaallkkaa KKuunnttuurree,, HHaarraarr,, aanndd MMuukkaa TTuurrii ttoo
eedduuccaattiioonn.. IItt iiss aa lloonngg hhiissttoorryy tthhaatt iinnssppiirreess aallll ooff us even though AAkkssuumm,, YYeehhaa,, NNuubbiiyyaa,, tthheenn ttoo EEggyypptt aanndd GGrreeeekk7.
ssoommeewwhhaatt ddiiffffiiccuulltt ttoo cclleeaarrllyy ppooiinntt oouutt tthhee ttiimmee aatt wwhhiicchh
ttrraaddiittiioonnaall eedduuccaattiioonn bbeegguunn.. IInn ffaacctt tthheerree aarree ssoommee hhiinnttss kknnoowwnn Research question: TThhee mmaajjoorr rreesseeaarrcchh qquestion that this
aanndd cciitteedd bbyy sscchhoollaarrss wwhheenn ttrraaddiittiioonnaall eedduuccaattiioonn was begun. article has tried to address is: Did ttrraaddiittiioonnaall eedduuccaattiioonn bbeegguunn iinn
That is in 4th cceennttuurryy dduurriinngg AAkkssuummiittee KKiinnggddoomm2. 4th century Ethiopian context?
For more tthhaann ttwwoo ooccttaannttss ooff cceennttuurriieess tthhee hhiissttoorryy ooff ttrraaddiittiioonnaall Research Methods
eedduuccaattiioonn ooff EEtthhiiooppiiaa iiss kknnoowwnn aanndd ssttiicckk ttoo CChhuurrcchh eedduuccaattiioonn..
BBuutt iinn rreeaalliittyy ddoo wwee mmeeaann tthhaatt tthheerree iiss nnoo ttrraaddiittiioonnaall eedduuccaattiioonn QQuuaalliittaattiivvee rreesseeaarrcchh aapppprrooaacchh wwaass eemmppllooyyeedd ttoo ccoonndduucctt tthhiiss
iinn EEtthhiiooppiiaa bbeeffoorree iinnttrroodduuccttiioonn ooff CChhuurrcchh eedduuccaattiioonn?? DDoo nnoott wwee rreesseeaarrcchh.. OOuutt ooff qquuaalliittaattiivvee rreesseeaarrcchh ddeessiiggnn II uusseedd hhiissttoorriiccaall
have our oowwnn cciivviilliizzaattiioonn?? CCoouulldd nnoott wwee ccoonnttrriibbuuttee aannyytthhiinngg ffoorr rreesseeaarrcchh mmeetthhoodd lleeaanniinngg aaggaaiinnsstt ttoo rreettrroossppeeccttiivvee ddeessiiggnn.. AAnn
ttooddaayy''ss cciivviilliizzaattiioonn?? NNoo,, wwee hhaavvee oouurr oowwnn ccoonnttrriibbuuttiioonn iinn aallll aaddeeqquuaattee sseeccoonnddaarryy ddaattaa wwaass ccoolllleecctteedd ttoo hhaavvee aann eevviiddeennccee ffoorr
aassppeeccttss.. EEtthhiiooppiiaa hhaass aanndd hhaadd hheerr oowwnn ffiinnggeerr pprriinntt oonn EEggyyppttiiaann research queessttiioonn aabboovvee.. TThhee ddooccuummeenntt aannaallyyssiiss ooff bbooookkss ffoorr
aanndd GGrreeeekk cciivviilliizzaattiioonn wwhhiicchh iiss iinnddiirreeccttllyy hhiigghh ccoonnttrriibbuuttiioonn ffoorr iinnssttaannccee,, lliikkee AAbbeebbee BBeekkeellee,, TTaabboorr WWaammii aanndd BBeellaayy MMeekkoonneenn
today's civilization. wwaass ddoonnee.. AAllll ssoouurrcceess wweerree wwrriitttteenn bbyy tthhrreeee ddiiffffeerreenntt llaanngguuaaggeess::
mmaajjoorr ooff tthheemm wwaass wwrriitttteenn bbyy EEnngglliisshh wwhheerreeaass ssoommee ooff tthheemm aarree
FFoorr cceennttuurriieess iitt wwaass ttookkeenn aanndd wwrriitttteenn tthhaatt ttrraaddiittiioonnaall eedduuccaattiioonn Amharic and Afaan Oromoo.. II rreeccoorrddeedd ddaattaa ttoo mmyy nnoottee bbooookk
