The Impact of Child Malnutrition and Health on Cognitive Skills in Ethiopia: Using a Standard Panel Data Analysis

Malnutrition and cognitive development
Book / chapter

A chapter titled The Impact of Child Malnutrition and Health on Cognitive Skills in Ethiopia: Using a Standard Panel Data Analysis by Kahsay Berhane Lemma, has now been published in: Poverty and Well-Being in East Africa, edited by Almas Heshmati.

The author's abstract reads:

Over the past two decades, Ethiopia has made significant progress in key human development indicators. Child mortality and nutrition have improved and primary school enrolments have increased.

This study uses longitudinal data of 1813 strong younger cohort and 443 of the older cohort—children in five regions in the country over two rounds from the Young Lives Survey. The purpose of this study is to explore the effects of child nutrition and health on their cognitive achievements measured by the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) test score using a static panel model. The regression analysis shows that there is a positive association between child nutrition (measured by height-for-age WHO z-scores) and cognitive achievements in all age cohorts.

This study also finds that, there are cognitive skill disparities among regions and between sexes and areas of residence. Therefore, the government must give due attention to the importance of nutrition for cognitive and educational development, and these must be integrated as a key component of early childhood care and development programs Since there are regional, residence, and gender disparities in the cognitive skills of the children in each cohort an appropriate nutritional strategy must be developed. In order to achieve long-run human capital development in Ethiopia, all domestic and international nongovernmental organizations have to support and finance the national plan to scale up the nutritional status of children in their early ages.

Educational Trajectories from Childhood to Early Adulthood: Aspirations, Gender and Poverty in Ethiopia

Yisak Tafere
Education transitions
Working paper

This working paper discusses educational trajectories and gendered outcomes in early adulthood in Ethiopia. It is based on the Young Lives longitudinal study of a cohort of children born in 1994, the year when the first educational policy that set out the subsequent expansion of formal schooling in Ethiopia was launched.

Young Lives research has shown that children have gone through irregular education trajectories. Poverty, location, gender, and family situation all played pivotal roles in shaping their educational pathways.

While the national educational data indicate that the number of girls in primary school is almost equal to that of boys, Young Lives research suggests that girls fared well in both primary and secondary education. One implication is that gender parity is achieved at lower educational levels where girls are numerically better-off. Such gender parity in school may, nevertheless, disguise gender inequality that is more visible in adulthood. The national figure is biased towards boys in post-secondary education, and Young Lives research also indicates that the gender gap is narrowing and boys are catching up fast.

Young Lives research has also shown that children’s increased participation in formal education was inspired by the combination of expectations from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Ethiopian Government’s determination to expand education, and the high educational aspirations held by both children and parents. On the other hand, poverty, low quality of education, gender stereotypes, and the limited scope of the MDGs remain major challenges to educational achievements in Ethiopia. International promises have been renewed in the hope that these challenges can be addressed by moving from the MDGs to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

During this research, different policy interventions on poverty, education, and gender were in place, but there was little coordination in their application in the communities. The paper concludes that coordinated interventions on poverty reduction, quality education, and gender equality are required for children to achieve their aspirations from formal schooling.

Education Trajectories in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam: From Early Childhood to Early Adulthood

Santiago Cueto
School effectiveness
Policy paper

Sustainable Development Goal 4,  aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’  and includes both access and outcomes (learning) for all children. Monitoring to what level children reach these goals and what factors are associated with their progress is therefore an important research and policy issue.

In this policy brief, we describe the educational trajectories of 12,000 children across two cohorts: the Younger Cohort born around 1994 and the Older Cohort born around 2001, in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam. The data come from Young Lives household and school surveys conducted over the last 15 years.

Researchers from each of these countries have a produced a report on the trajectories of these children since 2002, when we first started following them.

Here we integrate and summarise some of the main results, highlighting key messages and policy implications for each.

Our approach, based on the SDGs and other international instruments such as the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child, is that quality education is a public good and should be accessible to all children. In order to achieve fair and inclusive education, all students should have access to quality education, regardless of the circumstances and characteristics of children, such as ethnicity, gender, poverty, among others.

Our analysis includes equity as a key element, but goes beyond describing access and outcomes to also include the quality of school environments. Educational performance should depend on students’ effort and ability and not on their educational opportunities. Finally, we consider education as a key factor in the development of individuals, communities and nations, as it increases individual ́s skills, employment opportunities and social mobility, and improves economic growth.


Girls’ diverging pathways to marriage

Five girls (pictured above), are all born in the same year, growing up in the same small village in northern Ethiopia. By the end of their second decade of life, two are married and mothers, two have failed the national Grade 10 exam so are looking for work and one has left her job working as a maid in the Middle East and returned to Ethiopia.

How do we explain the diverging trajectories of young people who, like these girls, experienced most of their childhood during the period of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and for whom poverty was a constant, though dynamic, feature of everyday life growing up? How similar or different are their experiences when compared to their parents’ and grandparents’?

Continue reading this story on The University of Oxford's Medium page where it first appeared on 9 September 2016 and watch our research film Adolescent trajectories and early marriage in Ethiopia.