Academic journal article International Education

Quality Education Reform and Aid Effectiveness: Reflections from Ethiopia

Academic journal article International Education

Quality Education Reform and Aid Effectiveness: Reflections from Ethiopia

Article excerpt


Ethiopia is a large country in the Horn of Africa. It has a diverse population of eighty million people who speak over thirty distinct languages. Approximately 80% of the population live in rural areas and rely on subsistence agriculture. Despite economic growth and an abundance of natural resources, it is a country with a per-capita income of less than $180 (U.S.) in 2007. The current government has sustained a strong commitment to education since it came to power in the early 1990s, and there have been remarkable improvements on key indicators. For example, the primary school population has almost doubled in the last five years. This commitment has been matched by financing, with on average 4% of the GDP and twenty percent of the national budget spent on education annually, although this represents spending of only about $25 (U.S.) per primary pupil per year.

This article examines how efforts by government and donors to improve quality in general education through a new multi-million-dollar aid instrument-the General Education Quality Improvement Program (GEQIP)-is impacting on the Paris aid effectiveness principles of ownership, alignment, harmonization, managing for results and mutual accountability. This article argues that there is an inherent tension between complex education quality reform and aid effectiveness principles which all stakeholders need to recognize in the design and implementation of large scale reform programs. It concludes with some lessons learned for designing complex education reform programs in ways which maximize aid effectiveness in developing countries.


In Ethiopia, primary education lasts eight years and is divided into grades 1 -4 (primary first cycle) and grades 5-8 (primary second cycle). Secondary education is also divided into two cycles, each with its own specific goals. Grades 9-10 (secondary first cycle) provide general secondary education and, upon completion, students are streamed, based on performance in the secondary education completion certifícate examination, either into grades 11-12 (secondary second cycle) as preparation for university, or into technical and vocational education and training (TVET).

As a result of ongoing efforts to decentralize the management of services to local levels of government, the provision of education is the concunent responsibility of federal, regional, and local governments. The federal government plays a dominant role in the provision of post-secondary education, while also setting standards and providing overall policy guidance, monitoring and evaluation, and support for the entire sector. Each of the nine regional state governments and two city administrative councils is responsible for fonnulating regional policy (including decisions about the languages of instruction); managing the work of colleges of teacher education which supply primary teachers; adapting the curriculum to the region; examining students at the end of primary school; and overall supervision and monitoring. Woredas, which are similar to districts, are largely responsible for implementation. Woreda personnel recruit and pay the salaries of primary and lower secondary teachers, visit schools to supervise teachers, and deliver non-salary inputs (either in cash or in kind) to schools. Total sector financing in 2007/08 was close to 10 billion birr, approximately $722 million(U.S.). Of this, 55% was spent on general education (grades 1-12) primarily by decentralized levels of government (Ravishankar, 2010).

Donors have been supporting basic services, including general education, through a range of modalities, including the Government of Ethiopia's preferred instrument - the Protection of Basic Services Grant. This grant provides additional financial resources for a block grant from the federal government to decentralized levels of government. Overall donor funding of approximately $260 million annually (off- and on-budget - representing 20% of the total education budget) comes from ten major donors and has helped the government to make impressive gains in the education sector. For example, the number of children in primary school has increased from 11.5 million in 2005 to 15.79 million in 2010, and the primary net enrollment rate has risen from 68% to 82% over the same period. There are now over 290,000 primary teachers in the system compared to 1 7 1 ,000 in 2005 (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, October 2010).

The bulk of this decentralized expenditure through the block grant, however, is spent on teacher salaries, leaving on average only around 5% of recurrent expenditure for non-salary inputs. Consequently, quality inputs to schools are limited, with an average per-pupil spending on non-salary inputs of only around $1 .00 (U.S.) per year. In 2007, the government of Ethiopia responded to the quality imperative by launching a package of inputs to improve quality (teacher development, school improvement, management and administration, curriculum and textbooks, civics and ethics education, and infonnation technology). Donors agreed to support the reform effort through the General Education Quality Improvement Program (GEQIP). This program supports an integrated package of inputs which, taken together, are designed to improve the quality of teaching and learning in Ethiopian schools.

