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Beyond the rising tide of access in Ethiopia: What consequences for equitable learning at the bottom of the pyramid?

Wed, April 17, 10:00 to 11:30am, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Atrium (Level 2), Waterfront A


Primary enrolment has expanded dramatically in Ethiopia over the past 20 years. Growth has been particularly high in the emerging regions and among more disadvantaged groups who were previously led behind. This raises an important question of how these groups who are the first in their household to access education are faring in terms of their learning.

The General Education Quality Improvement Package (GEQIP), a large-scale, government-led reform, has included a strong focus on improving and maintaining the quality of education in Ethiopia since 2009. Strategies associated with the reform have received considerable political backing. It is, therefore, important to identify whether they have had the desired impact on system raising learning outcomes equitably. Concern has been raised that learning outcomes have, on average, stagnated or even declined within the initial period of GEQIP reforms. However, it is vital to recognise that those currently in school represent a more diverse student body, and are likely to face particular challenges. This paper explores some of the available evidence on trajectories in learning outcomes in Ethiopia, drawing on Young Lives data, and considers key questions for RISE based on this evidence.

Our analysis indicates that overall stagnation and decline in learning outcomes may be due to the changing composition of school populations as access has increased. First generation learners (defined in this paper as neither parent has ever been to school and neither parent can read or write) in the Young Lives school survey scored significantly lower on maths tests in Grades 7 and 8, and made significantly less learning progress than their classmates over one academic year.

Our evidence will examine further whether interventions associated with GEQIP reforms are suited to accommodate diverse populations entering the education system. For example, one aspect of the reforms is associated with the expansion of pre-primary education. Has this been designed in a way that addresses learning gaps between first-generation learners and those from more advantaged backgrounds when children enter primary school? Are curriculum reforms designed to ensure children who make slower progress in literacy and numeracy are able to reach minimum standards by the time they leave school? Are interventions that aim to support children with disabilities likely to provide them with appropriate opportunities to access inclusive, quality education opportunities? These questions are all key to understanding if reforms are tackling the challenges that will improve learning for children ‘at the bottom of the pyramid’.


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