Key findings

  • Young Lives longitudinal evidence indicates a link between good quality pre-primary education and later outcomes. There has been a rapid expansion of pre-school, but substantial challenges exist in establishing a programme of sufficient quality which responds to the needs of families at a national scale.
  • Young Lives research over 17 years confirms that Ethiopia has produced a remarkable expansion of access and opportunity in primary education.
  • This expansion has increased equity, but Young Lives evidence shows that early gains are slowing and that progress through grades is slow and intermittent, particularly among children from the most disadvantaged groups.
  • The combination of Young Lives household and school survey data reveals that children are learning over time, but that performance levels are substantially lower than the curriculum would expect, damaging prospects for mid-level skills development.

Policy messages

  • Although education ‘quality’ is a clear policy priority, progress to universal learning by 2030 may require major reforms including financial policies that increase allocations for the preprimary and early primary years.
  • Additional targeted and contextualised financial, material and technical support to the poorest and most disadvantaged groups from rural, remote and pastoralist areas can increase equity in education gains, thereby capitalising on the potential and the aspirations of all children and young people.
  • Further promotion of pre-school, with an emphasis on quality through improving teacher preparation, support and deployment, and resource allocation with community involvement could ensure that the considerable potential gains from early learning materialise.
  • To build on significant gender-based improvements in primary school, continued promotion of girls’ education is important, particularly where differences are greatest, notably in pre-primary and post-primary stages.