In 1974, Ethiopia suffered a significant turbulent period. Student and public riots and dissidents in the army led to the removal of Emperor Haile Selassie and the coming to power of the military government.
When the military council took power, one of its decisions was to close the university, colleges, teacher training institutes, and secondary schools. Two years later, the country experienced a critical shortage of teachers. The situation was so desperate that school dropouts without any training were recruited to teach in schools. With the coming of the new government, a new Education and Training Policy (ETP) was published in 1994. This policy made a radical overhaul in education, including school structure, teacher training, and curriculum. It also stipulated that English would be taught as a subject starting from grade one, and would be the medium of instruction for secondary and higher education.
In collaboration with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education and USAID/Ethiopia, AIR launched the Teach English for Life Learning (TELL) program in December 2008, with the primary goal of improving the skills of 20,000 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade English teachers across all nine regions and two chartered cities in Ethiopia. Teachers were trained in literacy instruction, including strategies for improving students’ listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. Teachers also learned classroom practice skills, such as effective lesson planning and classroom management strategies. The program was then extended to train 52,300 grade 1-4 teachers over the course of two years.
The program’s cascade teacher training model developed master trainers and teacher trainers, and supported the capacity of the Regional Education Bureaus to identify trainees and training sites, and to manage logistical details during regional trainings. Through TELL capacity-building support, the Ministry of Education now has the framework for, and experience in, mounting a large-scale, nation-wide teacher training effort, and the tools to monitor and support continued English language instruction improvement.
By the end of its first year, TELL trained a total of 19,146 teachers (95.8%); a commendable achievement compared to the planned target of training 19,975 teachers, especially considering the challenges encountered with time constraints and shortage of teachers release time. Moreover, the results of the classroom observations were highly encouraging, as the majority of the teachers observed (80-90%) reported that they were using the strategies and methods they had gained from the TELL training. Over the program’s three and a half year performance period, TELL trained 71,129 (grades 1-4 and 6-8) English teachers through a cascading model that has reached teachers throughout the country in a limited amount of time and in a cost effective manner.