Ayenachew Aseffa Woldegiyorgis
Since the time of its ancient civilization Ethiopia had its own indigenous formal education. This two millennium old traditional education is strongly linked to the Ethiopian Orthodox church and has remained as the predominant form of producing the elites of the country, until the emergence of modern and secular higher education only in 1950 marked by the establishment of the then University College of Addis Ababa (Wondimu, 2003). In the following two decades a number of specialized technical colleges were also established to offer professional trainings in the fields of agriculture, engineering, public health, and teacher education (World Bank, 2003).
During the Derg era, from 1974 to 1991, the development in the Ethiopian higher education was very slow. The gross enrolment ratio (GER) for higher education was very low and increased slightly over the period, Addis Ababa University remained the only university until the opening of Alemaya (now Haromaya) University in 1985, and no graduate program was offered until mid 1979 (Weldemariam, 2008; World Bank, 2003; Araia, 2004).
The 1991 change of government opened a new chapter in the history of the country, and consequently in the development of its higher education. By that time, education in general and higher education in particular was left far behind even by the standards of Sub Saharan Africa. Cognizant of this, the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE) identified education as one area of priority and in 1994 issued a comprehensive Education and Training Policy (ETP) aiming at improving the overall state of education at all levels and ensuring that education makes the required contribution in the country’s development. The policy essentially opened the door for a period of all-inclusive, far-reaching reforms and massive expansion.
After the policy paved the way, a number of radical reforms have been introduced in the higher education subsector. In 1998 the long term Education Sector Development Program (ESDP) was launched, so far covering four phases (though the earlier phases focused more on lower levels of education); in 2003 the Higher Education Proclamation (HEP) was enacted and later revised in 2009; and a number of other reforms were introduced addressing different aspects of higher education. In effect, the subsector was opened up for private investment, enrolling about 18 % of the total student body as of 2010 (MOE, 2011), tuition fees in a form of student cost sharing have been introduced, HEIs have been granted substantial autonomy, diverse new fields of study have been launched, block grant method of budgeting has been introduced, and government agencies for quality assurance and strategic direction have been established (FDRE, 2003). Besides, the government budget for higher education has substantially and progressively increased, and massive expansion has taken place resulting in the surge of number of students by more than ten folds in about twenty years (MOE, 2005; MOE, 2010; Waweru & Abate, 2011).
However, in spite of this glamorous success in terms of reform and expansion, the Ethiopian higher education has been struggling with a number of challenges. These include, among others, the issue of equity, quality, autonomy, accountability, brain drain, academic freedom, lack of adequate resources and facilities, teachers’ working condition, salary and incentives, etc (Semela, 2007; Woldegiyorgis, 2013). Some of these challenges have indeed been identified by the government and solutions are being implemented, though the problems seem to persist.
Having officially claimed to be a developmental state, today, in Ethiopia government controls and leads with a firm hand. Since the coming to power of the current ruling party in 1991, the country has undergone a number of reforms in different sectors including education. Higher education has also seen its share of changes both in policy and practice. While there is a lot of debate on whether Ethiopia is following the ‘right path’ of the developmental state model in its economic, agricultural, trade and industry policies, there exists no study addressing the question in the education sector – and hence the higher education sub sector.
However, this is also, more or less, the picture at the international level. The astounding economic success of Southeast Asian countries in the 1970s and 1980s has attracted considerable interest in academic work trying to explain how those countries achieved such a swift progress. Yet, much of the research is concerned with different aspects of economic policy making and implementation. In the field of education, most of the academic work is overwhelmingly focused on lower level education and, to some extent, on vocational trainings. Researches attempted to explain and theorize how education contributed to economic development by examining the triangular relationships between education, economy and the state.
Nevertheless, higher education largely appears to have been left out of such inquiry within the notion of the developmental state. Consequently, there is poor literature that elaborates the nature and role of higher education in the developmental state paradigm, particularly in the context of those early developmental states, the background of which is more or less similar to that of current day Ethiopia.
Therefore this research primarily aims to address the knowledge gap about how the concept of developmental state is represented in the Ethiopian higher education. However this requires first understanding the nature of higher education in a developmental state in general. Put differently the main research question will be:
How does developmental state concept manifest in the Ethiopian Higher Education?