Improving the quality of education has recently risen much higher on the agenda of donors such as the U.K. (Auditor General, June 2010; Department for International Development, 20 1 0) and has been given impetus by research which makes a strong case for the impact of education on economic growth (Hanushek and Wobmann, 2007). This paper will describe key elements of the quality refonn effort in Ethiopia and analyze how the design of the GEQIP program has affected aid effectiveness in the education sector in Ethiopia. It will conclude with some broader lessons learned for how the design and implementation of education quality reforms can help to promote the aid effectiveness agenda.


GEQIP responds to evidence that despite impressive gains in enrollment, student achievement has not been keeping pace. A sample based National Learning Assessment (NLA) showed that student achievement is below the required levels (Gebrekidan et al, 2008). Achievement in grade 4 showed a reduction from the 1999/2000 baseline learning assessment (47.9 percent to 40.9 percent) and achievement in grade 8 also deteriorated (42.6 percent to 39.8 percent). Key factors identified in the 2008 NLA that were found to be strongly correlated with low student learning outcomes include school organization and management; teacher training on new techniques; school supplies; availability of curricular and instructional materials, and language of instruction.

What is GEQIP?

GEQIP is described in the World Bank's Project Appraisal Document (World Bank, November 2008). The overall purpose of the GEQIP is to improve the quality of general education (which refers to Grades 1-12 of primary and secondary schooling) throughout the country. Progress at the outcome level is measured by learning outcomes (using the National Learning Assessment) and completion rates. The program has been designed to be implemented in two phases. In the first four-year phase (2009-2013) the objectives are to improve teaching and learning conditions in primary and secondary education and to improve management, planning and budget capacity of the Federal Ministry of Education and the Regional Education Bureaus. The focus is on five integrated pillars.

The first pillar aims to provide high-quality textbooks to all students in primary and secondary schools in Ethiopia in all subjects, based on a new curriculum that emphasizes active learning. The second pillar aims to improve the quality of teacher training through a strengthened practicum and teacher training materials based on the new curriculum. The third pillar supports the implementation of a school improvement planning process that empowers communities to take more control of planning and managing schools, including making additional per-capita grants available to schools. The fourth pillar builds the capacity of decentralized levels of government to plan and monitor the general education subsystem. The fifth and final pillar supports a monitoring and coordination function, including an independent, comprehensive evaluation of the school-level impact of the refonn effort.

Six donors support the program through a pooled funding arrangement. These donors are the World Bank, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the government of Italy, the government of Finland, the U.K. Department for International Development, and the Education Fast Track Initiative Catalytic Fund (a global fund for education managed from Washington, D. C, designed to support partner country education priorities and described in the Fast Track Initiative's website). As of May, 2010, more than $400 million (U.S.) of external funding has been mobilized for the first phase of the program (2009-2013). The government of Ethiopia has agreed to make additional matching funds available to quality education improvement over the life of the program.

What Principles Underpin the Design of the Program?

The first important principle is that GEQIP is a government-owned, national program. The GEQIP has been designed within the framework of the Education Sector Development Plan (ESDP) III, which lays out the government's vision for education development (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, August 2005). The ESDP III has the main objectives of improving access and equity by achieving universal primary education through expanding access and coverage of primary education, including to disadvantaged regions; encouraging community, NGO and private-sector participation to achieve the goals of Education For All; and improving quality by providing to teachers and other educational personnel the manuals, teaching aids, and support materials required to effectively implement the curriculum. The fourth education sector development plan, which is just finalized, builds on these goals and has a particular emphasis on quality and equity. GEQIP is national in scale and is implemented in all nine regions and two city administrative councils of the country, all colleges of teacher education and universities, and over 28,000 schools and alternative basic education centers.

The second principle is that GEQIP is intended to be complementary to other decentralized support to general education. The federal government provides an annual block grant to regional and woreda (district) governments, which is partly financed by donors through the Protection of Basic Services Grant described above. The block grant is un-earmarked and the regions and woredas then decide how to spend that money. In general, regions and woredas prioritize education with up to half of the spending being allocated to primary and secondary education. However, the bulk of this expenditure is allocated to teacher salaries as explained above. GEQIP is designed to expand the space for non-salary recurrent expenditure at decentralized levels and to improve planning and budgeting for quality-related interventions.

