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Improving systems of education in Ethiopia (RISE)

A young girl from Awassa, southern Ethiopia

Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) in Ethiopia

Project summary

In recent years, Ethiopia has rapidly expanded primary school enrolment to achieve near-universal attendance. Yet, learning levels are poor and appear to have stalled in recent years. Despite national efforts to improve access to quality education, girls from poorer backgrounds and rural and pastoralist areas particularly continue to face problems in completing primary school, and learning once in school.

As part of the international Research for Improving Systems of Education (RISE) programme, the REAL Centre is co-leading the RISE research in Ethiopia, together with the Policy Studies Institute (PSI), Ethiopia. The team is conducting a five-year research project to examine whether and how a large package of national reforms works to improve learning equitably in one of the world’s poorest and most diverse countries.

The Ethiopia RISE project is examining the Government’s flagship education programme funded by international aid donors, the General Education Quality Improvement Package with a focus on equity (GEQIP-E). GEQIP-E is a complex and evolving series of reforms intended to facilitate sustainable improvements in learning. The research team is seeking to understand the nature of the political levers brought about by the policy change, the ingredients of sustainability, and, ultimately, the effectiveness of the reform package.

Research team

Principal Investigator and Research Team Lead: Professor Tassew Woldehanna

International Research Team Lead: Professor Pauline Rose

Research Management Lead: Professor Ricardo Sabates

Researchers: Professor Amare Asgedom; Dr Mesele Araya; Dr Alebel Bayrau Weldesilassie; Dr Tessa Bold; Kefyalew Endale; Dr Belay Hagos Hailu; Dr Professor John Hoddinott; Professor Girma Lemma Fantaye; Professor Moses Oketch; Dr Alula Pankhurst; Dr Caine Rolleston; Dr Dawit Tibebu Tiruneh; Professor Tirussew Teferra; Professor Darge Wole Meshesha; Dr Louise Yorke

Research Project Support: Anita Menon-Harding

Country Partners: Institute of Educational Research at Addis Ababa University; Policy Studies Institute (PSI), Ethiopia; Stockholm University; University College London Institute of Education


April 2017 - December 2022


Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT); Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO); via Oxford Policy Management


Politics, accountability, and learning: Insights from the RISE programme’s political economy case studies
Gershberg, A. and Spindelman, D. March 2023. RISE Political Economy Paper

Which aspects of educational reforms in Ethiopia have promoted equitable achievements in mathematics?
Hoddinott, J., Araya, M., Woldehanna, T., Sabates, R., Tibebu Tiruneh, D. and Eryilmaz, N. March 2023 RISE Working Paper 23/138.

GEQIP-E Implementation Practices and Value-Added Learning at Primary Schools in Ethiopia
Endale, K., Araya, M., Woldehanna, T. and Sabates, R. March 2023 RISE Working Paper 23/132.

Equitable North-South partnerships for ethical and policy relevant research in times of uncertainty: a collaborative autoethnography from Ethiopia
Yorke, L., Kim, J., Hagos Hailu, B. and Ejigu Berhie, C. 2023 International Journal of Social Research Methodology

Understanding the impact of large-scale educational reform on students’ learning outcomes in Ethiopia: The GEQIP-II case
Araya, M., Rolleston, C., Rose, P., Sabates, R. and Tiruneh, D. T. January 2023 RISE Working Paper.

Ruptured school trajectories: Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on school dropout, socio-emotional and academic learning using a longitudinal design 
Bayley, S., Rose, P., Meshesha, D. W., Woldehanna, T., Yorke, L. and Ramchandani, P. 2022 Longitudinal and Life Course Studies

Learning losses during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ethiopia: Comparing student achievement in early primary grades before school closures, and after they reopened
Araya, M., Rose, R., Sabates, R., Tiruneh, D.  T. and Woldehanna, T. 2022 RISE Insight Note

Understanding the influences on girls' primary education in Ethiopia from the perspectives of girls and their caregivers
 Tafere, Y., Yorke, L., Rose, P., and Pankhurst, A. 2022
RISE Working Paper Series 22/097

Whose voice counts? Examining government-donor negotiations in the design of Ethiopia’s large-scale education reforms for equitable learning
Carvalho, S., Asgedom, A., and Rose, P. 2022
Development Policy Review

Trends in mathematics learning in Ethiopia: 2012 – 2019
Tiruneh, D. T., Sabates, R., Rolleston, C., & Hoddinott, J. 2022
Bahir Dar Journal of Education, 21(1), 26-45

Is the Programme for Results approach fit for purpose? Evidence from a large-scale education reform in Ethiopia
Yorke, L., Asegdom, A., Hagos Hailu, B. and Rose, P. 2022 Third World Quarterly

Socio-emotional and academic learning before and after COVID-19 school closures: Evidence from Ethiopia
Bayley, S., Meshesha D.W., Ramchandani, P., Rose, P., Woldehanna, T. and Yorke, L. 2021
Working Paper 21/082

The Impact of COVID-19 in Ethiopia: Policy Brief
Harris, D., Baird, S., Ford, K., Hirvonen, K., Jones, N., Kassa, M., Meyer, C., Pankhurst, A., Wieser, C. and Woldehanna, T. 2021 Oxford: Building Resilience in Ethiopia

Diagnosing the learning crisis: What can value-added analysis contribute?
Oketch, M., Rolleston, C., and Rossiter, J. 2021 International Journal of Educational Development, 87.

