The Role of Co-Curricular Activities in ESD in Ethiopia

By Shimellis Tobesa Mamo

Table of Contents                                                                             

1.   Introduction                                                                                                                        

2.   Co-Curricular Activities Implementation and Status in Addis Ababa                                                             

3.   Co-Curricular Activities contribution to Education for Sustainable Development 

4    Factors Affecting Implementation of Co-Curricular Activities                                                                       

5.   Recommendations                                                                                                              

6.    Conclusion                                                                                                                         

7.    References    

1. Introduction

Co-curricular activities (CCAs) are activities and learning experiences that complement what students learn in school (Ferguson, 2001). With only what they learn in formal academic classrooms, students cannot be fully aware of the problems the society is currently facing and acquire skills that could possibly help them solve these problems. Parallel to formal class lessons, CCAs have a real-world role in quality education because these activities are a way of exposure to real life in society. According to the United Nations (UN) (2015), a quality education is one that ‘provides all learners with the capabilities they require to become economically productive, develop sustainable livelihoods, contribute to peaceful and democratic societies, and enhance individual well-being.’Quality education plays an invaluable role in the sustainable development of a country. 

According to McKown (1952), CCAs are as old as education itself and used to be called extra-curricular activities (Aggarwal, 2000). These activities used to supplement curricular activities in or outside the four walls of formal classrooms. Although CCAs are embedded in the curriculum and most often called ‘clubs’, the Ethiopian Ministry of Education (MoE) (1994) has preferred the term CCAs to extracurricular activities to stress its significance. It can be seen that the policy incorporates learning that enhancesstudents’ creativity and productivity and is mainly offered in the form of clubs within school settings.However, schools currently focus more on academic classes in which students are expected to remember what they learned in a class to pass exams. 

‘Education’, however, should be comprehensive and incorporate learning inside and outside of school. In order to gain skills in creative problem solving, education has to be integrated into real-life experiences in which students can grow their skills while participating in CCAs. This entry discussesthe current CCAs implementation status along with its contribution to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), identifiesfactors that challengeits implementation in secondary schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and provides recommendations.   

2. Co-Curricular Activities Implementation and Status in Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, has 217 secondary schools teaching grades nine to twelve (Educational Statistics Annual Abstract (ESAA), 2015a). Although every academic year all schools expected to set up clubs during the first month, the types of clubs established differ from school to school. The most common clubs are sports, Red Cross, Anti-HIV/AIDS, subject clubs, Art, Mini media, Library, and Charity. After clubs are established, club leaders or active members are responsible for management of the clubs. Rahel (2012) found that each year only less than 21% of established secondary school clubs in Addis Ababa remain active throughout the academic year, and the rest of them stagnate immediately after establishment. 

More emphasis has been given to regular curriculum, which results in students’ inability to link excellence in academic performance to active participation in CCAs (Rashid and Sasidhar, 2005). Although the curriculum aims to relate education to societal needs to cultivate students’ creativity, with only the knowledge they learn in formal classrooms students may not be able to fully unleash their potential to meet societal needs. To address this and other issues in the curriculum the General Education Quality Improvement Package was introduced in Ethiopia in 2007 to focus on improving the quality of education under six programs (MoE, 2007). 

Shehu (2001) showed that teacher participation in CCAs had a tremendous impacton creating a good image or acting as role model for motivating students and nurture creativity in CCAs. The findings revealed that for the development of students’ talents in CCAs it was essential for school administrators to set strategies for promoting CCAs in schools, motivateteachers, assignteachers’roles in supervising CCAs,and mobilizeresources (Panigrahi and Yadesa, 2012). Although teachers should guide and help students in club activities, most teachers tend to take an active role when there are incentives or if clubs are fully funded. Anti-HIV/AIDS, sports, and Red Cross are among the clubs that are generally funded by external stakeholders, such as the World Vision, National Red Cross Society, UNICEF, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Youth and Sport. Apart from their responsibilityto thesociety, these stakehoders fund activities of the clubs that align with their vision and mission in the society.These activities are consistent throughout the academic year while others function occasionally. There are also schools that run clubs using different motivating mechanisms although they do not have budget and facilities allocated. For instance,creating competitions, providingskills training,and certifying members are among mechanisms some schools in Addis Ababa use to run CCAs.

