Gender Parity in Education in Ethiopia


Education has been at the very center of Ethiopia’s development strategy in the last two decades, with a result that Grade 1 to Grade 12 students’ school enrolment has more than doubled from 10 million in 2002/3 to over 26 million in 2021/22. A parallel improvement has also been registered in higher education enrolment, which has jumped from 0.18 million to more than 0.62 million over the same period (MOE, 2014; Tassew and Mesele, 2016). The government of Ethiopia, which is a signatory to many major international conventions and instruments of human rights and gender equality, has shown commendable political will and commitment to ensure gender parity in the education and other socio-economic sectors of the economy.

Ethiopia has also a history of mainstreaming gender equality in its domestic legal frameworks, policies and strategies. One among these is the special focus that the country has given to ensure girls’ and boys’ equal access to general education. As a result, as of 2020, gender parity at the primary and secondary schools has reached 0.91 and 0.92, respectively (MoE, 2021). However, despite these positive developments, differences in gender parity indices (GPI) are still evident, particularly between emerging and non-emerging regions (Bolton, 2019; MoE, 2021). This specific study, “Gender Parity in Ethiopia”, aimed at assessing factors causing gender disparity in primary and secondary schools in Ethiopia with special emphasis to emerging regional states (Afar, Somali, Gambella, and Benishangul-Gumuz). The study also sought to understand the gendered trajectories and challenges of school-to-work transitions and analyze the institutional and policy contexts which determine the effective actions to foster gender equality.

Data were collected from seven regional states, including the four emerging regions and three non-emerging regional states (Amhara, Oromia, and SNNPR) and federal offices (MoE, MoWSA, MoLS, JCC). KIIs were conducted with experts working at federal, regional, zonal, and district (woreda) level education bureaus as well as experts from NGOs and INGOs working in the education sector in each of the regional states. A survey questionnaire was distributed to 105 primary and 35 secondary school principals. Besides, FGDs were conducted with parents, girls, boys, and teachers in 12 selected schools in each regional state. Based on analyses of the data, the following results are obtained:

Lower Gender Parity Indices in the Emerging Regions

As school level data from 2016/17 to 2020/21indicates, there is a decreasing trend in student enrolment in primary grades, while there is an increasing trend in the secondary grades (see Figure 1 to Figure 4). At primary grades, with the exception of Benishangul-Gumuz, Gender parity indices in emerging regions (Afar and Somali) are found to be low, indicating less female enrolment in these regions compared to other regions. At secondary grades, in all regions except SNNPR, GPI in general is below 1.00 and comparatively the lowest scores are found in the emerging regions. Gender disparity was also observed in the labour force in both formal and informal sectors.


Contributions of Gender Policies and Strategies for Improved Gender Parity

Specifically, efforts made to ensure that girls benefit from education programs as well as gender mainstreaming activities have shown significant improvements in gender parity in education. However, the study revealed that there are quite important strategies that are not yet implemented due to shortage of resources and lack of awareness among the responsible bodies. As one of the strategies, each school establishes gender clubs with the aim of addressing gender issues in the school and the wider community. Broadly describing, these clubs are engaged in activities, such as facilitating tutorial classes for girls, collecting financial and material resources from charities to support economically challenged girl students, providing sanitary pads and spaces for girls during menstruation, putting in place mechanisms to prevent and respond to school-based GBV, supporting the termination of arranged and forced marriages, undertaking back- to – school campaigns for girls who drop out of school, and providing life skills education. However, lack of budget as well as low commitment from the management hinders the full functioning of the clubs. Though schools attempt to ensure equal representation of gender in school activities, girls still lack the courage to take leadership positions as equally as males.

Multiples factors affecting gender parity, school progression, and school-to-work transition

From data obtained through the KII and FGDs, personal, family, community/cultural, and school related factors were identified as factors affecting gender parity. The personal factors include girls’ lack of confidence and their attitude towards education and unintended pregnancy, while family related factors constitute poverty, workload, and low level of parental support. Early marriage, community members’ attitude towards girl’s education and lack of role models were identified as community/ cultural related factors. Similarly, lack of WASH facilities, unfair treatment of girls by teachers and school administrators, gender-based violence and distance to school were cited as school related factors that contributed to gender disparity.

Gender disparity in the labour force in both formal and informal sectors is exhibited by the presence of low employment opportunities, unequal pay between men and women, and very limited chances for women to climb to leadership positions. The findings in terms of how gender affects students’ trajectories and the challenges of schoolto-work transitions in Ethiopia included: some parents play adequate roles in supporting their children’s education, while some others favour their sons; there were students who work while still going to school; students, dropouts, and high school graduates engage in both formal and informal types of work, while TVET graduates engage in jobs both relevant and irrelevant to their skills; no structural changes were made at the systems level to create jobs; and that
minimal action was taken to address the school-to-work transitions of girls with disabilities.

The findings also revealed that there was no collaboration or linkage between Labor and Skills offices and educational institutions, such as TVETs and universities, to ensure gender parity in accessing quality education and training. With regard to collaboration towards gender parity in education, the findings showed that Women, Children, and Youth Affairs offices mainly focused on raising awareness and providing trainings in gender parity, conducting gender audits, and in encouraging other sectors to mainstream gender.

Considerations for Intervention to Improve Gender Parity in Ethiopia

Based on the findings of the study, the following recommendations are worth considering:

  • In order to reach the 2024/25 GPI target of 1.00 and 0.92 for primary and secondary schools respectively, already started initiatives need to be strengthened and further initiatives such as developing Gender Responsive Pedagogy (GRP) need to be planned to address the different learning needs of girls and boys. To achieve more results, gender-based strategies that need further strengthening include creating school environments that are safe and convenient for girls, realizing innovative awareness creation activities at school level, bringing more females to leadership positions, enhancing capacity for developing and executing gender responsive action plan, and implementing more comprehensive gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation practices.
  • Development partners and NGOs can provide support to the government of Ethiopia focusing on those specific gender strategies that are not yet implemented, including provision of financial support, housing services, celebrating national girls’ education week, establishing national girls’ education forum, gender budgeting, and creating linkage between secondary schools and higher education institutions.
  • The education sector should address factors that affect students’ trajectories, such as lack of parental support, early marriage and economic constraints, with particular attention to girls and the emerging regions. Efforts to enhance parental support could be improved by scaling up good practices in schools through implementing PSTA at class level. This will improve parental involvement as well as increase students’ motivation to focus on their education. Gender clubs should be strengthened to empower girls to say NO or report early marriage plans. Economic support measures should be put in place to support students that are facing economic constraints to continue their education, particularly in emerging regions.
  • The labour sector should create linkage and collaboration among different sectors, such as education, training, labour, job creation, microcredits, social sector and NGOs, and international organizations, and this should be strengthened in order to address unemployment and thereby reduce unsafe internal and external migration, labour exploitation, and human trafficking. .
  • The education sector requires due attention with respect to addressing the school-to-work transition of girls with disabilities by integrating adequate system level measures. These measures include intensifying training of teachers on inclusive education, implementing gender and disability-sensitive recruitment guidelines, and providing budget both for adaptive educational materials as well as for making school structures inclusive.
  • Governmental and non-governmental organizations should leverage the presence of gender clubs to directly reach schools and strengthen their awareness creation efforts among students and the wider community. More support and funding are required to civil societies which are working with schools on advocacy of gender equality as they can potentially bring about change at the grassroots level.


This document is an output from a project funded with UK aid from the UK government for the benefit of developing countries. However, the views expressed and information contained in it is not necessarily those of, or endorsed by the UK government, which can accept no responsibility for such views or information or for any reliance placed on them.

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