Primary and secondary education in Ethiopia

Primary education

Only primary education is compulsory in Ethiopia. It lasts 8 years and it is for pupils aged 7 to 14. Primary education consists of 2 stages:

Secondary education

Students follow secondary education at a secondary school, but they take their final exams via the Educational Assessment and Examination Services (EAES).

If they pass, they receive a diploma from the EAES: the Ethiopian Secondary School Leaving Examination (ESSLE). The language of instruction is English.

Please note:

Primary School Leaving Certificate

  • : 6 years (grade 1- grade 6).
  • Content: lower primary education (primary school).
  • Diploma: Primary School Leaving Certificate.

Middle School Education Certificate

  • Duration: 2 years (grade 7- grade 8).
  • Content: upper primary education (middle school).
  • Diploma: Middle School Education Certificate.

Ethiopian Secondary School Leaving Examination (ESSLE)

  • Duration: 4 years (grade 9-grade 12).
  • Content: in July of the final year (grade 12), students take exams in 7 subjects. The following 4 exam subjects are compulsory:
    • civics
    • English
    • general academic aptitude
    • mathematics
      In addition, students take exams in 3 subjects from a track (subject cluster). They can choose 1 of the following tracks:
    • natural science track with subjects like biology, chemistry and physics; or
    • social science track with subjects like economics, geography and history.
  • Admission requirements: the Middle School Education Certificate.
  • Function of the diploma: access to higher education.
  • Diploma: Ethiopian Secondary School Leaving Examination, issued by the EAES. Please note that until the academic year 2021/2022, the diploma was called the Secondary School Leaving Examination (SSLE) and until 2022, the EAES was called the NEAEA.

We compare a (Ethiopian) Secondary School Leaving Examination to a diploma if students meet these 2 conditions:

  • a result of 50 or higher for at least 6 subjects; and
  • a total score (total) of at least 335.

Secondary education before 2021

Before 2021, secondary education consisted of 2 stages:

Ethiopian General Secondary Education Certificate (EGSEC)

Before 2021, students finished lower secondary education (general secondary education) with exams for an EGSEC. They took their exams via the NEAEA.

  • Duration: 2 years (grade 9 - grade 10).
  • Content: usually 9 exam subjects, sometimes 10. Students took exams in the following subjects:
    • Amharic
    • biology
    • chemistry
    • civics
    • English
    • geography
    • history
    • mathematics
    • physics
      In addition, students could take their native language as the 10th exam subject, such as Afan Oromo.
  • Admission requirements: the Primary School Leaving Certificate, which, before 2021, was the diploma students received after completing primary education. This has changed, see Primary and secondary education in Ethiopia.
  • Function of the diploma: access to upper secondary education (Ethiopian University Entrance Examination Certificate) or secondary vocational education. This depended on the students’ exam results.
  • iploma: Ethiopian General Secondary Education Certificate, issued by the NEAEA.

We compare a Ethiopian General Secondary Education Certificate to a diploma.

Ethiopian University Entrance Examination Certificate (EUEEC)

Up until 2020, students concluded upper secondary education with exams for a Ethiopian University Entrance Examination Certificate (EUEEC). The content (curriculum) was largely the same as it is now (Ethiopian Secondary School Leaving Examination). They took their exams via the NEAEA.

We compare a Ethiopian University Entrance Examination Certificate to a diploma if students meet these 2 conditions:

  • a result of 50 or higher for at least 6 subjects; and
  • a total score (total) of at least 335.