The third important principle is that donors use a common set of financing and reporting procedures. There is a pooled fund, handled by the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) through which all donor funding is channeled. The money then follows the government's financial system as it flows to decentralized levels of the system. The "pooling partners" (donors who are putting financing into the pooled fund) have agreed to one common financial and activity report, which - as far as possible - uses existing government financial reporting channels. In addition, there are a number of "non-pooling partners" (who do not put financing into the pool), who are being encouraged by government to align their support to the GEQIP planning and reporting cycle. The intention on the side of government and its partners is to minimize additional reporting and monitoring requirements.


GEQIP is a major new instrument in the education sector in Ethiopia and has already attracted some critique. Dom (2010) conducted a desk review of the Fast Track Initiative's support to education in Ethiopia as part of a broader FTI evaluation which was conducted last year. This section of the paper reflects on some of the issues with respect to the original design that have been raised during the first full year of the program's implementation.

An Integrated Package of Inputs

A key design feature of GEQIP, strongly championed by the government of Ethiopia, was that the program's five pillars were mutually reinforcing. The concept of integration is in line with school effectiveness research that emphasizes that improved teaching and learning is the product of a number of interlinked factors (World Bank, 2000; Lockheed and Longford, 1989). Models vary, but the model on which GEQIP is based includes eight domains: the quality and relevance of the cuniculum and the availability and quality of related instructional materials; the supply of well-trained teachers and access to teacher professional development; the quality of school leadership and an internal school culture focused on school improvement; pupil attendance, well-being and motivation; strong links between the school and the community; accountability of schools to the community and local authorities; local quality assurance systems; and the physical environment of the school (location, health and safety, equipment etc.).

In practice, there are two challenges related to the integration of the program. The first is that there are gaps in the package as implemented. In particular, GEQIP is weak on demand side interventions to incentivize and support families and communities to send their children to school and keep them there. Continued attendance is a particular problem for poor children, especially girls, who are often under pressure from their families to provide labor. This contributes to high dropout rates and low completion rates; according to government's own statistics only around 40% of girls complete eight years of primary school. The second challenge is that it is very difficult to make progress on multiple refonns at the same time. Some pillars of GEQIP are moving forward more quickly than others. In particular, early evidence suggests that school grants are reaching schools and being used to fund priorities (see below, however) and the textbook component is starting to produce results (internationally procured secondary science and math books have just anived in schools, and other titles are in various stages of procurement). Relatively slower progress is being made on teacher education refonns within the project - a particular concern given the centrality of quality teaching to the refonn effort.

Defining and Monitoring Quality

The overall indicators of GEQIP impact focus on learning outcomes and completion rates. The program is designed to monitor the effects of key inputs on teaching and learning processes through an independent evaluation, which will be conducted at three points over the life of the first phase of the program. A separate evaluation is also planned to monitor the impact of the school grants on school budgets and community participation over time. As described above, a sample based National Learning assessment (currently conducted every three years) is being used to track changes in learning outcomes, as national examinations are not consistent enough to compare over time.

The process of developing an agreed view on what "quality" education means is still ongoing. The concept of teaching and learning that is being pursued is described as "active learning." However, the precise meaning of this term has not been completely unpacked. At its most basic form, it has been equated with increasing the amount of time that students spend involved in group work or answering questions. It is not clear how these behaviors will result in improved student learning, and indeed in many of the large classes with limited resources in Ethiopia, the use of group work may actually be counter-productive. The challenge for cuniculum developers is to ensure that guidance and materials are rooted in classroom realities (where class sizes can exceed 1 00 students, and there may be no resources to support learning). While GEQIP has recognized the importance of monitoring and feeding back information on changes in quality, these efforts have been hampered by delays in procurement and the challenge of defining the scope and objectives of the various monitoring and evaluation tools. Developing a common vision of quality education and designing a coherent set of monitoring tools to track improvement in quality over time will be major challenges in the coming years.