And, more specifically, the research first attempts to formulate a frame with which the Ethiopian higher education shall be observed in terms of its nature pertinent to the developmental state concept. Hence the research has the following two questions to answer:
a) What are the distinct features of higher education in a developmental state?
b) How are these features evident in the Ethiopian higher education system?
The vast literature available on the benefits of education stretches back to antiquity. Although the idea that investing in oneself improves productivity seems intuitive, the entire theory of human capital hinges on it. The human capital theory provides a framework for the wholesome adoption of education and development policies, and stresses how education improves “the productivity and efficiency of workers by increasing the level of cognitive stock of economically productive human capability which is a product of innate abilities and investment in human beings” (Olaniyan & Okemakinde, 2008, p.479).
In other words, the human capital theory holds that education (formal and informal) and training (on and off the job) increase the stock of human capital of a given society, which in turn interprets in to economic growth by increasing efficiency and productivity. In the past few decades, there have been efforts to substantiate this thesis by attempting to establish a pattern of relationship between education and economic growth. Albeit contested in different ways, evidences from researches (see Ashton et al, 1999; Benhabib & Spiegel, 1994; Wolff & Gittleman, 1993; Amsden, 1989) suggest that there is a positive relationship between the two, encouraging countries to increase their investment in education.
Given the evidences suggest that human capital has such a crucial effects on the economic growth of developing countries, the natural question that follows would be how can the level of human capital be raise through education and training. More particular to the interest of this study, the essential question will be: what should governments do in the fields of education and training so as to increase human capital?
To answer this question there are two dominant and contending approaches with differing views on the interaction between market and the state – the neoclassical approach and the statist approach. These two have opposing positions on what the role of the state should be in relation to the functioning of the market. Taking the experiences of high economic performance of East Asian countries in the 1970s and 80s as a basis, the Word Bank appeared the main advocate of the neoclassical approach.
The neoclassical approach considers the market as a sovereign entity serving as the most efficient basic framework for education and training, as it is for all other commodities. It is assumed that the market reflects the value of human capital by setting a certain level of demand for particular kinds of skills with certain levels of price. When the demand is high and the price is attractive individuals get good incentive to undergo and fund their own education or training. However it has been for long noted that the presence of externalities in education and training makes it possible for individuals and/or firms to benefit from the investment made by private individuals in their own education and training. This approach holds that state needs to intervene in the functioning of the market only to correct the failures of market and to augment its shortcomings (see World Bank, 1993; Campos & Root, 1996; Middleton et al., 1993; Verma et al., 1995).
This study rather rests on the contending view – the statist approach. The statists strongly criticize the neoclassical view for taking a very simplistic consideration of the nature of the state, and conveniently ignoring the role it plays. In skill formation, the statist approach does not rest on the prior assumption of the market being the best or the only coordinating force for factors of production. Rather, it takes a due consideration of the power and influence of the state as well as its political characteristics as a major actor in the skill formation process.
The state actively engages in promoting economic growth by providing high quality, well planned and well managed labor force, giving strategic leadership for concerned economic agents, and effectively managing transitions and technological diffusion (Ashton et al., 1999). The state, therefore, is responsible to planning and re-skilling the labor force as per the demands of the planned industrial development. But the question remains: whether government policies shift to respond to market trends or the policies lead the market. In education and training, if the state is using policy instruments to respond to market trends it means the demand is primarily created by the business and the state intervenes to adjust the supply. However, if the state leads the market then the state is involved in both the demand and supply sides of skills. Wade (1990) argues that there are more evidences showing the state as an active player in both demand and supply of skills in many of the East Asian countries.
Gerschenkron (1962) hypothesized that for developing countries (late industrializers) the active agency of the state is of significant advantages in terms of capital accumulation, facilitation to adopt the latest technology and methods of industrial policy making. Amsden (1989, p. 3) builds on this hypothesis and looks in to the process of ‘catching up’ as a process of learning how to compete. Adoption of borrowed technology is essential in the development of late industrializers. This in turn implies the importance of education and training at the center of the economic policy making and the pivotal role of key institutions. An interventionist state, large diversified business groups, abundant competent managers, and abundant well-educated labor all play their respective roles.
