Education is the most powerful instrument in modernizing a society. The Global economy is experiencing unprecedented changes. New developments in science and technology, competition, media revolution and internalization are revolutionizing the education sector. We are witnessing several paradigm shifts in higher education, from `nation' to `global education,' from `state controlled' to an `open market economy,' from `general education' to an `educational system driven by market forces,' from `one time education for a few' to `life long education for all,' and from `teacher centered' to `learner centered' education. These changes are making new demands and posing fresh challenges to Eritrea’s education systems and practices.
Educational investment involves a present sacrifice of income to get an expected future benefit. Investing capital in education wisely and efficiently is like saving the capital whilst it is generating profit. This contributes to a nation’s prosperity as well as social, cultural and political stability.
The role of the right kind of education in Eritrea's progress cannot be over-emphasized. It can inculcate citizenship values, liberate people from ignorance, empower them with knowledge, information, and skills to know about their rights and entitlements, expand their outlook, form their aspirations, and prepare young citizens to take up roles and responsibilities to shape their own destiny. Indeed, education awakens a nation's consciousness against injustice, violence, and inequality.
It is projected that Eritrea will achieve 8 of the 10 goals prescribed in the MDGs. The two areas that Eritrea will not achieve according to the MDG report are primary school enrolment and poverty reduction.
Eritrea's literacy level is still low. As much as 40 per cent of Eritreans lack basic literacy. About 50 per cent of the Eritrean children drop out of school at the elementary stage, and just 13 per cent of high school students graduate. Most of the dropouts belong to the poorest segments of the society particularly in rural Eritrea. Therefore, there is need to bring down the dropout rate to zero. For this, the poor and deprived will need special support. Professor Amartya Sen, Nobel laureate in Economics in 1998 wrote: "When people are illiterate, their ability to understand and invoke their legal rights can be very limited, and educational neglect can also lead to other kinds of deprivation... if we continue to leave vast sections of the people of the world outside the orbit of education, we make the world not only less just, but also less secure."
Education should enable everyone to secure proper employment; hence the need to expand avenues for vocational training. In this line, efforts are being exerted to develop the technical and vocational education in Sawa from March 2007. More than 3,500 students began to receive the training in various professional fields. The present system creates wide equality not only among rich and poor students but among those from urban and rural backgrounds. But still some disparities can be noticed in the education of girls where their participation is less than 20 per cent.
There is a need to provide a better environment for the youth and build their capacities through sustained nurturing of entrepreneurial talent, innovation and creativity, research and development. Institutions of higher learning should foster the spirit of research and inquiry to enable students to face the challenges in young Eritrea.
The reality is disquieting. Only about 3 per cent of the youth in the 17-23 age groups get an opportunity for higher education. The enrolment rates in science, medicine, engineering and technology, business and economics and arts and social sciences vary from time to time. The enrolment in basic sciences is on the wane. The standard of research in higher learning institutions/ university is not yet developed. Universities/colleges have to be the hub of quality education and research, and centres of academic excellence in Eritrea to develop quality human resources. For example, in a bid to develop human resources in the country, the Eritrean Center for Organizational Excellence trained 40 officials on February 2007.
The Eritrean Center for Organizational Excellence was established in October 2006 to render different administrative training; advice institutions with a view of stimulating efficient service provision; and to introduce necessary techniques to increase production.
The center is also out to provide the necessary infrastructure; give a high priority to the establishment of units by its partners and clients; encourage institutional competence and productivity and conduct studies in collaboration with its customers to make the training and up grading related with the current situation, among others.
Development programs should begin with the poor. There is need to improve the efficiency and management of delivery of public goods and services. Eritreans are destined to be a prosperous, strong, and developed nation and working hard accordingly.