Eritrean education has suffered from the disregard, and even malice, of colonial occupiers and the devastation of a long independence war—and benefited from the experience of the liberation movement that developed an educational system with some modern and progressive features years before coming to power.
From the liberation movement, the national education system inherited a respect for all the languages and cultures of the country, now seen in policies that primary and literacy education be conducted in students' mother tongue; that priority for educational expansion be given to disadvantaged and marginalized areas and ethnic groups; that communities be involved in the establishment and running of schools; and that women be accorded full educational equality with men. Additionally, Eritrean education has inherited from the independence struggle a self-reliant attitude. As a nation, Eritrea has sought to keep development firmly in the hands of Eritreans and is known for refusing international aid that would compromise that ideal. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Education has maintained and sought international aid and assistance to build its capacity and improve teaching and learning.
As an independent nation since 1991, Eritrea has managed to build or rehabilitate more than 600 schools, add 3,400 teachers, and more than double enrollments—a creditable achievement for a young, poor, and warravaged country. The government has stated its intention to provide basic education for all and considers education a key to development. For a country that is one of the world's poorest, Eritrea has devoted significant financial resources to education.
Still, in 2000 more than 716,000 school-age children remained unenrolled, curriculum reform was stalled, illiteracy for the population as a whole stood at 70 percent, and the planned-for widespread adult education had barely begun. At the turn of the millennium, improving educational quality was seen as the Ministry of Education's major priority. Plans were under way to fully implement curriculum reform in the coming five years; to improve and expand teacher training, including opening a second Teacher Training Institute, enlarging the Faculty of Education at the University of Asmara, and creating more opportunities for teachers to increase their skills and pursue higher education both in and out of the country; to establish new and strengthen existing Parent-Teacher Associations; provide more vocational training options to students; to create a unit to address the needs of children with learning difficulties; to systematize preschool education; to increase adult literacy; to expand computer technology at all administrative levels and in academic programs beginning with secondary schools; to better coordinate the educational activities of various government ministries; and to correct inefficiencies within the Ministry of Education itself.
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——. Basic Education Statistics 1999/2000. Asmara, in press. ———. Education Brief 1999. Asmara, March 1999.
——. Essential Education Indicators 1998/99. Asmara, November 1999.
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Sherman, Richard. Eritrea: The Unfinished Revolution. New York: Praeger, 1980.
Stefanos, Asgedet. "Women and Education in Eritrea: A Historical and Contemporary Analysis," Harvard Educational Review 67, 4 (1997): 658-688.
Teklehaimanot, Berhane. "Education in Eritrea During the European Colonial Period," Eritrean Studies Review 1, no. 1 (1996): 1-22.
Wilson, Amrit. Women and the Eritrean Revolution: The Challenge Road. Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press, 1991.
—Leslie D. Gottesman
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