Ethiopia has made remarkable progress in recent years. Building on sustained economic growth and a strong determination to reduce poverty, the government had invested heavily in improving its education system. Spending on education increased from 11 percent of total spending in 1999-2000 to 25 percent (or 1.4 billion) in 2010-11.

With such robust progress, achieving universal primary education is now within reach. In order to reach this goal, however, Ethiopia will need to tackle three outstanding challenges: disparity in access, low learning outcomes, and high repetition and dropout rates. The education sector faces key challenges related to the following…

Access: Despite best efforts the dramatic increase in access has overwhelmed the system’s ability to deliver quality, resulting in disappointing learning outcomes, high repetition rates and low retention rates.

Quality: School infrastructure needs to be further enhanced, more teachers, need to be qualified, and more appropriate teaching tools need to be deployed. Within Ethiopia’s large and complex decentralized system, capacity and governance constraints also need to be addressed.

Enrollment: The 3 million children who remain out of school often face multiple and overlapping disadvantages based on the region where they live, their family’s income, and their gender. Also, with around 30 percent of the population living in poverty the indirect costs of education prove to be a deterrent in sending children to school.

The proposals discussed during the Learning for All Ministerial meetings included: 

  • Community mobilization, school construction, text book provision, and teacher training de-signed to cover the needs of the 3 million children who are still out of school;
  • In-service teacher training for early-grade reading teachers, a performance-based school grantprogram and a targeted ict program focused on reducing dropout rates and enhancing learning; and
  • A capacity-building program at the woreda (local district government) level and information sys- tem improvement program targeted at better identifying and monitoring out-of-school children and dropouts.

If successfully implemented, the proposals collectively could have the effect of:

  • bringing the remaining 3 million out-of-school children into school and achieving universal primary education;
  • improving learning for close to 6.5 million early-grade readers and providing performance incentives to 50 percent of schools, with positive effects on retention and completion rates;
  • Strengthening local governments’ capacity to identify out-of-school children and dropouts and plan improved service delivery for these groups.

The total estimated cost of the program for the 2013–15 period is $792 million ($264 million per annum). The Government is already allocating a large share of its own budget to education but it is willing to raise this further to cover nearly two thirds or $503 million of the total estimated cost of the proposed programs. It would however need the remaining $289 million ($96 million per annum) of the incremental funding to come from donor sources.