Educational Inequalities Among Children and Young People in Ethiopia

Tassew Woldehanna
Inequality
Education
School effectiveness
Country report

The Ethiopian education sector has been one of the most important pro-poor sectors in the country over recent years, with public education spending accounting for 21 per cent of total government spending, and to 4 per cent of GDP, in 2012/13. As the result of this, school enrolment (Grades 1-12) doubled from about 10 million students in 2002/3 to over 20 million in 2013/14. Coupled with the public educational expenditure, the government has also made a number of policy changes in different areas of the sector.

Yet, in spite of the unprecedented enrolment at all levels, the education sector still shows varying degrees of access for different groups, with nine out of ten children of appropriate age enrolled in primary education, two out of ten in secondary education, and only one out of ten at university.

This working paper analyses the educational inequalities that may exist among different groups of children and young people in Ethiopia using Young Lives longitudinal data collected over four rounds of surveys, for two cohorts of children born in 2001-02  and in 1994-95.

The paper’s findings are that overall, although the education system has expanded rapidly, affording access to millions of children who would not have had such an opportunity at the beginning of the Young Lives project in 2002, smooth progression and completion of general, further and higher education remain attainable by only the children of the rich, of educated mothers, of least vulnerable groups, of urban households, and in particular, those residing in Addis Ababa. Recent ‘remarkable’ progress in the sector came from a terribly low base and improvements should be lauded, but many gaps remain to be closed through equitable and inclusive educational policies. An important mechanism will be a revision of public education spending policies, to transfer funds from the higher- to lower-levels in the system; to the levels at which so many of the children from the lowest income quintile and with the least family support are still unable to move beyond.

Children of the Millennium: Growing Up with the MDGs

Caroline Knowles
Poverty and inequality
Inequality
Policy
Children's perspectives
Policy paper

At the turn of the century, huge optimism surrounded the global commitment to the MDGs. Many of the goals related to children and childhood, including ending poverty and hunger, expanding enrolment in primary education, and improving access to clean water and sanitation. If we can get things right at the start of a child’s life, the world agreed, we have a chance to stop poverty and inequality being passed down through the generations.

During 2015, Young Lives have been taking stock of the achievements and lessons learned since the adoption of the MDGs, in the run-up to the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

Using data gathered from 12,000 children and their families over the timeframe of the MDGs, and in children’s own words where possible, this report from Young Lives looks beyond the ‘big data’ to see what has changed in the reality of children’s lives in the context of the shifts in national policy, priorities and outcomes related to the MDGs.

There have been some important advances, with a reduction in childhood poverty and rise in essential services across many developing countries. However, average numbers cannot tell the whole story; the figures hide discrepancies between countries, as well as between children within countries, and gaps in quality and inclusiveness.

Young Lives Ethiopia School Survey 2012-13

Elisabetta Aurino
Inequality
Education
Working paper

This report provides an overview of the second Young Lives school survey in Ethiopia, conducted at the beginning and end of the 2012-13 academic year with nearly 12,000 primary-school children studying in Grades 4 and 5. The survey was designed to allow analysis of what shapes children's learning and progression over a school year and the report gives a baseline descriptive report of the data.

This second school survey extended beyond the 20 Young Lives study sites to include 10 newly selected sites in the developing regions of Somali and Afar, where historically poor access to and participation in services, including education, is of particular concern to government, donors and NGOs. In each of the total of 30 sites, all schools, both government-owned and non-government-owned, were included in the sample, enabling a perspective on the growing phenomenon of private schooling in Ethiopia.

Pupils in Grade 4 and Grade 5 were assessed in the core curricular domains of maths and reading comprehension at the beginning and the end of the school year. Data were also collected at the teacher, class, principal and school levels, in order to analyse the determinants of learning progress during a single school year, i.e. providing a "value-added" perspective (not included in this report but to be covered in forthcoming publications).