was introduced to Ethiopia since 4th cceennttuurryy ooff CChhrriissttiiaanniittyy ffrroomm aallll ssoouurrcceess ffiirrsstt,, aanndd tthheenn iinntteerrpprreett aaccccoorrddiinnggllyy.. AAnnaallyyssiiss
during Aksumite kingdom and 7th cceennttuurryy ooff IIssllaamm3. As far as I was done firstly by coding aallll nneecceessssaarryy aanndd ssuuffffiicciieenntt ddaattaa tthheenn
aamm ccoonncceerrnneedd,, aatt tthhaatt ttiimmee,, iitt iiss nnoott aa ttrraaddiittiioonnaall education that ccllaassssiiffyy iinnttoo ddiiffffeerreenntt tthheemmeess tthhaatt mmaakkee ssoouunndd aanndd eennaabbllee mmee ttoo
wwaass iimmppoorrtteedd ttoo EEtthhiiooppiiaa,, tthhee llaanndd ooff CCuusshh,, bbuutt rraatthheerr tthhee get answer for my research qquueessttiioonn..
ddooggmmaa ooff rreelliiggiioouuss eedduuccaattiioonn ooff EEtthhiiooppiiaann OOrrtthhooddooxx TTeewwhhiiddoo
International Science Community AAssssoocciiaattiioonn 1
Research Journal of Educational Sciences ________________________________________________________ E-ISSN 2321-0508
Vol. 4(9), 1-5, November (2016) Res. J. Educational Sci.
Data Analysis Mukaturi, Sidama and the like to Aksum then expands to Egypt
and Greek7. Still today Harer, Dire Dewa, Mukaturi, Wolayita,
Education and Traditional education: Education is simply a Sidama and the likes are the land of Cushitic People and a place
process of imparting or acquiring knowledge. Anyone can where we can find a lot of ancient kits. On the top of this, today
impart or acquire knowledge in different ways. Those can be they have had their own way of transmitting knowledge and
through modern type schooling system the so called progressive wisdom to their successor. Among the major ways for instance
education system or traditional education system. In fact many Gada System of Oromo people and Chambelala of Sidama
scholars define traditional education as teacher-centered people are pillar one. Hence, therefore, traditional education in
delivery of instruction to classes where students are considered Ethiopia goes back to the history of Ancient Cushitic Empire.
as receivers of information whereas progressive education as
student-centered approach where students take part in Many scholars pointed out that traditional education begins
constructing their own understanding. during 4th century A.D of Aksumite civilization and Muslim
religious education back to 7th century4 which I prefer to say a
Here, I argue that cannot we talk about education without half way displaying history. There are also archeological
traditional education since traditional education basically findings of letters on rock found in areas like Mukaturi, and
focuses on educational practices and expert mastery. If so, Sidam and Wolayita that indicates there was a traditional
where is the place of cultures, norms and values of a society? As education in Ethiopia before 4th century7.
