Should school principals be held accountable for the quality of education? An Ethiopian perspective.

The 2017 GEM Report will explore the successes and challenges to effective accountability in Education. While the online consultation is now officially closed, we welcome comments until the yearlong research period of the Report is over. This includes the following comments from an Ethiopian perspective, which explore whether school principals should be held accountable for the quality of education in their schools.

When we asked the question to you via twitter, we received the following fairly telling response:

twitterLet’s see how the question is answered by three different points of view in Ethiopia: the Ministry of Education, a school principal and a student.

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School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

A/ Response from the Ministry of Education

By Fedlu Redi (School improvement program directorate, primary education program expert), Ministry of education, Ethiopia

Before we answer this question, it is important to see what activities are implemented by the Ethiopian government and other stakeholders to provide quality education at the school level and what are the responsibilities of school principals in supporting these efforts. Then we can easily identify where the blame should go.

In Ethiopia, currently there are more than 35,000 primary and 2,000 secondary government schools. Government schools account for about 96% of school enrollment and non-government schools account for the rest. Where schools do not exist, the first cycle of primary education is delivered through Alternative Basic Education Centers, which follows a curriculum different from that of primary schools.

The provision of education is the concurrent responsibility of federal, regional, and local governments (woredas). The main functions of the federal government are policy formulation, monitoring and evaluation, development of secondary curriculum, and secondary teacher preparation. The mandate for general education lies mainly with regional governments. Woredas/local government education offices are also responsible for the management and supervision of primary schools, whereas the management and supervision of secondary schools is shared between woredas and regions.

The Ethiopian government prepares and implements an education sector development programme (ESDP) every five years to ensure the quality of education provided to schools from grade one to twelve. But the mandate of a school principal is to lead his/her school according to that education policy in collaboration with the school community.

The government’s activities so far that are aimed at providing a quality education  take the form of a general education quality improvement package made up of six sub programs including curriculum improvement, teachers and education leaders development, schools improvement, ICT development, schools leadership improvement and civics education improvement. These six sub programs are being implemented in all schools in the country.

Federal and regional governments then implement the revised curriculum, procure learning materials, and work to strengthen assessments. Their activities also include improved in-service and pre-service training of teachers, school improvement planning and school grants and capacity building for planning and management, and strengthened education management and information systems.

The responsibilities of school principals, meanwhile, include the following:

  • Monitoring the effectiveness of schools’ teaching and learning processes
  • Preparing and implementing the annual and strategic plan
  • Allocating enough budget to equip the school with the required facilities  to create a healthy learning environment
  • Working together with the school community

From what we discussed up to now, there is no doubt that school principals are the primary parties accountable for the quality of education at the school level. But different stakeholders also have  their own share in the responsibility. For instance, parent-teacher associations (PTSA) and the whole community around the school, supervisors and local education officers up to the ministry of education at the national level are also accountable for failures in the quality of education at the school level.

Therefore, school principals are accountable but not solely accountable for the quality of education.

B/ Response of school principal

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By Shemlash Zewdie Bekele (Principal) From Kokebetsibah Secondary and preparatory school  Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The answer is definitely YES. School leadership has become a priority in education policy agendas internationally and nationally, because it plays a key role in improving school outcomes by influencing the motivations and capacities of teachers, as well as the school climate and environment. Effective school leadership is essential to improve the efficiency and equity of schooling.

Being a school principal is a well-established position that provides instructional leadership by coordinating curricula, co-curricular programs and is responsible for the general administration of the school. The principals as instructional leaders are at the vantage positions to supervise, monitor, assess, evaluate and disseminate current information on educational issues and modern teaching techniques to teachers in order to stimulate them for best practices in curriculum delivery.

The Ethiopian government has designed various packages to assure quality of education. It is known that quality assurance is achieved in schools that have strong principals who devote considerable time to coordinating and managing instruction; such principals are highly visible in the school and stay close to the instructional process.

The following are some major responsibilities of principals to bring quality of education:

All these activities are vital to the quality of education. Therefore, since a principal has the responsibility to work on the above issues, it indicates that he/she is accountable for the failure of quality of education.

C/ A student from Minilik secondary school, Addis Ababa, Ethiopiaethiopia sblog

School principals have a big role to play for the quality of education in the school by preventing different obstacles that hinder teaching and learning.

This is possible only by working collaboratively with students and other school community members. Although in our school principals are hard workers, generally speaking, some do not have close contact with students and even with teachers. The reason could be that they are busy. But they need to make time. Otherwise they do not even understand the feelings and problems of students and this could lead to a failure in the quality of education given.

Therefore, yes, principals have a responsibility for the level of the quality of education given at school.



  1. First and foremost principals need to make sure that teachers show up, go to their classes, stay there, teach, and don’t leave early. They need to make sure that books get to school, stay there (i.e. not get stolen), and are used.
    No other functions matter as much. In poor countries collusion or indifference create a severe leakage of instructional time. This is what “quality” is made out of.

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