Centerdlessness: The Social Cost Of Western Education In Ethiopia

Year: 2015

Author: Woldeyes, Yirga Gelaw

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper introduces the concept of centredlessness to explain the effect of Ethiopia’s western-style education system on the lives of higher education students. Like in many parts of Africa, Ethiopia follows what is commonly regarded as the ‘western’ model of education, whereby the organisation and curriculum of schooling is copied from Euro-American education systems. Policy makers and donors promote the expansion of the education system with little regard to the question of relevance, which would have been crucial to Ethiopia given the short history of higher education in the country. A critical ethnographic research was conducted involving 30 students from two high schools and one university to critically understand the process of education and its effect on the lives of the students. The research found that Ethiopian students experience a deep sense of double alienation from tradition and modernisation. Alienation from tradition is experienced largely due to the development of a Eurocentric worldview through the western education system. Students develop a sense of detachment from local cultural identities based on the belief that Ethiopian tradition is antithetical to modernisation. Alienation from modernisation is experienced as students are unable to realise the promises of western education through the current education system. Low quality education, failure to join university or graduate from it, the use of foreign language as a medium of instruction and the difficulty of finding employment contribute to alienation from modernisation. The paper argues that the two forms of alienation could be described as centredlessness, a sense of detachment from tradition and the experience of powerlessness and meaninglessness due to a lack of opportunities. This research offers an important insight into the challenges of education for Africa, the oft-labelled ‘youngest continent’ due to the demographic majority of its youth population.