Assessing Children’s Learning Outcomes: A Comparison of two cohorts from Young Lives Ethiopia

Tassew Woldehanna
Journal Article

This paper examines the disparity in learning outcomes between two cohorts of children of the same age (12 years old) but seven years apart using data from Young Lives Ethiopia. Learning outcomes are measured by the differences in mathematics, common reading and receptive vocabulary tests. By applying simple statistical tests, we particularly looked at whether the level of learning outcomes declined or improved over the seven years of time. We found a substantial and statistically significant difference in mathematics and reading scores between the two cohorts showing a decline from the older to the younger cohort. In the case of mathematics test, for example, the percentage of correct scores declined from 54.42% in 2006 to 37.17% in 2013. The 17.25 percentage point difference is significant at P<0.01. This decline was mainly driven by those children who were living in rural areas; whose caregivers had received little or no education; whose households’ wealth tercile was at the bottom; and/or who were in government primary schools. Though the percentage of receptive vocabulary score showed a slight increase from the older to the younger cohort, a rising inequality was observed at intra-cohort level. These findings point out that there is a need to halt the deterioration of learning outcomes and rising inequalities early in life as these may result in different form of inequalities if left unchecked. The paper also proposes further research to identify the inschool and out-of-school factors that might contribute to the declining levels of learning outcomes and widening learning inequalities.