Promoting Equity

The Government of Ethiopia tends to define equity as equality in proportional resource availability across the country. Consequently, GEQIP has been designed as a national program that is implemented uniformly across all regions, teacher training institutions, and primary and secondary schools across the country. The level of funding is calculated based on a combination of school enrollment and total population. The same amount of money is therefore provided to all schools for per-capita grants, regardless of school location and incidence of poverty. Similarly, teacher training institutions are provided with financing based on the number of teachers that they train.

The lack of a more overt equity dimension to the GEQIP program was raised as an issue by the Fast Track Initiative in feedback provided when the Government of Ethiopia submitted for a second round of financing (Fast Track Initiative, March 2010). Possible changes now being considered by GEQIP partners include increased financing to incentivize girls to enroll and to complete schooling and differential grants to schools in emerging regions and pastoralist areas of the country. Beyond this, negotiations in advance of the second phase of the program will focus on the challenges of how to target resources to regions where the enrollment and quality indicators lag furthest behind (for example in the so-called "emerging" regions of Somali and Afar), how to significantly scale up efforts to support non-fonnal approaches to schooling which typically reach the under-served, and how/whether to stimulate demand for schooling, especially for families to send girls to school at least up to lower secondary level.

Coherence of Financing

As described above, the Government of Ethiopia's preferred funding modality for decentralized service delivery is the Protection of Basic Services Grant (PBS). Donors channel money through the block grant, and it is mixed with the government's own decentralized financing. Donors monitor decentralized spending on service delivering using a series of "tests," including fairness and additionality (in other words, whether financing is distributed equitably across the country and whether the donor financing is matched by increases in the government's own financing through the federal block grant). PBS also includes funding for strengthened social accountability. Block grant financing is proclaimed on budget at the regional and woreda level, and each level of the system makes independent decisions about how the financing will be used. There is no separate report on PBS beyond that generated by Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and by the sector ministries though their management infonnation system. The second phase of PBS support was agreed upon last year (World Bank, April 2009).

GEQIP is what is called a "specific purpose grant." It is less aligned to goveminent financial systems than the Protection of Basic Services Grant, because the financing is eannarked to general education from the federal government. It forces decentralized levels of the system to use this money for the qualityrelated priorities defined in the program, rather than giving discretion to regions and woredas to decide on how budgets are spent. Consequently, decentralized government entities need to plan for and report on this spending separately, to some extent, from the block grant budget they receive from the federal level. This earmarking adds to what is already fragmented decentralized financing and increases demands on educational and financial planners to generate additional financial reports and plans. The eannarking also creates the danger that decentralized financing for education will be displaced by the input from the federal level. For example, GEQIP finances per-capita grants to schools at roughly $1 (U.S.) dollar per student for primary schools. Total costs are approximately $20 million (U.S.) a year. Ensuring that woredas have the capacity to continue paying these costs after external financial is a challenge for the government.


As described in the introduction, decentralization in Ethiopia has placed much of the mandate for general education in the hands of regional state governments and woredas. The woreda is responsible for recruiting and paying the salaries of secondary and primary school teachers, for supervising and monitoring schools, and for providing non-salary recunent inputs to schools. The regional state governments are responsible for setting the policy framework for primary and secondaiy schools and purchasing education materials that benefit from economies of scale, such as textbooks. They also coordinate the intake into colleges of teacher education and oversee the distribution of teachers. The federal government is responsible for setting the overall policy framework within which regional state governments and woredas operate.

GEQIP is a federal special-purpose grant, as described above. It increases the role of the federal government in setting the framework for general education. Although the program is designed to support a bottom-up planning process, there are tensions between the federal and regional mandates with respect to managing the general education system. Special purpose grants have a tendency to increase upward accountability to federal government and can reduce the autonomy of woredas and regional state governments. For example, GEQIP eannarks financing for per capita school grants to primary and secondary schools at woreda levels. To date, woredas have not generally been allocating discretionary budgets to their schools (although there are policy commitments to do so). Similarly, textbook procurement, which is the mandate of woredas and regions, has been re-centralized for the duration of GEQIP in order to implement an ambitious plan to procure new textbooks internationally for all subjects by the beginning of the 201 1 school year. While this has been done with the agreement of regional governments, there is a risk that adequate capacity will not be built at decentralized levels to procure books in future.

