Educational improvements in the country, mainly in primary and secondary education, have been a large contributor to the rise in Ethiopian prosperity, with Ethiopia gaining seven ranks on the Education pillar in the past decade. Ethiopia’s success in primary and secondary education is based on the country’s 1994 Education and Training Policy. The reforms association with the policy included decentralising school administration, shifting to local languages as the language of instruction, and focussing on women and girls’ education. Other reforms have included abolishing school fees, increasing the amount of teacher training, and introducing school feeding programmes. As a result of these, Ethiopia has seen significant improvements in education over the last decade, with primary enrolment increasing from 76% to 85% since 2009, and access to quality secondary education rising according to expert assessments.
Ethiopia is a strong performer for pre-primary education within Africa. The Government has made significant progress towards providing universal access to education at the earliest stages of development, including launching a National Policy Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education in 2010. This focussed on parental education and early child health up to the age of three, and then early learning through community-based preschools, privately run preschools, preschools attached to primary schools, and faith-based preschools for children aged four to six. The importance of involving the local community in improving standards of education is significant, as children are more able to access education when there is a sense of local ownership in the success of students. Consequently, pre-primary enrolment rates have risen from 6% to 29% in 10 years.
Despite the country’s large budget allocations to the education sector, there remain stark disparities in rural and urban access to education. Though secondary enrolment in the capital, Addis Ababa, is close to universal, fewer than 10% of children in the sparsely populated Afar region have access to that level of education – a challenge which will take more than increased funding to solve. To address the disparity, the Government has started to roll out alternative, low-cost education to children in rural areas, including evening classes and school calendar adjustments, as well as cash or in-kind incentives for children to remain in school. In addition, radio and television broadcasts are used to supplement education programming, with initiatives such as STEMpower reaching around five million viewers weekly with its ‘STEM-TV Series’.
With a notable lack of adequate facilities and just one doctor for every 40,000 citizens in the country, Ethiopia’s healthcare infrastructure was chronically weak at the turn of the millennium. In 2003, the Government opted for a community-led solution, launching its landmark Health Extension Programme. The programme, which trained and paid female community health workers to meet basic medical needs within their local areas, has proved to be a great success. By 2016, 38,000 health extension workers were providing health interventions in 15,000 villages across Ethiopia. Consequently, 95% of Ethiopia’s population now have healthcare resources within 10km of home. The proportion of births attended by skilled staff has risen from 6% to 28% in a decade, significant improvements have been made in maternal and child health, the rate of communicable diseases has fallen, and hygiene and sanitation standards have improved.