Two main goals were identified under ESDP IV. The first was to improve access to quality primary education in order to make sure that all children, youth and adults acquire the competencies, skills and values that enable them to participate fully in the development of Ethiopia. The other was to sustain equitable access to quality secondary education services as the basis and bridge to the demand of the economy for middle- and higher-level human resources. Each sub-sector had further priorities and targets in ESDP IV; progress against these during the ESDP IV period is reviewed here.
Access and equity in general education
Access and equity in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)
In the first year of ESDP IV, the government established a Strategic Operational Plan and Guidelines for ECCE. The strategy encourages private investors, faith-based organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) into the delivery of ECCE. In the last years of ESDP IV, ECCE has been prioritized by government, with the establishment of a national steering committee, regional councils and Wereda technical committees and rapid expansion of access to O-Classes as a reception year prior to grade one. These structures function in collaboration with other relevant ministries, with a view to coordinate, support and monitor the involvement of stakeholders in ECCE. They have provided a foundation from which rapid expansion of ECCE is possible.
These efforts have allowed the Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) for pre-primary to reach 34% in 2013/14, of which around a quarter is in three year kindergarten and the remainder one-year O-Class and Child-to-Child instruction. This is above the ESDP IV target for ECCE which was 20% (from a baseline of 6.9% at the start of the plan).
Total access and variation in modalities across regions, however, has implications in terms of preparedness for grade one. A child who has completed three years of kindergarten (predominantly in urban areas) is currently better prepared to enter school than a child who has received one year of O-class or Child-to-Child instruction – modalities that are emerging rapidly and are gradually improving in quality. If expansion of pre-primary education continues to follow the same pattern across regions and kindergartens remain accessible almost exclusively to those in urban areas, it may only increase educational advantages for children from urban areas whose families are able to send them to kindergarten.
Quality of general education
Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA)
In 2010, an EGRA of student literacy was conducted in grades two and three. It showed that children in primary first cycle were not developing the basic skills required to learn effectively in later years. For example, 34% of students in grade two were unable to read a single word of a grade level relevant story; 48% of students were unable to answer a single comprehension question on a reading comprehension test; and only 5% of students were able to reach 60 words per minute in reading fluency (the then expected standard).
Poor basic skills acquisition in the early grades prevents children from learning effectively in their mother tongue, in Amharic and in English, affecting all subsequent levels of education and impacting skills acquisition in other subjects. In response to the EGRA results, huge efforts have begun through the development of a national mother tongue curriculum in the seven main languages, the training of teachers to deliver this curriculum and the production and distribution of linked teaching and learning materials.
A follow-up benchmarking exercise, conducted in 2014, serves as a basis for setting standards to guide future assessment in the seven main languages (and will be extended as further mother tongue languages are added). This exercise establishes the baseline levels of oral reading fluency, at four competency levels. These baseline levels have been categorized for ease of monitoring as ‘None’ (Non-reader); ‘Below Basic’ (Reading slowly with limited comprehension); ‘Basic’ (Reading with some fluency and comprehension); and ‘Proficient’ (Reading fluently with full comprehension).