3. Co-Curricular Activities contribution to Education for Sustainable Development

‘Teach me, and I will forget. Show me, and I might remember. Involve me, and I will never forget,’is a well-known Chinese proverb which portrays the importance of club activities in active learning. Tronc (1976) asserted that theoretical knowledge is enriched when a CCA related to the content taught in the classroom is organized. To be part of a solution for the society they live in, students should be exposed to the challenges of real-world daily life through participatory activities such as CCAs (Davis, 2008).  Formal academic classeswill then also be viewed as relevantby students ifcomplemented by tangible activities outside of school time. Davis (2008) further explained that students who have participated in CCAs are more active in theirsocietiesthan those who are not, which showsthe importance of settinglearning to solve social, cultural and economic problems faced by students and theirlocal community as the aim of school clubs. 

Ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) the United Nations adopted in 2015, known asSDG 4.  

According to Grisay and Mahlck (1991), the general concept of quality of education is made up of three interrelated dimensions. These are ‘the quality of human and material resources available for teaching (inputs), the quality of teaching practices (process), and the quality of results (outputs and outcomes).’ Schoolactivities contribute to quality education, which is a basis for sustainable development of a country. Education is the key that will allow many other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved. For example, when people are able to get quality education(SDG 4), they can break from the cycle of poverty (SDG 1) because they can acquire decent employment (SDG 8). What quality education also helps with is achieving gender equality (SDG 5) because it reduces inequality (SDG 10). It is also quality education that leads to innovation(SDG 9) which empowers people everywhere to live more healthy and sustainable lives (SDG 11). CCAs promotes quality education by motivating students tolearnandexploretheir talents.

4.   Factors Affecting Implementation of Co-Curricular Activities

The effectiveness of CCAs often depends on the individual motivation and the favorable environment in which activities takeplace (Shehu, 2001). Although clubs are established every academic year in every school, not all schools implement and support these activities. Different studies revealed that factors affecting implementation of CCAs are internaland external. 

Kassa (2016) identified the followinginternalfactors: a crowded curriculum thatdoes not give time CCAs to happen, large class sizes limiting focus on individual abilities, low levels of interest in students who are assigned to clubs without their choice, and low levels of encouragement and motivation that would affect students’ participation in CCAs. In some secondary schools of Addis Ababa, schools assign students to clubs without their choice, which makesthem passive in club activities. Also, most students do not pay much attention because theylack awareness ofwhat specific role they will play in the club (Rahel, 2012).Lack of clear guiding material for CCAs in schools is another factor affecting implementation of CCAs. Shehu (2001) suggeststhat for these activities to be successful an institution needsto develop co-curricular goals and operational framework to give a clear mission and vision to clubs. The Ministry of Education has also put in its Education Sector Development Programme V (ESDP V) a statementthat students were not aware of goals of clubs they signed up for (MoE, 2015b).   

The funding that schools are provided with bythe government does not allocate a budget for CCAs unless school administrators set the budget for CCAs from their schools’income. School clubs like Anti-HIV/AIDS, Red Cross, Sport, and Library are successful clubs to some extent compared to others, because of access to facilities and small budgets allocated to them. The others,especially subject-related clubs,are not given importance. It means that practical activities such asscience and IT laboratories, which need facilities and resources,are unlikely to function despite interest. Although budgets are available in some schools, priorities are always given to administrative and academic actions (Bunyi, 2013). 

Lack of awareness among parents is also a limiting factor for students when it comes to time they spend in clubs’ activities. Families mostly do not understand that participation of students in CCAs can help them develop different skills. Panigrahi and Yadesa (2012) stated that for CCAs to yield results, some students have to get permission from their parents for activities after the normal class hours, which is challenging for most students as parents are not aware of the advantages of suchactivities. 

5. Recommendations

Students pursuing their hobbies achieve better results in their studies and their academic performance improvesas they learn to balance their CCAs with their academic pursuits(Bergen-Cico and Viscomi, 2012). Creating asystemto identify students’ talents and interests would be helpful in assigning them to clubs. The existence of clubs in schools alone is not enough for schools to run activities. Guiding materials or documents for each club activity should be provided, because not all schools have teachers everyyear who can facilitate these activities.