Reporting arrangements

All the GEQIP pooling partners agreed to a common set of reporting and financial management systems and one project document. The procedures governing the pooled fund have been agreed with the World Bank, which has responsibility for finance and procurement and is using investment lending to finance GEQIP. Key features of the agreement are basing disbursement from the pooled fund on quarterly interim financial reports (IFRs) from all implementing entities (including each of the 1 regions, 26 colleges of teacher education, more than 20 universities, and approximately 25,000 schools) and requiring six monthly project physical activity reports in order to monitor progress on key indicators that are included in the monitoring framework..

However, the instrument has led to an increased workload with respect to planning, monitoring and reporting. The planning process includes all 1 regions, 22 universities, 25 colleges of teacher education, and the federal ministry of education. The plans from all these entities are aggregated at the federal level each year into an overall annual workplan. These plans need to be reviewed by both government and development partners. In addition, GEQIP has generated some additional reporting requirements. There is a semi-annual activity and outcome report, and quarterly financial reports. At present, the reports are not entirely aligned with the government's sector reporting system. In addition, several donors (such as USAID and UNICEF), who remain outside of the pooled fund anangement (but support general education), also demand separate reports and plans.

A major challenge as the program moves forward is the extent to which GEQIP donors are able to provide predictable financing to the refonn effort. Cunently, the program requires quarterly financial reports to trigger disbursement from the pooled fund. The timely receipt of these reports is currently delaying financing to schools for school grants. Since, in many cases, schools have only very limited sources of other financing, this delay is seriously affecting the achievement of program objectives at the school level.


The design and implementation of GEQIP has raised some interesting tensions between driving forward on quality education refonns and promoting the Paris principles of aid effectiveness (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, March 2005). These will be explored here. The five partnership principles are summarized here

* Ownership: partner countries exercise effective leadership over their development policies and strategies and coordinate development actions. Donors commit to respect ownership and strengthen it where possible.

* Alignment: donors base their overall support on partner countries' national development strategies, institutions and procedures. Donors commit to using country systems where this will meet joint development objectives.

* Harmonization: donors' actions are more harmonized and collectively effective. This includes division of labor and increased collaboration.

* Managing for results: this means managing and implementing aid in a way that focuses on the desired results and uses information to improve decision-making. Donors commit to aligning aid with effective partner country performance assessment frameworks.

* Mutual accountability: donors and partners are accountable for results. This includes strengthening partner country parliamentary oversight of national development strategies.

* Ownership

The quality education agenda in Ethiopia is strongly government owned. A package of interventions was developed by the Government of Ethiopia in 2007, which included the four GEQIP components and additionally information technology and civics education. This package has been aggressively promoted through the media and has been matched by a continued increase in resources for general education (budget has doubled in real terms since 2003/04). The prime minister follows education closely and has taken a personal interest in the quality agenda. The next five-year plan for education (ESDP IV) puts the push for improvements in general education front and center.

While GEQIP partners have sought to fully support the Government of Ethiopia's intentions and strategies for improving general education, these efforts have been undermined on several fronts. From the outset, donors collectively felt unable to support all six pillars of the government's package. Civic education was rejected on the grounds that it was too political. Information technology was vetoed because donors were not comfortable with the technology strategy that the government was pursuing - in particular, plasma TVs in secondary schools. As the design progressed, the scope of the program was further refined, and other elements were deleted as part of a prioritization process - special needs for example - and a modified program design was constructed as a result of the dialogue.

Furthermore, in the drive to accelerate efforts, government and partners agreed to a $3 million technical assistance (TA) package to be located in the ministry of education. The intention is to support and build the capacity of ministry staff to implement the program effectively. In practice, there are risks that the TA will displace existing government staff time and effort on the program. The tension here is between ensuring that the government maintains a leadership role while also making sure that program implementation moves effectively.