 See also: Ethiopia School Survey 2012-13: Data Report Summary

 

Emergence and Evolution of Learning Gaps across Countries

Abhijeet Singh
Inequality
Education
Working paper

There are substantial learning gaps across countries on standardised international assessments. In this paper, I use unique child-level panel data from Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam with identical tests administered across these countries to children at 5, 8, 12 and 15 years of age to ask at what ages do gaps between different populations emerge, how they increase or decline over time, and what the proximate determinants of this divergence are.

I document that a clear pattern of stochastic dominance is evident at the age of 5 years, prior to school enrolment, with children in Vietnam at the upper end, children in Ethiopia at the lower, and with Peru and India in between. Differences between country samples grow in magnitude at later ages, preserving the country rankings noted at 5 years of age over the entire age range studied. This divergence is only partly explained by home investments and child-specific endowments in a value-added production function approach. The divergence in achievement between Vietnam and the other countries at primary school age is largely explained by the differential productivity of a year of schooling. These findings are confirmed also using an instrumental variables approach, using discontinuities in grade completion arising between children born in adjacent months due to country-specific enrolment guidelines.

Exploring the effect of educational opportunity and inequality on learning outcomes in Ethiopia, Peru, India, and Vietnam

Caine Rolleston
Inequality
Education
Policy paper

The provision of access to good quality education for all requires not only improvements in access and quality, but improvements in the way access and quality are distributed between more and less advantaged children. Longitudinal data from the Young Lives study in Ethiopia, India (in the state of Andhra Pradesh), Peru and Vietnam offer a unique opportunity to explore these issues in comparative perspective. In this background paper for the UNESCO Global Monitoring Report we examine trends in enrolment and learning across two cohorts of children, born in 1994–95 and 2001–02, comparing children by gender, household wealth, and residence in urban and rural locations. We examine both learning levels and changes over time; taking account of prior learning in order to understand both the cumulative effects of children’s backgrounds and school quality and the effects on learning progress during particular time periods spent in school. Further, we explore the potential impact of school quality and ‘opportunities to learn’ in mediating the relationships between disadvantage and learning outcomes through two comparative analyses – a comparison between India and Vietnam on children’s progress in relation to curricular expectations and a comparison between Vietnam and Peru on the effects of differences in school quality on learning attainment.

We find large differences in learning outcomes are evident, attributable in many respects to system-level factors. The similarity between enrolled children’s outcomes in Ethiopia and pupils in India suggests that were Ethiopia to achieve universal enrolment and perhaps admit children to school at an earlier age, children’s learning achievement would likely be at a similar level to India. This underlines the crisis of quality characterising the much more established system in India, where access has been near universal for a decade, but where learning levels remain low and progress weak. The Indian example is perhaps instructive in the Ethiopian context, where it will be important that due attention to paid to improvements in quality in the next decade. In Peru, standards are generally high, but when seen in relation to education spending, the differences between both schools and children are large. By contrast, in Vietnam standards are high and the specific targeting of inequality in national policy is likely linked to a relatively equitable distribution of school quality. Improving equity in learning progress requires particular attention to learning among the most disadvantaged groups, and targeted policies which explicitly focus on improving educational access and quality for the least advantaged are arguably good not only for equity, but may be the most efficient way to improve levels of learning overall.

Further resources

[UNESCO-GMR-2014] The 2013/4 Education for All Global Monitoring Report shows why education is pivotal for development in a rapidly changing world. It explains how investing wisely in teachers, and other reforms aimed at strengthening equitable learning, transform the long-term prospects of people and societies.

EFA Global Monitoring Report 2013-14: Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality For All Paris: UNESCO, 2014

Social change without a backlash - tackling early marriage and genital cutting in Ethiopia

Kirrily Pells

Yesterday was the Day of the African Child, held every year to commemorate the 1976 massacre of black children and youth in Soweto, South Africa, who were protesting about the inferior quality of their education and demanded to be taught in their own language. The theme for this year’s observance was “Eliminating Harmful Social and Cultural Practices affecting Children: Our Collective Responsibility”. While there is international consensus that female early marriage and genital cutting can cause physical, emotional and social damage to girls, the key question for policy is how to eliminate such practices without creating a backlash that endangers girls. Failure to understand the root causes of these practices undermine their effectiveness and may bring about resistance and unintended adverse consequences.