Activities in each subject could be integrated withclubsso that students can participate in their regular classes. Since the curriculum favors these activities,schools can also share experiences from successful clubs in other schools. As clubs contribute to students’ personal development and academic achievements, consideration should be given in schools’ budgeting. 

Parents and community should be aware of what CCAs add to students’ development. Schools canholdevents to showcase their clubsto parents,and  organizeannual tournaments, competitions, and festivals for different clubs to motivatestudents and their families. Furthermore, integration of CCAs into the syllabi would be useful for the execution of activities.

6. Conclusion

CCAs, generally referred to as ‘clubs’ in Addis Ababa secondary schools’ context,  are usually established at the start of each academic year. Yet more emphasis has generally been given to regular curriculum, which results in students’ inability to link excellence in academic performance to active participation in CCAs. It is evident that implementing CCAs appropriately in schools is a major way to make formal classroom education relevant to students’ immeduateenvironment and their society’sneeds. However, not all schools implement CCAs despite the fact that  education should focus on all-round development of an individual to help him/her be a contributing member ofsociety. Therefore, there must be a balance between classroom activities and CCAs. Although some schools partially implementthese activities, the majority of schools stop at the establishment level because of different factors. Being not assigned to clubs of their choice or interest during’ recruitment, lack of guiding manuals, no budget allocation, and lack of awareness among parents are some of the hindering factors in implementing CCAs in secondary schools in Addis Ababa. 

7.    References

Aggarwal, C. (2000). School Organization, Administration and Management. New Delhi: Doaba House.

Bergen-Cico, D., & Viscomi, J. (2012). Exploring the Association Between Campus Co-curricular Involvement and Academic Achievement. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice14(3),329-343.

Bunyi, W. (2013). The Quest for Quality Education: The Case of Curriculum Innovations in Kenya. European Journal of Training and Development37(7), 678-691. 

Davis, G. (2008) Quality Education: Prospects and Challenges. APH Publishing. New Delhi.

Ferguson Publishing Company. (2001). Co-curricular Activities: A Pathway to Careers. Chicago, Ill.: Ferguson Pub.

Grisay, A. & Mahlck, L. (1991). The Quality of Education in Developing Countries: A Review of Some Research Studies and Policy Documents.Paris: International Institute of Educational  Planning.

Kassa, T. (2016). Factors Affecting the Participation of Students in Extracurricular 

Activities in Bole Sub-city of Addis Ababa Region. Addis Ababa University.           

McKown, C.1952.Extracurricular Activities, Third Edition, New York: Macmillan Co.

Ministry of Education (MoE). (1994). Ethiopian Education and Training Policy. Addis Ababa, St. George Printing Press.

Ministry of Education (MoE). (2007). General Education Quality Improvement Package. Addis Ababa. Birhanina Selam.

Ministry of Education (MoE). (2015a). Educational Statistics Annual Abstract (ESAA).EMIS. Addis Ababa.  

Ministry of Education (MoE). (2015b). Education Sector Development Programme V (ESDP V)(Programme Action Plan). Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Panigrahi, M. & Yadesa, B. (2012). Implementation of Co-Curricular Activities in Secondary Schools of Oromia Special Zone Surrounding Finfine. An International Multidisciplinary Peer Reviewed E Journal,1(4),190-213.  

Rahel, G. (2012). The Practice of Co-Curricular Activities and How They Develop Students’Talent in Preparatory Schools in Addis Ababa.Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa

Rashid, A., Sitra, A., Medan, T., & Sasidhar, B. (2005). Teachers’ Perception on the Effectiveness of Co-curricular Activities: A Case Study of Malaysian Schools. Retrieved from 

Shehu, J. (2001). Co-curriculum and Co-curricular Activities in Education and Youth Development. Paper in Education Development19, 84-95. 

Tronc, K. (1976). Quality education. Sydney: McGraw-Hill.

United Nations (UN). (2015). Education: Sustainable Development. Retrieved from  

About the Author 

Shimellis Tobesa Mamo

MEd, The University of Hong Kong