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State visit from Ethiopia

On 13 May, Bjørn Hol from the Faculty arranged a seminar for a delegation headed by the Ethiopian Minster of Education. In accordance with the wishes of our guests, the topic focused upon was learning.

Group picture of the seminar participants

Visit by Shiferaw Shigutie, Ethiopian Minister of Education (centre, blue tie). Photo: Horgmo, UiO

When the Ethiopian delegates arrived at the Faculty, the schedule for the seminar programme was tight. Representatives from the Norwegian Embassy in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Embassy in the Nordic Countries were also present. First to take the floor was Bjørn Hol, who presented the University of Oslo and the Faculty of Medicine. The presentations from the seminar are attached via links at the bottom of this page.

Flipping the classroom

Jeanette Magnus, senior adviser, gave an interesting talk on teacher development and how adults learn. She pointed out that it may be more difficult to maintain the attention of adults than that of children. Studies have shown that children can maintain their concentration for longer periods, whereas in adults it declines after only seven minutes. 

Magnus talked about the effect of what she termed "flipping the classroom". If students can be persuaded to arrive well-prepared for lessons, the teaching force can be much better used. The students will thus engage quite differently with the teaching; they already have an understanding, and can ask questions individually and work in groups. To achieve this, participants can be asked to read or watch recordings of previous lectures online in advance of the teaching. It is a matter of getting the students to ask questions independently to enhance the learning effect.

Jeanette Magnus during her lecture to the Ethiopian delegation. Photo: Øystein Horgmo, UiO

Collaborative projects with UiO

Jeanette Magnus also talked about projects in Ethiopia in which the Faculty participates, and the various challenges there, as well as here at home.

“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think” is quote from Einstein that describes the strategy behind UiO courses and workshops given at Jimma University.

To date, more than 380 staff members at the College of Health Sciences* have attended courses and workshops. Research and education are a central and important part of the country’s development. Ethiopia must build its own evidence base, and the university’s teachers must be able to convey the art of using and devising good questions in teaching as well as in research.

Jimma University is now establishing the country’s first M.Phil programme in Health Sciences Research  based on the Norwegian model. The plan for the study programme has been developed in such a way that one semester can be spent on an international student exchange. To date, eight Ethiopians have attended UiO and taken courses at the Institute of Health and Society, but Jimma University also plans exchanges with other European partners.

Enhanced knowledge and understanding of research ethics and the responsibility of ethics committees is key to the expansion of research in countries such as Ethiopia. A team from the Institute of Health and Society headed by Professor Jan Helge Solbakk has seen more than 100 participants at its workshops in Jimma.

One of the most exciting Ethiopian projects to which UiO contributes is a Fellowship programme on leadership development for women in academia. To date, 46 women from 22 different universities in Ethiopia specializing in health sciences have been included in the programme – a pioneering project which may be the first of its kind on the African continent.

PhD candidates

The cooperation with Jimma University includes a collaboration on the education of 12 PhD candidates at UiO during the period until 2018. Ten candidates have so far spent one semester in Norway. A number of UiO staff members are involved in their supervision.

PhD student Misra Abdulahi Ahmed gave a talk on breastfeeding. The proportion of Ethiopian mothers who breastfeed has risen slightly, but has only reached 52 per cent. It is important that breastfeeding begins early, and that babies are exclusively breastfed until the age of around six months to avoid diarrhoea and other diseases that contribute to the high mortality rate in countries such as Ethiopia.

Abdulahi Ahmed will conduct a randomized controlled trial in the local community in cooperation with local health authorities, and use a group of women as knowledge disseminators. Husbands and mothers-in-law, among others, will also be informed about the advantages of breastfeeding, and the value of babies being given the first raw breast milk (colostrum).

Mothers also die in excessively large numbers from different conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth. PhD student Seman Kedir Osman will use large-scale datasets that have been collected in Ethiopia in 2005, 2011 and 2016 to examine the interplay of individual, cultural and local community factors of various kinds with regard to the use of pregnancy check-ups and qualified personnel at the birth.

Exchange of linguistic capacity

Professor Janne Bondi Johannessen gave a talk about the exchange of linguistic capacity between Norway and Ethiopia. Photo: Øystein Horgmo, UiO

Professor Janne Bondi Johannessen gave a talk about the exchange of linguistic capacity between Norway and Ethiopia. The equal value of all the country’s languages is enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution. The country has 90 different languages, so this equality of status is admirable and quite unique. In other African countries, teaching is often conducted for example in English or French. 

The equal status of languages confers upon the country’s population the right to education in their mother tongue. By way of contrast, Johannessen pointed to the past treatment of the Sami people in Norway. It is not easy to learn when you encounter a school that teaches reading and writing in an unfamiliar language.

