Ethiopia's progress on education: A rapid and equitable expansion of access

Research reports and studies
June 2011
Jakob Engel with support from Pauline Rose

This case study illustrates Ethiopia’s progress in education. The story describes the nature of the progress, analysis of the factors that have contributed to progress and lessons for policy makers.

Since Ethiopia emerged from 16 years of civil war in 1991, access to education has improved significantly. Approximately 3 million pupils were in primary school in 1994/95; by 2008/09, primary enrolment had risen to 15.5 million – an increase of over 500%. Secondary school enrolment also grew more than fivefold during this period.

Benefiting from sustained growth, the Ethiopian government, in partnership with donors, has invested heavily in improving access to education. Key measures have included abolishing school fees, increasing expenditure on school construction and maintenance and hiring and training thousands of new teachers, administrators and officials. This has been complemented by a shift to mother tongue instruction and by the gradual decentralisation of the education system to progressively lower administrative levels. This has likely contributed to improved service delivery.

Ethiopia’s progress in education demonstrates that a sustained government-led effort to reduce poverty and expand the public education system equitably, backed by sufficient resources and improved service delivery, can dramatically increase school enrolment.