far as my knowledge is concerned, I classified traditional
education in to two different parts. Those are traditional The prominent objective of Church traditional education was to
education that takes place in school system and in the society. train priest, monks, teachers and debteras5. It focused on social
That is why I am claiming that traditional education is not only studies like theology, philosophy, language, art, and literature,
the one that takes place under the control of religious education. then mathematics and at the end natural science2. The structure
In Ethiopian context, it was there before the introduction of of traditional education was: seven years for Zema bet, nine for
Christianity in Ethiopia. We have our own way of imparting and Sewasew (grammar) bet, four for Kene bet and ten to Old and
acquiring knowledge for elders. For instance artisans learns how New Testaments4. Here Zema bet is the lowest level that is
to make pot from his / her ancestors not from religious almost equivalent to elementary school of westerns where as
education. This implies that there was another path of acquiring exegete of Old and New Testament is one of the most advanced
knowledge out of the so called Ethiopian traditional education school of taught that requires ten years. Similarly, the main
which I call it cultural education of ancient Cushitic people, the purpose of Islamic education in Ethiopia is to preach the
indigenous people in East Africa in general and Ethiopia in religion and preserve the cultural heritage with such method of
particular. translating the Quran which uses the Arabic language and script
exclusively, and understanding the interpretation of verses by
Historical foundation of Traditional Education in Ethiopia: Islamic scholars called Imam, Sheik, Kabira, and Uluma4.
The term Ethiopia comes from the term Greek which means
black face people. By the same token, the term Ethiopia was On the top of this, in cultural education of ancient Cushitic
written more than 40 times in Holly Bible which indicates people learns like military, engineering (like construction of
Cushitic people and the home land of Cush is Ethiopia. On the buildings), leadership, and astronomy7. Let me show that those
top of this, Cushitic peoples are known for their wisdom things by using particular example of Oromo nation which is
particularly on building, and poem7. one of the largest groups of Cushitic people found in Ethiopia.
It is not necessary for traditional education to stick to religious Oromo nation known for his ruling system called Gada System.
education. For instance farming style has no link with religious. Most of the time people understanding of Gada System is only
But it is clear that ancestor taught their descendents how to limited to a ruling system and judiciary. But, in reality it is
farm, how to hunt and how to prepare apparatus for those beyond that. Pervasively, Gada System has all aspects of
purposes. So, I can claim that there was traditional education in individual and group lives' philosophical, sociological,
Ethiopia before introduction of religious education. psychological, historical, religious, leadership, cultural, etc. It is
not new for educators to understand that philosophy, sociology,
We can also find a lot archeological findings like letters on rock psychology, and history are fundamental foundations of
found in Mukaturi of Showa of which is 20,000 years old, and education8.
similarly that of Sidama which counts 10,000 years old7. They
are also base and indicator of cultural traditional education. Gada system is a philosophical paradigm. It is the world view of
Even, those archeological findings can be seen as a cornerstone Oromo nation. There are a lot of do's and do not do's which is
for other obelisks like that of Aksum obelisk and pyramid of rule and regulation of the society, waqefata as religious, sike
Egypt. and ayantu for social values and the likes. It has its own hierarch
of job description at each stage9. For instance, if one want to be
Tabor indicated that those archeological finding shows and give Gada, he has to pass through levels such as Dabale that takes
clue that civilization goes from areas like Harer, Diredewa, (0-8 years), Game titika (9-16), Game gurguda (17-24), kusa
International Science Community Association 2
Research Journal of Educational Sciences ________________________________________________________ E-ISSN 2321-0508
Vol. 4(9), 1-5, November (2016) Res. J. Educational Sci.
(25-32), Raba Dori (Kondala) (33-40), Gada (41-48), Yuba I artistic works in the Bible / Kuran and engineering, poem,
(49-56), Yuba II (57-64), Yuba III (65-72) and Gadamoji (73- craftsman, and leadership.
80). In this hierarchy Gada is the highest level and the ruling
one. After eight years on position of ruling the society he come In similar fashion, in cultural education of Ancient Cushitic
back to Yuba I which is an advisor for Gada that of his people there are norms, values, and cultures that found in the
descendent one. When one shifts from Raba Dori (Kondala) to society as the source of the knowledge. Cultural education of
Gada he has to do a lot (like on his speaking skill, military skill, Ancient Cushitic people is very deep and complex than religious
and leadership skill and way of conflict resolution) in order to dogma. They used participatory way of teaching their
be Gada. This indicates that there is a clear cultural education descendents. That is the reason why we found cultural medicine,
that Gada has to pass through6. storytelling, and life style in 21st century.