The equal status of the Ethiopian languages gives rise to considerable practical difficulties for the school system. Altogether 51 languages are used today in textbooks and teaching, and 28 Ethiopian languages are under threat. UiO has several interesting collaborative projects with Ethiopian universities. PhD candidates who are educated as part of these collaborative projects live and work in Ethiopia, and the purpose is to increase the level of education in Ethiopia. Exchange often leads to students forming ties with the host country, and this is to be avoided.

Johannesen also addressed the importance of publishing scientific results using Open Access, something which UiO is very concerned to achieve.

Digital examinations – an educational science project

Professor Per Grøttum gave a lecture on work on the transition to digital examinations at the Faculty. This represents a significant opportunity for pedagogical innovation, but also a considerable challenge. The objective is to set examinations with high validity and reliability, in other words examinations that test what we actually want students to know, in a precise and reproducible manner.

The digital examination assignments consist largely of case studies and recreate very realistic work with patients by doctors and dieticians. The examination assignments must keep within the learning objectives and the questions must be balanced so as to investigate different parts of the syllabus, in the form of factual knowledge, understanding and application of the knowledge.

The Ethiopian Minister of Education, Shiferaw Shigutie. Leaning forward in the centre. Photo: Øystein Horgmo

Medical students maintain a consistently high standard, and what distinguish the answers are small details. A good and fair way of grading needs to be determined, and this must be taken into account when preparing the examination assignments.

Quality assurance of examination assignments has received a boost with the introduction of digital examinations, through the work of the examination committees on pre-examination assignments and psychometric analyses performed during the grading process.

The Centre for Educational Measurement (CEMO) performs the psychometric analyses for the Faculty. These are extremely important for detecting failures in reliability, for instance in the form of differences between examiners, and in validity, for example in terms of questions that fall outside the learning objectives or the teaching. They also form the basis of a scheme for reusing examination assignments which the Faculty is now introducing.

A new era

Professor Knut Martin Mørken reflected on mathematics and science education at the schools and universities of the future. He pointed out that when developing the Ethiopian school system, innovative thinking might be advantageous. It is all well and good to draw upon experiences gained in the European tradition, but up to now, no one has managed to make provision for teaching that incorporates the benefits of the new supercomputers.

Professor Knut Martin Mørken underlined the advantage that Ethiopia may have in needing to establish many new study programmes from scratch. They can be the first to exploit the opportunities inherent in more creative use of ICT. Photo: Rosseland, UiO

Mørken believes that the time is ripe for integrating the study of programming, particularly in the teaching of natural sciences, as early as in primary and lower secondary school. Children should learn to take control of the tools and to become creative computer users, instead of being victims of technology like so many in preceding generations.

Programming is not difficult, and provides new opportunities to think for oneself. He pointed out that we all have super-tools right in front of us. His own laptop has the same capacity today as the world’s most powerful computer in the year 2000.

Statistical capacity development in Ethiopia

Professor Arnoldo Frigessi began by giving an account of his close relationship with Ethiopia, both academically and as the father of an adopted child from that country. He praised the quality of the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia.

Statistics are an invaluable tool that can help us to understand associations between factors in all academic areas and in societal development. Statistical competence in Ethiopia is high, but academics must begin to make use of this.

Frigessi concluded by presenting a proposal for a ten-year plan for the Ethiopian delegates. The plan described a desired development of statistical knowledge in Ethiopia:

Proposal for a ten-year plan for research on statistics in Ethiopia


Seminar participants

Participants from UiO

Bjørn Hol led the seminar. Other participants were Jeanette Magnus, Per Grøttum and Arnoldo Frigessi from the Faculty of Medicine, Janne Bondi Johannessen from the Faculty of Humanities, and Knut Martin Mørken from the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.

The Ethiopian delegation

  • H.E. Minister Shiferaw Shigutie,
  • H.E. Dr. Tilaye Gete, Ethiopian Minister of Education
  • Mrs Abebech Negash, Director, Teachers and Education Leaders Development Directorate
  • Dr Akililu Hailemichael, Director General, Education Strategy Centre
  • Mohammed Abubeker, Director, Special Support and Inclusive Education
  • Daniel Abebe, Director, Curriculum Development Directorate
  • Yasabu Berkneh, Director, School Improvement Programme, Ethiopia
  • Solomon Shiferaw, Technical Adviser to the Minister
  • Daniel Tenkir, Adviser at the Embassy of Ethiopia in Sweden
  • Girma Woldetsadik, Education Specialist at The World Bank

Presentations from the seminar

- Download as PDF-documents:

* The College of Health Sciences at Jimma University is equivalent to the Faculty of Medicine at UiO.

By Silje M. Kile Rosseland
Published June 23, 2016 9:04 AM - Last modified Jan. 6, 2022 11:36 AM