Strengthening the education system for equitable learning during COVID-19 in Ethiopia
Yorke, L., Rose, P., Woldehanna, T. and Hagos Hailu, B. October 2021
Chapter 4 in ‘States of Emergency: Education in the Time of COVID-19’ (Eds.) Brehm, W., Unterhalter, E. and Oketch, M., Norrag Special Issue 06

Understanding achievement in numeracy among primary school children in Ethiopia: Evidence from RISE Ethiopia study
Tiruneh, D., Hoddinott, J., Rolleston, C., Sabates, R. and Woldehanna, T. May 2021
RISE Working Paper Series 21/071

Disadvantaged schools and students in Ethiopia: Why is the GEQIP-E reform necessary?
Tiruneh, D., Sabates, R. and Woldehanna, T. April 2021
RISE Programme Insights

Researching socio-emotional learning, mental health and wellbeing: Methodological issues in low-income contexts
Bayley, S., Wole Meshesha, D., Yorke, L., Ramchandani, P. and Rose, P. April 2021
RISE Working Paper Series. 21/068

The influence of politics on girls’ education in Ethiopia
Yorke, L., Rose, P. and Pankhurst, A. March 2021. Chapter 6 (Open Access) in 'Reforming education and challenging inequalities in Southern contexts: Research and policy in international development. A tribute to Christopher Colclough' (Eds.) Rose, P., Arnot, M., Jeffery, R. and Singal, N. Routledge Series: Education, Poverty and International Development, 2021

Negotiating equity: Examining priorities, ownership, and politics shaping Ethiopia’s large-scale education reforms for equitable learning
Asgedom, A., Carvalho, S. and Rose, P. March 2021
RISE Working Paper No. 21/067

Primary school-level responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in Ethiopia: Evidence from phone surveys of school principals and teachers
Yorke, L., Rose, R., Woldehanna, T. and Hailu, B. H. March 2021
Perspectives in Education, Vol. 39, Number 1

The importance of students’ socio-emotional learning, mental health, and wellbeing in the time of COVID-19
Yorke, L., Rose, P., Bayley, S., Wole, D. and Ramchandani, P. March 2021
RISE Programme Insights

The effects of COVID-19 on primary education in Ethiopia: Perspectives of school principals and teachers
Yorke, L., Rose, P., Hagos, B. and Woldehanna, T. 2020
Research and Policy Paper No. 20/10

A rising tide of access: What consequences for equitable learning in Ethiopia?
Iyer, P., Rolleston, C., Rose, P. and Woldehanna, T. 2020
Oxford Review of Education, 46

Evaluating large-scale education reforms in Ethiopia
Hoddinott, J., Iyer, P., Sabates. R and Woldehanna T. 2019
RISE Working Paper No. 19/034

Whose Influence and whose priorities? Insights from government and donor stakeholders on the design of the Ethiopian General Education Quality Improvement for Equity (GEQIP-E) programme
Asgedom, A., Hagos, B., Lemma, G., Rose, P., Teferra, T., Wole, D. and Yorke, L. 2019
Insights, RISE Programme

Coherent for equitable learning? Understanding the Ethiopian education system
Iyer, P. and Rossiter, J. 2018
Insights, RISE Programme


Beyond academic learning loss: The effect of school closures on students’ socio-emotional skills
Tassew Woldehanna and Chanie Ejigu Berhie, RISE Programme, 24 October 2023

Navigating uncertainty: The role of north-south research partnerships in Ethiopia’s education response to COVID-19
Louise Yorke, Janice Heejin Kim, Belay Hagos Hailu and Chanie Ejigu Berhie, National Centre for Research Methods, 27 April 2023

What have we learned from Ethiopia’s national quality education reform programme: Lessons for the Ministry of Education
Mesele Araya, Tassew Woldehanna, Pauline Rose and Ricardo Sabates, RISE Programme, 30 January 2023

Lessons from Ethiopia for the global education community on large-scale education reforms with equity
Pauline Rose, Ricardo Sabates and Tassew Woldehanna, UKFIET, 29 January 2023

Modelling sample attrition in "value-added" models of learning
Mesele Araya, Dawit Tibebuh Tiruneh and John Hoddinott, RISE Programme, 22 September 2022