Though criticized for its shortcomings of putting the state as a solid entity that functions on its own, and putting too much emphasis on state while the state is inherently an inefficient institution (see Kim, 2012; Sung & Raddon, 2014 forthcoming; Clark and Chan, 1994), generally, the statist view lays the foundation for the concept of the developmental state pertinent to higher education. The statist view admits that the demand and supply interaction of skill in the labor market has a significant role in determining the path of economic growth in a developing country. However, it underlines that the state has the power to influence both the demand and the supply of skills through appropriate policies and intervention mechanisms. It is believed that the state is in a better position to forecast future demands because, on one hand, the state can better read market trends through its bureaucratic means, and on the other, the state itself influences, or even creates, the demand. As Law (2009) puts it, the states set their plans for industrialization with a targeted time span, and determining the skills demand. Then they invest in education and training institutions to prepare them for the task and they use their policies to manage the supply of skills. While governments may generally be much less efficient and slower than private agents to respond to market needs, when it comes to skills supply, state led adjustments could be more flexible and rapid, if political legitimization is linked to economic development (Ashton et al, 1999). However, the actions of the state should not be viewed as happening in a vacuum. State itself interacts with market and other spheres of economic life in a wider socio cultural setting.
Following Babbie’s (2006) categorization of social research on the basis of purpose as exploratory, descriptive and explanatory, this qualitative research employed an exploratory research design with certain shared characteristics of descriptive research. The subject of higher education in the context of the developmental state has been little researched. Particularly in the case of Ethiopia no prior research is available on the issue. Hence, this research is intended to provide preliminary understanding on the subject, instigating specific questions in this line of inquiry. Therefore the exploratory research design is most suited to the purpose sought – exploring the nature of higher education in the context of the Ethiopian developmental state.
Data for this research is primarily obtained from official documents of the government of Ethiopia and is analyzed using the content analysis method (Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Mogalakwe, 2006; Bowen, 2009). More specifically, a theory driven deductive qualitative content analysis (Mayring, 2000) is used where priorly formulated aspects of analysis, originating from the theoretical concept of developmental state and built up based on literature review, are used in connection with the content of the selected documents. Review of [official] documents has the edge of providing objective and verifiable information on a subject (Berelson, 1952 sited in Marshall & Rossman, 2006) specifically for quantitative records and study on official policies and programs. Besides, since the study is concerned with preliminary level exploration of the issue (rather than evaluation of implementation and effect) at the system level, documents of policies, programs and strategies will provide the necessary information.
Taking in to account the purpose of obtaining the most reliable and sufficient system level information that can show how the developmental state concept manifests in the Ethiopian higher education, both in policy and practical spheres, the following documents are selected for review and analysis: Education and Training Policy (1994), Higher Education Proclamation (2009), and Education Sector Development Plan I to IV (1997 to 2015). The education and training policy gives a general direction, the proclamation, along with other proclamations and regulations, provides the legal framework within which the policy goals are to be achieved; and the education sector development program presents the practical aspect in the development of education, particularly higher education in the country. Hence, a combination of these three kinds of documents gives more or less a complete picture of how higher education is placed in Ethiopia. To complement the information, other related policy documents, reports, statistical abstracts, surveys, studies and academic researches, news, opinion articles, speeches, videos, interviews and the like have been consulted.
The analytical framework for the study is developed based on review of relevant literature. It has identified the seven major characteristics of higher education typical to the developmental state of the 1970s and 80s in the East Asian region. A document review guideline, which follows the components of the analytical framework, is used to dictate the review of the key documents identified in the previous section. The guideline includes a total of 27 specific questions under the seven categories (see appendix). Each document is reviewed and relevant information is obtained and categorized in accordance with the guideline and in a manner that addresses each specific question under every category. Similarly, the analysis and interpretation is made following the framework. Finally, the developmentalist nature of the Ethiopian higher education is discussed in light of what higher education looked like in the time and region of what is often considered the pinnacle of the developmental state model.
Based on literature, the study has found out that higher education systems in developmental states are tightly controlled and coordinated by the state; have an admission system administered by a central body, highly emphasize on technology transfer as a means to learn from other systems; constitute different type and tiers of institutions with different functions; emphasize science and technology as priority areas; experience large scale expansion and give due attention to sideline goals focused on nation building.
