This paper presents key findings from Young Lives school survey in Ethiopia conducted in 2009–10, contextualised by cross-sectional evidence from the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey. The findings suggest that educational exclusion operates through complex mechanisms which conspire to limit the access opportunities of disadvantaged children during the course of the education life-cycle. Exclusion is associated with family ill-health, poverty, livelihood and labour demands, gender-related constraints, geographical context, and lack of parental education and support. Notwithstanding recent improvements in educational access and teacher training, unequal opportunities will not be adequately addressed if these patterns of disadvantage remain unchanged.
Large numbers of children, especially in rural areas, enter education late, are frequently absent from school, and drop out early. The most common reason given for boys’ absenteeism and drop-out is their involvement in paid or unpaid domestic/agricultural work, whereas for girls the most common reason is the need to care for younger siblings. Some schools have adopted innovative policies to deal with such problems, including flexible hours to reduce seasonal absenteeism, and shift-schooling to enable children with family responsibilities to attend school more often.
The report endorses the value of decision-making autonomy at school level, but also emphasises the need for improved standard setting and resourcing from central government: while the majority of schools in the survey sample had written a school-improvement plan and had drawn up a budget, fewer than half reported having enough funding to implement their plan. The implementation of such plans will be an important test for the effectiveness of the government’s General Education Quality Improvement Programme (GEQIP).