Know Thy Self: Viability of Early Childhood Education Delivery through Traditional Priest Schools

  • Belay Hagos
  • Belay Tefera
Keywords: priest school, preschool in Ethiopia, ECCE in Ethiopia, community-based education, church education, asquala.


This paper examined the viability of revitalizing priest school education to contribute for creating children’s school readiness particularly for low income families. Intellectual analysis of a philosophical research type was conducted to reflect on related experiences, findings, views, attitudes, and data. It was hypothesized that priest schools retain objectives, approaches, and methods that would enable creating school readiness. Its outcomes were also hypothesized to be much wider than building mere basic literacy skills as it was commonly held. The analysis conducted unveiled that expansion of modern preschools has marginalized priest schools along with its inherent treasures. Government instruments (ECCE Policy, curriculum, standards, and guides) were believed to play a major role in this marginalization process as they have entirely excluded any mention about these community-based schools. Research reports that indirectly address priest school education underscored its inappropriateness as well as negative attitudes from community members. There are, in fact, some limited ECCE personnel and researchers who have been in favor of the use of priest schools in ECCE delivery. This study assumed that the objections to the use of priest schools were based on a wrong implicit assumption that early years education should be of the “standard ECCE type” (obviously of a Western origin). Lack of knowledge about and familiarity with the real nature of these schools were also believed to preempt uncritical and negative views about them. However, the analysis has made it clear that, above and beyond their being cost-effective and culturally rooted, these schools retain objectives, follow approaches and methods, and create profiles that would make transitioning to and learning in formal education successful. How these schools are to be revitalized was also highlighted.


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