Integrated Functional Adult Education

Country Profile: Ethiopia


94,101,000 (2013)

Official languages

Amharic; English (there are more than 75 officially recognised regional languages, e.g.: Tigrinya; Oromifa; Tigre; Harari; Agaw; Afar)

Poverty (Population living on less than US$1.25 per day)

31% (2011)

Total expenditure on education as % of GNP

4.74 (2010)

Youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years, 2015)

Female: 67.8%
Male: 71.13%
Both sexes: 69.5%

Adult literacy rate (15+ years, 2015)

Female: 41.1%
Male: 57.2%
Both sexes: 49.1%

Statistical sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleIntegrated Functional Adult Education (IFAE)
Implementing OrganizationSiliti Zone Education Department
Language of InstructionAmharic, Siltegna (local language)
FundingGovernment, private sector, a national NGO, and target communities (which currently cover a third of the costs)
Programme PartnersAddis Development Vision (a local NGO), Action Aid Ethiopia, Azernet Berbera Programme, and the following Siliti Zone government agencies: agriculture, health, trade and industry, women and youth affairs, and the agricultural products exchange and cooperatives department
Annual Programme CostsApproximately 3,661,000 Birr (or US $180,000)
Annual programme cost per learner: Approximately 40 Birr (or US $2)
Date of Inception2010

Country Context

According to the World Bank (2014), the main challenges facing Ethiopia include the alleviation of poverty among its citizens and its further progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). To address these issues, the Ethiopian government introduced a five-year development plan in 2010 called the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP). The main goal of the GTP is to transform Ethiopia into a middle-income economy. To achieve this, the Ethiopian government is allocating a significant share of its budget to poverty alleviation. In recent years, these efforts have led to improvements in the standard of living of Ethiopians. For example, the number of people below the national poverty line of US $0.60 per day decreased from 38.7% in 2005 to 29.6% in 2010. In 2015, Ethiopia aims to reduce the number of people in extreme poverty to 22.2%. The country has reached the MDG for child mortality and is on track to achieve the goals on gender parity in education, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. Despite this progress, Ethiopia continues to face major challenges, such as improving access to primary education and addressing food insecurity. Currently, primary education is short of the MDG for universal primary education, with 85% coverage. The Integrated Functional Adult Education programme implemented in the Siliti Zone addresses all of these challenges and, therefore, fits well into Ethiopia’s overall development efforts (World Bank, 2012).

Programme Overview

The Integrated Functional Adult Education (IFAE) programme is a functional literacy programme that reaches out to adults and young people aged 15 or older and is available to women, the disabled, and minority groups. The main goals of the programme are to increase literacy rates, to promote women’s empowerment, to improve participants’ health and to raise the general standards of living within communities. The programme consists of two eight-month courses that participants complete within two years. Topics taught include literacy, gender issues, environmental protection, civic and ethical education, health, disease prevention, family planning, and agriculture. To date, the IFAE programme has been implemented only in the Siliti Zone. It has reached approximately 165,000 adults and young people, including 76,500 women, since its launch in 2010.

Aims and Objectives

The main objective of the programme is to increase the adult literacy rate in Ethiopia’s Siliti Zone to 95% by 2015. Besides improving literacy, the programme also aims to teach participants fundamental skills and knowledge that will increase the standard of living in communities. For example:

The programme hopes to reach around 317,000 individuals within the first five years, of which 65% should be women and young people.

Programme Implementation

The IFAE programme is implemented in eight Woredas (the third-level administrative division in Ethiopia) and one city administration (Silti, Lanfuro, Dalocha, Hulbarege, Sankura, Merab-Azernete Berbera, Mesrak-Azernete Berbera, Alcho-Wuriro, and Werabe Town) in the Siliti Zone. Specifically, the programme runs in 181 rural Kebeles (the smallest administrative unit in Ethiopia, comparable to a neighbourhood) and 71 urban Kebeles.

The programme takes two years to complete and consists of two courses, each of eight months’ duration. Teaching takes place for two hours a day, three days a week, or, alternatively, three hours a day for two days a week. Facilitators usually conduct classes in schools, alternative basic education centres and other Kebele facilities. The programme’s partners, Addis Development Vision and Action Aid Azerenet-Berebera, assist facilitators in raising awareness of the programme.

Teaching and Learning: Approaches and Methodologies

The teaching methodology used is active and participatory. Facilitators often link literacy training to everyday topics. For example, when facilitators teach about Malaria, they educate participants about the symptoms, transmission, treatment and prevention of Malaria, while also telling learners how to spell words and phrases related to the disease.