As described in the previous section, GEQIP is a federal special purpose grant. The government requested this modality as the best instrument for mobilizing additional financing focused on their quality agenda. In many respects they were proved conect. Over $300 million of additional financing has been leveraged for the education sector as a result of the instrument. This includes $ 1 68 million (U.S.) from the Fast Track Initiative. Donor interest in the education quality agenda means that if the program disburses funds and shows results, then it is likely to attract more financing in the future.

This additional financing comes at a cost, however. The existing budget channels of support for education are disrupted by the GEQIP financing. By earmarking education spending at decentralized levels, the pooled financing partners risk displacing existing financing for the sector. There are also additional financial management and reporting requirements generated by the program design. Whether the GoE sees these additional systemic burdens as value added will depend on how the program perfonns going forward. For the donors, the real test will be the extent to which the GEQIP can trigger change in decentralizing planning and budgeting rather than merely bypassing existing systems.


Donors expended much effort in the design of the program to ensure that their reporting and financial management requirements were hannonized with the GoE and the World Bank. However, although still early in tenns of implementation, an issue emerging from GEQIP is that consolidating a complex multi-pronged program into one financing instrument creates challenges for predictable and timely donor disbursements. The financial management arrangements for the program require quarterly reports from all implementing entities. The timing of these reports, coupled with delays in reporting from some entities, mean that there are delays in disbursement. For example, school grants need to be released in a timely way to schools, but they are cunently not being released because of program delays elsewhere.

To date, the program has attracted only five in-country donors into the pooled fund (not including the Fast Track Initiative funding which is managed from the U.S.A. and does not have a presence in the country). Several traditionally nonpooling programs remain outside the program, and these donors continue to implement programs that require separate reporting and monitoring arrangements. In effect, GEQIP itself has created another structure. While there may be benefits in bringing non-pooled partners into a more hannonized framework, these have not yet been fully realized.

The design of complex education programs may, therefore, benefit from complementary instruments rather than one pooled funding anangement. For example, World Bank financing and management of international textbook procurement could be coupled with bilateral support for school-based management and separate financing for teacher development. Complementary instruments would potentially have the advantage of being able to draw in partners who are unlikely to pool their funding, enabling a broader range of partners to finance and support government quality education objectives within an over-arching government managed framework.

Managing for results

GEQIP is by and large a results-oriented program. Its higher level objectives focus on improving learning achievement in grades 4 and 8 of primary school, and increasing completion rates (World Bank, November 2008). Some outputs and impacts have, however, been more difficult to monitor. For example, basic teacher management infonnation, such as the number of teachers trained and deployed each year, is only slowly becoming available. In addition, the program's more complex impacts, for example, those upon pupil and teacher behavior in the classroom, are not captured at all by existing monitoring instruments.

The program has responded by generating a range of additional monitoring evaluation processes that are meant to supplement the regular education management infonnation system. These include an annual review of the impact of the school grant program, an overall impact evaluation (focusing on impacts on teaching and learning), and an impact evaluation of the teacher development program. In addition, institutions are being asked to report additional infonnation on activities and outputs as part of the semi-annual reporting process. A mid-tenn review, scheduled for next year, will also likely create additional evaluation requirements. The sheer quantity of information is unlikely to be effectively acted upon and will tie up the time and energy of ministry staff in managing and disseminating the information generated by these processes. Getting the balance right between additional monitoring requirements and regular education management infonnation will be something for the GEQIP stakeholders to grapple with in the future.


Federal special purpose grants create pressures for greater upward accountability. In Ethiopia, the mandate for delivering general education rests with regional and district governments. The federal government, in contrast, has an overall monitoring and oversight role. GEQIP strengthens the federal oversight role and weakens decentralized decision-making in the medium tenn. For example, woreda councils are mandated to agree how to spend their discretionary budget, but GEQIP eannarks school grants to woredas and forces them to be spent as directed by the federal government. This type of instrument is probably more attractive to the federal ministry of education than it is to the regional and woreda councils, but the advantage is that it guarantees additional money for the sector as it is eannarked. One of the issues in the future will be to resolve the tension between ensuring that regions and woredas are more fully engaged in GEQIP decision making, while at the same time strengthening federal leadership and oversight capacity.

