Ethiopia School visit day 1

So today was my first visit to Ada Secondary School in Bishoftu in the Oromia region in Ethiopia.  We are here with two other teachers, Mrs Marcus-Parker and Mrs Wilson and three-year 13 students.   We are visiting Ada Secondary as part of our partnership with Link Ethiopia a group we have worked with for a number of years now.

This is the first time that we have visited this particular school and the aim of the visit to explore the cultural differences between our two countries and set up links for our continued partnership in the future.  As a result of the forward planning prior to the trip we already had spoken with the Principal Abdi and learned about his school but we still had no idea of what to expect.

Ada Secondary has over 2000 students in just grades 9 and 10 which is phenomenal to comprehend bearing in mind that my school as 1400 in total over 7 years.  The students are ordered into grades but this is based on end of semester performance and not age – as a result it was very common to see students of 14 and 16 in the same class.

Our visit started with an Ethiopian coffee ceremony – here the green coffee beans are roasted right in front of you then ground and the most stunning strong coffee is poured…..multiple times.  We also had corn, popcorn and local bread – it was a very welcoming experience.

Classes are HUGE – we visited maths, chemistry, English and physics classes today and noted several things….

  • Classes had 50 students as a minimum – the chemistry class had 56 students
  • The standard of challenge of work is very high.  Bearing in mind the work was aimed at 15-16 year old they were working on structural isomers of hydrocarbons and using a complex formula for balancing equations – far more complex than I would teach at triple level
  • The standard of behaviour was impeccable – even though there were three to a bench – they are there to learn
  • Teachers are expected to assess twice during the semester at half way and a final assessment – these assessments comprise 80% of the final assessment – the rest being made up of continual assessment (although with around 50 students this is not done by marking books excessively  but by mini tests)
  • Each lesson was taught in English – and for most of the teachers this was their third language!!!

The day is very complicated to organise and the timetabler in me was keen to find out how the students were organised as I certainly didn’t see 2000 students on the campus.

The day is organised according to Oromia clock which starts at 6am….class starts at 2:00 and the classes are set out below….

The Shift is the key to this school – staff only work one shift – although the Principals (2 vice Principals included) work both shifts.  Students also only attend one shift so whilst the breaks are small they account for changes in the population.  The school also does not provide lunch as students make their own way in in relation to their shift.


So today I was able to observe a range of lesson except Biology because it was the biology teacher’s day off – nice to see some timetable challenges are universal 🙂


Our day finished off with a game of volleyball in front of hundreds of students – despite a very poor start we did manage to end up victorious and there were lots of handshakes and shoulder bumps between competitors.


I am left thinking what would UK teachers prefer?  Classes of 50-55 students and less marking?  The educational standard is certainly impressive even if the pedagogical tools were developing – but still – If I were to teach 50 students, and I did have a go at balancing equations with the chemistry class today, I would not be keen to broach much assessment for learning within the 40 minute lesson.

At the end of each lesson the Principal asked us for feedback on his teacher!  If I had as few resources as they have and such a big class I would be delighted if I could do at least half as well as they manage.


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