In Ethiopia the level of importance attached to education is very significant that begins with its very definition relating education with the basic purpose it serves in human life. Education is viewed as an instrument with which knowledge and skills are created, accumulated and transferred for individuals and societies to pursue all rounded development. The official documents such as the education and training policy, the higher education proclamation and the education sector development programs all have common objectives of creating citizens endowed with problem solving capacities towards enhanced development of the country.
Though relatively less emphasized, higher education is embedded in what is formulated for education in general in terms of objectives and justification for the formation and reform of the system. In recent years the role of higher education has gained more recognition that is reflected in how much it is addressed in different documents and the amount of resources that are being geared towards improving the subsector. Higher education is recognized to have a pivotal role in the developmental endeavors of the country, which is responsible for the training of the manpower needed to support the development projects. With the vision of turning Ethiopia to a middle income country by the year 2025, higher education is expected to prepare skilled and motivated professionals who will make sure that this development vision will be realized. This making up the foundation for the developmentalist nature of the Ethiopian higher education, further indicia can also be traced in different aspects of the system that are consistent with the typical characteristics of higher education in the developmental state paradigm.
Often justified by the need to coordinate activities and resources of different institutions towards common development goals, state control is very strong in the Ethiopian higher education. Indeed how efficient the coordination is among the concerned bodies is a question that remains open for further investigation. There are indications, however, that the coordination is focused more on institutions with in the education sector itself than with other sectors. Higher education appears to be more under the direct purview of the federal government, compared to lower levels of education which are under the joint auspice of the federal and regional governments. This has provided higher education with more unified direction and the possibility for better coordination. Still, the involvement of a number of parties in the ESDP, along with the formation of the steering committee at the apex of its structure, with no legally defined personality and solid power over resources, pose challenges to effective coordination.
Various mechanisms are used to the effect of state control over the higher education system. The legal framework composed of the higher education proclamation at the top and establishing laws of different institution, regulations and guidelines at the lower level make up the broadest and strongest control mechanism. The proclamation calls for the establishment of different institutions with varied roles, powers and responsibilities which all create another aspect for the state control. The two most important of such institutions are: the HERQA which is given the power and responsibility of overseeing quality and relevance of higher education in all public and private institutions, and the HESC which is endowed with a wide range of responsibilities to shape and lead the higher education subsector at policy and strategic level. Reporting and supervision also constitute the other effective mechanism of state control. HEIs are required to keep record of data and publish periodic reports for public access besides their obligation to report to the ministry and its respective agencies on regular basis. Similarly, the implementation of the ESDP is also under a close purview of the central government since the different structures of the ESDP organization are required to make periodic reports all the way up to the central government in addition to review meetings conducted at different levels.
Even more direct and tangible control mechanisms come in the form of financing and the appointment of top managers of HEIs. These two methods are specifically applicable for public HEIs where nearly the whole budget of the institutions comes from the federal government and all the top management positions are filled with appointment by the minister directly or indirectly. Of course, public HEIs are in principle, allowed to generate their own income. However, in practice the institutions hardly have the capacity to generate income from their own sources, and in the case of financing by a third party for researches the institutions are required to make sure that the terms of their negotiation do not contradict with their government-set-mission. On the other hand the regulation set forth for the appointment of top managers (board members, presidents and vice presidents) of public HEIs ensures that each of these positions are filled by individuals who are committed to the ideology and developmental interest of the government. There is an exception to this rule where the position of the vice president is filled through competitive means, though still needs to be approved by the board.
These control mechanisms provide the government with strong opportunities for coordination and synchronized development planning and implementation. However, it is also noticeable that institutional autonomy, one of the fundamental characteristics of an academic institution, is largely compromised. Though the proclamation stipulates that all HEIs are autonomous, this practically makes a lot of sense only for the private HEIs.
Put together the Ethiopian higher education system has devised multitude of mechanisms for state control. State control mechanisms, however, are not everything that a developmental state needs for effective planning and coordination in higher education. There is no sufficient evidence which shows that the education sector, and the higher education sub sector in particular, is sufficiently coordinated with other sectors, as it is within itself. Such coordination requires a central body responsible for continuously monitoring the other sectors and use data for coordinating the planning and implementation of education policies and strategies with that of other sectors. There is no clear statement as to the existence of a central body responsible the long term planning of higher education and for the coordination of such with the economic and other social policies. The HESC seems to have a broad range of responsibilities concerned with shaping the future of higher education, though coordination with other sectors in its activities seems undermined.
