Working Paper

Contribution of Early-Age Circumstances to Inequalities in Educational Achievement: A Within and Across Age Cohorts Comparative Study for Ethiopia

The academic evaluation system that focuses on rewarding students with high achievements and
penalizing the low achievers by only looking at their test scores is misleading and unjust. First,
inequality due to predetermined child circumstances should be leveled across children. Inequality that
remains is likely to be attributed to children’s own effort differentials. Overall educational achievement inequality is measured with Gini Coefficient, and the decomposition into circumstances and effort is done using General Entropy measures. Despite recent improvements, Early-age circumstances remains a challenge to bringing justice in educational outcomes in Ethiopia. It is found that the Gini coefficient, that measures overall inequality in educational achievement, rests between 0.35 and 0.38 for all survey rounds. And early childhood circumstance explains significant part of later-age educational achievements. Parental wealth and education are found to be the principal drivers of circumstance induced inequalities. We suggest, Ethiopia needs to invest to ensure quality and equitable education beyond a focus on overall educational outreach as evidenced by weak association between grade attainments and test achievements. A targeted intervention to reward effort and to equalize circumstances need to be put in place. Affirmative action in educational admission alone will not help, when about a third of test achievements are explained by circumstances. It rather calls for policies meant to address the root causes of such inequalities.