Until 1905 the teaching of missionary and Qur’anic schools was conducted. This year the first state schools were added, and more and more were built until the development stopped by the Italian occupation in 1936–41. During this period, many schools were closed, and many teachers and students lost their lives. After 1941, Emperor Haile Sellassie personally became involved in a program of education at all stages. During the 1974 revolution, about 15% of children of primary school age attended school, but in practice there was only education in cities and towns.
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School building has not been able to keep up with the population development, which means that in many places teaching must be conducted in shifts. The 1983 set goals of eradicating illiteracy and providing all children with primary education have been difficult to achieve due to scarce resources. The teacher shortage is large, and the number of children in schools has increased rapidly. In 2006, 62% of girls and 68% of boys started primary school, and 43% of children completed it. Schooling is officially compulsory for six years. The compulsory school is free of charge and lasts for eight years, followed by a high school of four years. In 2006, 19% of girls and 29% of boys started high school.
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Teaching has traditionally taken place in Amharic, which has led to difficulties in areas where the majority of the population speaks something different of Ethiopia’s many languages. Nowadays, the regions can choose local languages in schools, but there is often a lack of materials and teachers. In the higher classes as well as in universities and colleges, the language of instruction is English. The largest university is located in the capital Addis Ababa, and a further seven universities and a number of higher education institutions are located throughout the country. In 2003, 50% of men and 35% of women in Ethiopia were literate.