The Ethiopian government opposes female early marriage and genital cutting, designating them as Harmful Traditional Practices and proscribing them in law. The government has introduced legislation in the constitution and legal codes and promoted a wide range of preventative measures, largely comprising advocacy campaigns in the media and among local associations around the adverse health and social consequences in schools. In some areas, this has resulted in changes in values and practices, also supported by greater participation in school and greater economic opportunities for young people. However there is considerable resistance to reform even in areas that have experienced intensive advocacy endeavours. Peer pressure leads some girls to opt for genital cutting against the wishes of their parents. This resistance has caused disagreement within families, contestation of state policy and clandestine actions, such as elopements under the guise of abduction and clandestine cutting rituals, themselves a potential risk to the girls involved. This indicates that the practices are driven underground rather than disappear.

Persistence of the practices can be attributed to the strong vested interest in the productive and reproductive capacity of women, as expressed through the regulation of their sexual conduct and marriage by older generations. Early marriage and genital cutting are also often seen as protecting girls against the social stigma of pre-marital sex and not having been circumcised. The practices are seen to ensure girls’ social integration and their moral and social development, particularly in times of social change.

Positive ways forward

Young Lives research suggests a couple of positive ways forward – starting with listening to the perspectives of girls and their families on early marriage and genital cutting to develop a better understanding of the reasons for the continuation of the practices. A more effective and culturally appropriate policy approach requires a move away from focusing on specific practices and towards linking more with wider social processes, integrating strategies aimed at reducing their prevalence with other initiatives aimed at improving the health and socio-economic status of women and families more broadly.

Other measures include encouraging culturally appropriate and sensitive ways of celebrating rites of passage (at birth or adolescence) which promote cultural values without causing physical damage. This involves working at the community level, including with local and religious leaders, especially to clarify misconceptions about religious prerequisites for genital cutting. Changing cultural values is much easier through open dialogue about fears and anxieties concerning social processes of change, rather than through legislation. Other drivers for change include the promotion of education and employment opportunities for women and girls. There is a lower prevalence of female early marriage and genital cutting among girls with literate mothers and better economic prospects provide girls and their families with more options.

 

 

What Inequality Means for Children

Martin Woodhead
Poverty and inequality
Inequality
Policy paper

Our starting point for this paper is that child poverty and inequality are the expression of the political, economic and cultural forces that structure societies – and children’s lives – in terms of the distribution of resources and opportunities in ways that align, to a greater or lesser degree, with ethnicity or caste, religion, gender, urban/rural location, age and generation, etc. We understand inequality as covering a broad spectrum of differences in children’s household circumstances and in their outcomes and opportunities, linked to ethnicity, gender, urban/rural location, etc.

Our research finds that the most disadvantaged households and children are most vulnerable to adversities and have least resources to overcome them. We see how ways inequality undermines the development of human potential, with children from disadvantaged families quickly falling behind in terms of early learning and other outcomes.

The paper contains 8 key messages:

Message 1: Inequalities in children’s development originate in multiple disadvantages, which compound to affect children’s long-term outcomes.

Message 2: Inequalities undermine the development of human potential, and children from disadvantaged families quickly fall behind.

Message 3: In Young Lives countries, gender differences become more significant as children get older, but boys are not always advantaged over girls.

Message 4: Early malnutrition has serious, long-term consequences for children’s development (both physical and cognitive), but there is also evidence that some children may recover and ‘catch up’.

Message 5: Inequalities open up during middle and later childhood, as children grow up.

Message 6: How children feel about themselves and their well-being is both a major indicator of inequality and also a channel for the transmission of poverty.

Message 7: Education is regarded by both adults and children as having the potential to transform their lives, but doesn’t always compensate for disadvantage and may reinforce differences between children.