One interesting development with respect to accountability that is being supported by the program is the increased accountability of schools to local communities. It will be important to track the extent to which the fderal government of Ethiopia is prepared to cede budgets, decision-making, and monitoring directly to schools and communities. An acceleration of school-based management could change the mandate of woredas, shifting their focus away from monitoring and financing and more towards quality assurance.

Donors, together with government, are also mutually responsible for ensuring that they meet their commitments to aid effectiveness and financing. At present in Ethiopia there is no mutually agreed-upon system for holding stakeholders to account for their behavior in the education sector. The Ministry of Education and GEQIP pooled funding partners' incentives are to make the program work as effectively as possible, and these incentives may be at odds with an agenda to build accountability. For non-pooled partners, there are very few incentives to improve on aid effectiveness measures unless the government takes a clear lead. Developing an objective system of mutual accountability in the sector, possibly beginning with GEQIP partners, should be a priority over the coming year.


The GEQIP experience suggests some emerging lessons for how donors can support the design of education quality refonns in such a way as to maximize their impact on aid effectiveness principles during implementation. Some of the key lessons are described below.


GEQIP has a relatively good story to tell on supporting country ownership. Donors are fortunate in that the government shows long-term and high-level political commitment to the education sector. Key lessons include the importance of supporting the whole of the government's plan as far as possible and negotiating a judicious use of additional national and international technical assistance to support any new program. Supporting the whole plan means investing time and effort in dialogue with government around it, and this process requires well qualified and technically able donor education representatives to take forward.


An early lesson emerging from GEQIP is that the creation of additional financial reporting requirements places significant strain on the system and leads to problems with releasing agreed-upon financing in a timely way. Getting the balance right between donor fiduciary oversight and responsibility and smooth disbursement of funding is a key design issue. The limits of what is possible are likely to rest on a complex interplay between donor requirements and government own systems. This interplay is possibly magnified in federal countries.


The experience of GEQIP is mixed on harmonization. A key lesson learned is that more effort and time should have been spent early on with all partners involved in general education in order to develop a common vision and approach. Of course, this is as much an agenda for the partner government to take forward as it is for donors themselves, but donors could do more to help the government to promote this agenda. In particular, giving early attention to ensuring complementarity between pooled and non-pooling partners is an important lesson. Failure to do so runs the risk of a new instrument increasing rather than reducing transaction costs for the government and its partners.

Results focus

GEQIP shows us that monitoring the impact of education quality refonn is complex. Defining clearly the parameters of quality should be a priority during the design phase. Wide consultation on what constitutes quality and what it looks like in the classroom is key to developing a strong framework. This process did not receive enough attention during GEQIP design. In addition, agreement with government on an independent evaluation of program impact over time would also have been preferable to the cunent piecemeal, fragmented and frequently delayed approach to monitoring and evaluation.

Mutual Accountability

This has emerged as a key issue related to the design of an instrument to support quality change in a federal country. The use of a specific purpose grant has an inherent tendency to centralize accountability and this has indeed been the impact of the GEQIP instrument. The implication for design is that decentralized levels of government should have been much more involved. GEQIP design was largely a federal construct, and thus there has been some misunderstanding from regional actors, particularly in tenns of how the program disburses and targets funds. At the most local level, efforts to strengthen school-level accountability to communities appear to be having positive effects, but they will need to be monitored closely to better understand the extent to which they have an effect upon quality.



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[Author Affiliation]

Chris Berry and Solomon Shiferaw Bogale

Dept. for International Development, UK, and

Federal Ministry of Education, Ethiopia

[Author Affiliation]

Chris Berry earned his PhD from the Institute of Education, University of London, in the field of school effectiveness. He is now a senior education adviser working for the UK Department for International Development. He has been posted in Ethiopia for the past four years. His interests are in the areas of designing and monitoring large scale education interventions in developing countries. His e-mail is

Solomon Shiferaw Bogale earned his second degree in engineering. He served as dean and vice dean in the technical teacher college at Adama University, Ethiopia. Currently he is head of Educational Management Information Systems, Planning and Resource Mobilisation in the Federal Ministry of Education, Ethiopia. His interests are in issues of human and financial resource management and education evaluation. His e-mail address is

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