One of the main objectives of the Ethiopian Poverty Reduction Strategy (2002-05) was to expand primary school enrolment and provide more equitable and higher quality education. However, only the access-related targets set out in the Education Sector Development Plans I (1996-2001) and II (2002-05), have been achieved. The quality of primary education has mostly declined, with marked shortages of qualified primary school teachers and textbooks, and increasing class sizes and dropout rates. There is little information on the possible determinants of educational attainment outcomes in Ethiopia, yet it is crucial to understand factors affecting the quality of education.
This paper addresses some key factors influencing children's education completion rates and achievement scores. It looks at the relative importance of the school and family environment and individual child characteristics in determining child grade completion or dropout in primary school; the relative importance of investment in school quality in determining students' educational achievement; and the extent to which the Education Sector Development Programme reflects the determinants of childrens primary school completion rates and educational achievement scores identified in this paper.
Based on quantitative and qualitative data collected by the Ethiopia Young Lives study on childhood poverty, this paper involves survey data from 1,000 households with 8-year-old children collected in 2002 and qualitative data collected in 2005. Its key findings are that school completion rates are shaped by birth order, sex of the child, household wealth, household composition, parental education, school access, school quality and post-1996 policy changes. Additionally, it presents findings that children's educational achievement is significantly affected by sex of the child, child labour, child satisfaction with school, caregiver social capital (social networks and support), parental education levels and household wealth. The author draws on research findings to propose a number of implications for the second round of the Education Sector Development Programme. These include measures to combat poverty, improve childcare and school systems and promote gender equality, adult education, educational quality, community mobilisation and child participation.
Keywords: education, Ethiopia, achievement, outcomes, educational levels, Ethiopian Poverty Reduction Strategy