Quality Education Reform and Aid Effectiveness: Reflections from Ethiopia

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

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.

INTRODUCTION

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. …

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