The notion of the statist approach to education planning requires the state to plan and coordinate not only on the supply side, where the Ethiopian case seems to be well concerned, but also on the demand side. Talking about TVET programs ESDP-I says that “steps are being taken to improve the relevance of these programs so that more TVET graduates can get jobs … The economy will benefit from more trained and skilled labor” (MOE, 1998, p. 8). This indicates that the employment of TVET graduates is put as a primary goal for the reforms and improvements that are deemed necessary in the ESDP-I, and the economic outcome is seen as a sideline or spillover effect of such improvement. This seems to have rested on the assumption that the labor market is not something that can be managed or manipulated with the deliberate actions of the state – which opposes the fundamental idea of the role of the state in human capital development and economic growth under the developmental state model. While there are indications in other documents and other parts of the same document that the developmental state model is pursued in the education and training sector, this statement at its best can be described as a lack of clarity in direction.
Similarly, the same document identifies a potential risk in the implementation of the program as “What if the economy does not grow” (Ibid, p. 22). Indeed, since Ethiopian economy is largely dependent on agriculture which also depends on rain fall and other natural conditions, there is a chance that things could go wrong in the economy. And since a large part of the program budget was set to be domestic it was a legitimate point to have been raised. However, this statement also reflects the assertion that the conditions of the economy are prerequisite to what happens in the education sector. In the statist view on education planning education is considered as a tool to make change happen in the economy. It presumes that education and economic reforms are to be set in parallel both under the influence of the state. Not that what happens in the economy would be a determinant for what happens in education.
Admission to higher education is centrally managed based on the completion of the preparatory program (second cycle of high school) and result in the national entrance examination. This is basically for regular undergraduate programs, where for other programs the institutions are at liberty to determine their own admission requirements. All those who have passed the entrance exam will make their choice of institutions and specific programs. The ministry of education, the body in charge of admission, will then assign students to different HEIs and specific programs. Often the assignment is based on the government’s desire to produce certain combination of professionals as seen fit for the needs of the economy. The documents, including the directive for placement of regular degree students, do not make any clear statement of the criteria, nor the procedure, used in the placement process. In effect it can be seen that the central placement system deprives students of their right to pursue a field of study and career of their choices. Moreover, it appears that aptitude, motivation, skills and the like have no place in the placement process.
Technology and knowledge transfer, one of the most common modes of catch up for developing countries, is given a massive recognition both in the policy and the higher education proclamation. It is set as one of the objectives of higher education targeting on the accelerated development. HEIs are required to allocate enough funds for research focused on technology transfer, and to engage in research partnerships with institutions from advanced systems. Further, the HEIs are encouraged to establish permanent cooperative relationship with industries and the society at large that constitutes different forms of services by the institutions and delivery of non formal programs that would facilitate transfer of accumulated knowledge. Ethiopia has also chosen English as a language of instruction which further facilitates knowledge transfer since much of accumulated knowledge in the world of academics is found in the English language.
Following the legal outlines, the ESDP also emphasizes technology and knowledge transfer as important elements in the development of education. However, the ESDP also admits that in practice technology transfer did not materialize as much as needed. Besides, the ESDP goes unclear on the specific responsibilities of HEIs and TVET institutions as to how they contribute to effective technology transfer. It is observed that in the later phase of the ESDP technology transfer lays to be the major responsibility the TVET, where HEIs are set to knowledge creation. However, it is discernible that TVETs do not have the required capacity to do in depth research on technology transfer and adaptation, while in the same fashion, the HEIs do not have the capacity for knowledge creation. What would have made a better sense is if HEIs were responsible to undertake the researches while TVETs provide tailored and practical training for lower and middle level professionals needed by the market.
HEIs of different type and status, with different governance system and different purpose are common in developmental states. In Ethiopia the education and training policy calls for all HEIs to be invariably research oriented, while the higher education proclamation outlines different status of institutions but with no significant differences in purpose. Distinctions are made in terms of the requirement the institutions have to meet to be granted each status with no clear separation between research universities and teaching universities, no identification of tiers of institutions reflecting their prestige and resource advantage. The proclamation determines not only the functions of all public HEIs to be similar but also their governance systems. HEIs are required to constitute certain predetermined elements of governance and have to go through a rigorous procedure to introduce any change on their structure.
