Education quality, access and equity in Ethiopia

YL logo

Young Lives researchers presented at a conference on education quality, access and equity organised by the British Council in Addis Ababa on 2 April.

The conference was convened to draw together existing and emerging evidence related to improving general education quality, access and equity and to generate recommendations for policies and programmes in order to inform the effective implementation of support to general education under the Ethiopian Education Sector Development Plan IV framework.

It was attended by over 50 senior policymakers from within the Ministry of Education, the heads of regional Education Bureaux, staff from donor agencies such as DFID, the World Bank, UNICEF, UNDP, with NGO education specialists and senior researchers from Ethiopia.

The Young Lives team presented recent findings from its school research in Ethiopia.

Children enter school at different ages, and progress through the grades at different rates

  • There are marked differences in the range of grades in which same-age children are enrolled.
  • Many of the Young Lives Older Cohort children have not completed Grades 1 to 8 (as would be expected at this age). This is partly explained by the fact that many of the 15 year olds started school late and are still moving through the system.
  • We see also that many children drop out of school (and may return later). This is caused by both out-of-school factors such as poverty, child work (paid and unpaid), family illness and death, or adverse events such as drought, and in-school factors like low teacher qualifications and poor school facilities.

There are increasing proportions of children enrolled in pre-school education

  • This has a beneficial impact on their timely enrolment in primary school and on learning outcomes. When we tested the children who had attended pre-school we saw 38% higher scores in vocabulary and 26% in maths at age 5; and 19% higher scores in vocabulary and 45% in maths at age 8.
  • However, enrolment in pre-school remains concentrated in urban areas and among the wealthiest households.

We identify a range of non-school, school, class and child characteristics on learning gains in maths between the ages of 8 and 12.

  • Non-school factors are urban residence and household wealth.
  • Positive school factors include teacher qualifications, school infrastructure, low teacher absenteeism and teacher pedagogical knowledge.
  • Positive class factors include smaller class size, being male and being enrolled in a higher grade.
  • Positive child factors (within class) include being male, having a more educated mother, spending more time on task, and more time in student-centred learning.

These findings clearly show the importance of children being on-task and actively engaged in learning. However, our observation of 776 maths lessons show that

  • Children spent about 10% of their time on student-based activities, 75% of their time on teacher-centred activities, and 15% of their time 'off-task'.
  • The factors that are likely to encourage student-focused activity in class are the teacher?s level of qualification, class size, class resources, and absence of physical punishment.
  • More children are likely to be off-task in classes with less experienced or less qualified teachers, in primary rather than second-cycle school, large classes, and where physical punishment is used.


Finally we set out some implications of our findings for both ESDP IV and ESDP V

  • These recognise the strong existing commitment to education in which regions spend up to 33% of the total budget on education.
  • However, addressing the drop-out of children from school requires attention to in-school factors (incentives, qualifications, school facilities) and out-of-school factors (health, child work, poverty, impact of drought).
  • Access to pre-school education needs to be expanded, especially in rural and poor urban areas.
  • Achievement in primary education needs to be raised through on-time enrolment, facilities, teacher supervision and management, continuous professional development in teaching and learning methods, use of time in classes and awareness of children?s learning levels, reductions in class size and increases in parental awareness of the importance of education.