Message 8: Social protection programmes can reduce disadvantage, but impacts are often complex, some may be unintended and they may not always benefit children.

We conclude that since inequalities are multidimensional, so too must be the response. Equitable growth policies, education and health services, underpinned by effective social protection, all have a role to play.

The paper synthesises research carried out by the Young Lives team over the past three years. It was initially written for a consultation coordinated by UN Women and UNICEF to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals and to discuss the options for ensuring that inequalities are effectively addressed in a new development framework after 2015.

What Inequality Means for Children: Evidence from Young Lives

Martin Woodhead
Inequality
Policy paper

Our starting point for this paper is that child poverty and inequality are the expression of the political, economic and cultural forces that structure societies – and children’s lives – in terms of the distribution of resources and opportunities in ways that align, to a greater or lesser degree, with ethnicity or caste, religion, gender, urban/rural location, age and generation, etc. We understand inequality as covering a broad spectrum of differences in children’s household circumstances and in their outcomes and opportunities, linked to ethnicity, gender, urban/rural location, etc.

Our research finds that the most disadvantaged households and children are most vulnerable to adversities and have least resources to overcome them. We see how ways inequality undermines the development of human potential, with children from disadvantaged families quickly falling behind in terms of early learning and other outcomes.

The paper contains 8 key messages:

Message 1: Inequalities in children’s development originate in multiple disadvantages, which compound to affect children’s long-term outcomes.

Message 2: Inequalities undermine the development of human potential, and children from disadvantaged families quickly fall behind.

Message 3: In Young Lives countries, gender differences become more significant as children get older, but boys are not always advantaged over girls.

Message 4: Early malnutrition has serious, long-term consequences for children’s development (both physical and cognitive), but there is also evidence that some children may recover and ‘catch up’.

Message 5: Inequalities open up during middle and later childhood, as children grow up.

Message 6: How children feel about themselves and their well-being is both a major indicator of inequality and also a channel for the transmission of poverty.

Message 7: Education is regarded by both adults and children as having the potential to transform their lives, but doesn’t always compensate for disadvantage and may reinforce differences between children.

Message 8: Social protection programmes can reduce disadvantage, but impacts are often complex, some may be unintended and they may not always benefit children.

We conclude that since inequalities are multidimensional, so too must be the response. Equitable growth policies, education and health services, underpinned by effective social protection, all have a role to play.

The paper synthesises research carried out by the Young Lives team over the past three years. It was initially written for a consultation coordinated by UN Women and UNICEF to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals and to discuss the options for ensuring that inequalities are effectively addressed in a new development framework after 2015.

Horizontal Inequalities in Children's Educational Outcomes in Ethiopia

Inequality
Student paper

This paper examines the relationship between children's educational outcomes and ethnic group status Ethiopia.  It builds on the main theories of education in developing countries —human capital theory and educational opportunity theory — and further draws on the theory of horizontal inequality as a lens for examining educational inequality.  Using longitudinal data from the Young Lives study, information collected from 1,000 older cohort children who were followed up at ages 8, 12 and 15 were analysed to investigate the effects of ethnicity controlling for individual, home, community and school characteristics.  

The findings showed that while school enrolment appears to have improved in the study sites, with most of the children enrolled in school at age 15, slow grade progression and low achievement remain challenges, particularly for certain minority ethnic groups.  We further demonstrate significant regional in intra-regional differences, as well as differences between the centre (Addis Ababa) and the periphery.  As regards the factors that predict schooling outcomes, we find that disparities in income level and poverty status cannot fully explain the variation in educational outcomes between groups.  Contextual factors at the individual level, particularly schooling history, and school level variables also play a significant role.

The paper concludes by arguing that research and policy that emphasizes educational access, or enrolment, may understate how children differently experience schooling and may downplay the role of education in compensating for or reproducing inequalities.  The paper further suggests that employing a group-based approach to inequality analysis, as opposed to an individual measure, can help to better understand the mechanisms through which inequalities take shape and may illuminate on role of schooling in aggravating or mitigating against individual and family level disadvantage.