The HEP indeed recognizes differences of institutions in their capacity to offer graduate programs, and suggests that those institutions more endowed with resources in this regard should assist the rest in development of academic staff. In the fourth phase of the ESDP diversity of institutions has been introduced where a target of setting up ten institutes of technology and two universities of science and technology is set for year 2014/15. However, there are no further explanations as to how these institutions will differ from the rest and why.
As per the HEP institutes are required to offer training in at least one field/discipline (which is the minimum requirement in the list), and is not required to conduct research (Article 14). However, the experiences of other countries implies that institutes are rather specialized for certain field and engage in wide research activities in the area – often multi/inter disciplinary. Moreover, public universities (which account the huge majority of the HEIs in capacity), are established as ‘just universities’ where there has not been any sort of distinction and usually enjoy government’s favor (Article 15) in that they are established with the full status of a university even though many of them hardly meet the requirements.
What relates to the diversity of institutions is the identification of priority areas in the higher education policy and strategy. Prioritization has been repeatedly mentioned in official documents but there is hardly any explicit statement of what the priority areas are what specific target outcomes are set. It is only in ESDP-IV that science, technology and innovation are set to be the area of emphasis as a means to create wealth. This is accompanied by the goals of establishing institutions dedicated to these areas and a shift in the student intake that designates 70 % of student population to be in the natural science and technology fields.
Though there is a ministry for Science and Technology, there is no clear guideline stipulated on how the ESDP and the focus on science and technology shall be coordinated with the works of the ministry. Indeed, according to the establishing law of the ministry one of its major responsibilities is to facilitate conditions to ensure strong inter linkage among higher education, research and development and the industrial sector with regard to scientific research and technological advancement focusing on production activities (MOST, 2012). Nonetheless, nothing meaningful has been mentioned in the ESDP that ensures the co-working of these two concerned government bodies.
With regard to expansion, higher education, like all other levels of education, has experienced unprecedented rate of increase in its size over the past fifteen years. The expansion has demanded different moves to generate resources for financing. The government budget for higher education has risen both in absolute amount as well as in relative share to overall education budget. Concurrently, in 2003 student cost sharing scheme has been introduced which allows the government to collect certain portion of expenses made to the higher education in the form of repayment or services by graduates. Private investment in higher education has been another contributor to the expansion of the subsector, though the private institutions still account to a small portion of the student population (less than 20 %) compared to the relative share they have in terms of number of institutions. Finally, income generation by the HEIs is another attempt made to ease government expenditure in higher education. However ESDP indicates that too few institutions generate too small portion of their budget.
The expansion is predominantly financed by the state and is focused on ensuring fairness and equity in the distribution of HEIs in different regions. This predisposition has caused the government to open as many universities as possible in different regions which are exactly the same to one another rather than strengthening and specializing the existing ones in line with the needs of the economy and towards maximization of their economic contribution. Partnership between the private and public HEIs is also deemed to be very low and ESDP-III called for strengthening such partnerships, though nothing has been reported in ESDP-IV.
Neither the legal documents nor the strategies on education development view higher education to be a purely economic instrument. Repeated statement has been made about the non economic functions of higher education in shaping citizens with desired values and in terms of contribution in state building. HEIs are required to promote such values as freedom of expression, efficiency, fighting corruption, building democratic practices, workmanship and discipline, etc both in their institutional practice and the content of their teachings. In support of this goal, civic education is given to students of all fields. In recent years, as a response to the growing ethnic and religious tension particularly in public HEIs, the ministry of education has issued a guideline for regulating behavior and interaction in universities.
The findings of the research indicated that the Ethiopian higher education clearly demonstrates indicia of the developmental state concept. However, two limitations need to be noted. First, the research is limited to examining certain documents and related literature as its source of data. Second, the research is meant to provide a preliminary view that establishes insight in to the issue and does not cover implementation side.
Therefore, taking this research as a starting point, future inquiries need to go deeper looking at aspects of both policy making and implementation, and by incorporating primary data pertinent to both processes. Furthermore, the developmental nature of the Ethiopian higher education needs to be carefully examined in terms of each of the major aspects identified in this study.
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