Programme Content and Teaching Material

The learners’ needs are determined through face-to-face interviews conducted by regional facilitators. The curriculum is then developed to reflect the interests of the learners and the needs of the community in question. The needs assessment of learners happens at the Kebele level. However, the Ministry of Education dictates that the learning content in all Kebeles should cover its core curriculum. Facilitators generally base the content on the interests of the participants, which often means combining numeracy and literacy training with income-generating and livelihood topics. The main subjects covered in the programme include literacy, gender, environmental protection, civic and ethical education, health, disease prevention, family planning, and agriculture. Overall, facilitators use around 20,000 textbooks and manuals. Local officers are responsible for translating and adjusting the teaching material in order to tailor them to local circumstances. In addition, programme facilitators use other equipment, such as agricultural tools and cleaning utensils, to conduct teaching.


Paid teachers, volunteers and university students conduct the classes. There are around 50 participants for every teacher. Most facilitators come from the local communities. They are required to know the local language and to be familiar with the traditions and culture of the locality. Facilitators receive training in the form of workshops and seminars at regional, Woreda and Kebele levels. Training for facilitators includes sessions on andragogy, adult psychology, learning assessments, and classroom management. Addis Development Vision and Action Aid Azerenet-Berebera also help to recruit and train facilitators. Teachers receive an average monthly salary of 600 Birr (approximately US $30)

Monitoring and Evaluation of the Programme

The monitoring and evaluation of the programme is carried out by Woreda education officers who regularly collect data to monitor the progress of the programme. Each officer covers six education centres and conducts a review of the programme on a quarterly basis. In addition, programme implementers distribute an annual census questionnaire on the development of the skills training programme to each Woreda.

Accreditation Mechanisms

The local authority issues certificates to participants who complete the first year and to those who graduate after two years on the programme.

Impact and Challenges

Impact and Achievements

The IFAE programme has a positive impact on the standard of living, education, income, health and social status of participants. Women experience empowerment as a result of participating in the programme. For example, some female participants have formed women’s groups that offer support when one member of the group becomes sick or faces other hardships. Women also become more aware of their rights, which enables them to improve their access to land, electricity and water. The social status of women also increases as they start to gain decision-making power within the family. In 2013, women made up close to 50% of programme graduates (10,083 graduates out of 24,382).

Participants increase their literacy and numeracy abilities. Children also indirectly benefit from the programme as better-educated parents tend to provide better support to their children, by encouraging them to study and by providing them with educational materials. In participating communities, school drop-out rates decreased from 7.9% in 2012 to 1.5% in 2014. There are also positive health outcomes associated with the IFAE programme. Parents tend to vaccinate their children more frequently and mothers are more likely to understand the dangers of pregnancy, to receive pre- and post-natal health care and to engage in family planning. In addition, the personal hygiene of participants also improves. For example, after participating in this programme, some participants and their families began to construct and utilize latrines.

The programme also has a positive influence on the income and nutrition of participants’ households. Participants start to use fertilizers and apply new agricultural practices to improve crop yield. Households diversify their agricultural activities to reduce malnutrition. The programme’s training in technical and business development skills contributes to rising incomes. Learners also start to save more as they become more familiar with the concept of saving.


Challenges facing the programme include:

Lessons Learned

In the beginning in 2010, the programme ran one learning center per Kebele. Over time, the number of learning centers per Kebele increased to six training centres. In the process, facilitators received more training and additional staff joined the programme, including mentors and supervisors. The government adjusted its financial contributions, and the programme facilitators changed the structure of the programme to clusters consisting of between thre and five Kebeles. The purpose of these clusters is to share financial, labour and material resources among learning centres and facilitators within the cluster. Most importantly, programme implementers also tried to extend the practices from the best-performing learning centres (in terms of access, quality and participation) to other learning centres. Looking back, programme facilitators feel that the programme should have been scaled up in order to reach more poor and vulnerable people. In the future, it will be a focus for government agencies to scale up the programme.


The sustainability of the programme is achieved through an arrangement that organizes participants into different community-level groups and committees. For example, women organize themselves into women’s groups. In addition, participants form technical, education, training and supervision committees. These groups receive financial and technical support from the government. Through their membership in these groups, participants gain a responsible role and gain a sense of ownership over the programme. The community-based groups promote adult education and contribute material, financial and staff resources to building new learning centers and improving existing ones. The community-based groups also enable participants to access individual loans and improve social cohesion within a community. Therefore, they play an important role in poverty reduction, which further promotes the sustainability of the programme’s positive outcomes. In addition, the improved social status of women, promoted by the women’s groups, is especially important in maintaining the positive benefits of the programme. Regional education bureaus further promote the sustainability of the programme by providing political support for further functional literacy education.



Zeyne Bilka Mohammed
Zonal Education Department Head
Siliti Zone, Worabe Town, Ethiopia
Telephone/Fax: +251467710499
Email: zeyne.bilka (at)