Education in Ethiopia was oriented toward religious learning until after World War II, when the government began to emphasize secular learning as a means to achieve social mobility and national development. By 1974, despite efforts by the government to improve the situation, less than 10 percent of the total population was literate. There were several reasons for this lack of progress. According to Teshome G. Wagaw, a former educator at Haile Selassie I University, the primary failure of the education system was its inability to "satisfy the aspirations of the majority of the people and to prepare in any adequate way those passing through its ranks." Teshome described the system as elitist, inflexible, and unresponsive to local needs. He was equally critical of the distribution of educational opportunity, which favored a few administrative regions and urban centers at the expense of a predominantly illiterate rural population. The education system also suffered from inadequate financing.
In the early 1990s, the problems Ethiopians faced in making their education system responsive to national needs remained formidable. Social and political change had affected many traditional elements of national life, but it was too soon to predict what effect the changes would have on the progress of education.
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