Adopting a holistic approach to examining learning loss as a result of school closures in Ethiopia: Including socio-emotional learning
Stephen Bayley, Darge Wole Meshesha, Paul Ramchandani, Pauline Rose, Tassew Woldehanna and Louise Yorke, RISE Programme, 7 December 2021

Strengthening the education system for equitable learning during COVID-19 in Ethiopia
Louise Yorke, Pauline Rose, Tassew Woldehanna and Belay Hagos Hailu, NORRAG, 25 October 2021

Disability and learning in Ethiopia: What has changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Dawit Tibebu Tiruneh, Nidhi Singal, Ricardo Sabates and Tirussew Teferra, RISE Programme, 12 May 2021

Learning inequalities widen following COVID-19 school closures in Ethiopia
Janice Kim, Pauline Rose, Dawit Tibebu Tiruneh, Ricardo Sabates and Tassew Woldehanna, Rise Programme, 4 May 2021

Practical and ethical challenges of doing distance research in the Global South during a global pandemic
Louise Yorke, Janice Kim, Belay Hagos Hailu and Chanie Ejigu Berhie, RISE Programme, 16 April 2021

Supporting students’ socio-emotional learning, mental health, and wellbeing during and beyond COVID-19
Louise Yorke, RISE Programme, 15 March 2021

What are the challenges for reopening schools in Ethiopia? Perspectives of school principals and teachers
Louise Yorke, Pauline Rose, Tassew Woldehanna and Belay Hagos Hailu, Cambridge Africa, 18 September 2020

Reflections on support available for vulnerable students in Ethiopia
Yisak Tafere, RISE, 6 August 2020

Education response to COVID-19: How can basic education be implemented in Ethiopia?
Belay Hagos Hailu, UKFIET, 11 May 2020

The threat of COVID-19 on Ethiopia’s recent gains in pre-primary education
Janice Kim and Pauline Rose, UKFIET, 4 May 2020

COVID-19 school closures may further widen the inequality gaps between the advantaged and the disadvantaged in Ethiopia
Dawit Tibebu Tiruneh, UKFIET, 21 April 2020

Whose influence and whose priorities? The design of Ethiopia’s general education quality improvement programme- EQUITY (GEQIP-E)
Pauline Rose and Louise Yorke, RISE Programme, 2019

Listening to local voices to tackle Ethiopia's learning crisis
Louise Yorke, Pauline Rose and Belay Hagos Hailu, RISE Programme, 2019

What will it take to raise learning outcomes for all children in Ethiopia? Translating commitment into action through evidence
Pauline Rose and Tassew Woldehanna, RISE Programme, 2017

Launch event highlights the need for alignment in Ethiopia’s education system reform programme
Tassew Woldehanna and Louise Yorke, RISE Programme, 2017

Other media

A study conducted in Addis Ababa and 7 regions revealed that the quality of education is below standard Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, 13 July 2023

In order to ensure quality of education in Ethiopia, accountability needs to be ensured Ethiopian News Agency, 13 July 2023

We need to work on basic skills to improve the quality of education – Research Ethiopian News Agency, 15 December 2022 (in Amharic)

Stalled social skills, ruptured learning: Ethiopian schools exemplify COVID-19's aftershock for the world's poorest children Play in Education Development Learning (PEDAL), 1 December 2022

Covid has ‘ruptured’ social skills of world’s poorest children, school study says The Independent, 30 November 2022

Stalled social skills, ruptured learning: Ethiopian schools typify COVID’s aftershock for the world’s poorest children Faculty of Education News, 28 November 2022

Ethiopian schools study suggests COVID has 'ruptured' social skills of the world's poorest children, 27 November 2022

Poorly conceived payment-on-results funding threatens to undermine education aid Faculty of Education News and University of Cambridge Latest Research, 30 March 2022

UN data reveals 'nearly insurmountable' scale of lost schooling due to Covid The Guardian, 25 January 2022

Ethiopia's speed schools give child labourers a second chance Thomson Reuters Foundation News, 25 November 2021

Closing the world’s schools caused children great harm The Economist, 26 June 2021

Covid school closures in poorer countries could 'affect this generation forever' The Telegraph, 10 June 2021

Ethiopia Rising: Exploring education after COVID-19 Luminos Fund, 26 March 2021

In Ethiopia, schools still lack basic means to contain COVID-19, as pupils return after months of interrupted learning Faculty of Education News, 7 December 2020

Ethiopia hunts for children forced to work, marry during pandemic Thomson Reuters Foundation, 19 October 2020

In-depth Analysis: Is Ethiopia ready for school reopening amid COVID-19 surge? Addis Standard, 21 September 2020

Further information

See the RISE Programme website for further information: The RISE Programme.