Such system was neither built over a night nor a history of 16th Psychological foundation of Traditional Education: If there
century or something copied and pasted from others. It is an is education there is a way of transmission. So, the big question
indigenous ruling system of the people. It is a long history of the to be raised is then how do ancient people deliver knowledge
people that passed from ancestors to successor through and wisdom of construction, poem, and military to their
embedment. They teach their descendant through participatory successor. This issue goes to know how of psychology in
method of learning, which is a very strong teaching method that general and pedagogy in particular. Psychology deals with how
might be a base for today's constructivist theory of learning. humans learn and behave. And also the main goal of any
education is to bring about learning. So, psychology in
Philosophical foundation of Traditional Education: education helps us to deal with how human can learn what is
Traditional education has its own philosophy which enables intended.
people to define and describe reality. Ancient Cushitic people
believe that there is a single reality which can be best described In traditional education there were no formal written documents
by realism10. For instance, if we see Oromo people, they of education like today. There was no do's and do not do's. The
believed that true is from God / Waqa and single in reality. way contents organized was not as such on the line of
They have a proverb that says "true is the only son of God''11. educational theories. They were simply training their
They have their own worldview that is Gada System. I claim descendant's mind and hand through participatory way of
that Gada system is not only ruling system of Oromo people. It learning. During this time student engaged in the activity posed
is a philosophical paradigm of the people in all aspects of their to them and made adaptation. This adaptation was built through
life. It has religious aspect called Waqefata, and also process and over time.
educational aspect that force society for betterment of life. For
this society education can be considered as part of their life that In contrary to this, when we see traditional religious education it
goes with progressive education12. is expected from teachers to train mind and hands of the
students through rote memorization and imitation. It was just
The other wing of traditional education in Ethiopia is religious like spoon feeding style. Teachers were transmitters of
education. The truth as traditional Church/ Mosque educations knowledge whereas students were passive receivers. The mode
is considered as an absolute, timeless and universal5. Since it is of deliver was simply talk and stick. No two way
believed that Church / Mosque are rooted on the word God and communication. On the opposite of this, students are actively
God gave religious dogma for His followers through Bible/ participant in all aspects in cultural education of Ancient
Kuran. The teaching of Bible / Kuran gave more emphasis to Cushitic people. For instance, in Gada system all peoples
moral and spiritual reality. So far, here we observe that people starting from birth to death they have their own activity to take
should accept the teaching of Bible / Kuran as it is since both part in. The system lets the students to engage in / embedded in /
are considered as the true source of wisdom and knowledge. in all activity. It is expected from each people of the same Gada
to achieve and perform what is expected from him to do so. At
As we see from the historical background of Ethiopian each eight years pattern one person passes from one Gada to
traditional education, we can observe that more focus was given another6.
to religious dogma. In traditional education, Bible / Kuran were
considered as an ultimate source of knowledge whereas teachers Generally, in traditional education of religious education all
are transmitter of this reality. The role of teachers is to nurture learning experiences and the content were predetermined by the
the spiritual growth of their students, to bring latent knowledge church or mosque literates of religious leaders and teachers.
and ideas to consciousness and to be a moral and spiritual Subject to be learned was arranged accordingly based on their
leader2. Knowledge is inherited from heaven as a gift and complexity level. At the first stage they taught alphabet, next
human beings are knowledge receivers5. A religious education reading and writing then at the end religious dogma will be
gave attention to a subject centered that emphasis truths gained offered to the students. There was exit at different stages. Unlike
from enduring theological, philosophical, historical, literary, and religious education in cultural education of ancient Cush, it was
ancestors and elders who mold and coach the successors.
International Science Community Association 3

What is the average level of Education in Ethiopia?The majority of Ethiopian students – 59 percent – are enrolled at the undergraduate level compared with 26 percent at the graduate level and 15 percent in Optional Practical Training and non-degree programs.