Ethiopia has made a remarkable progress in the education sector in the past three decades where net enrolment rate has increased significantly, gender parity narrowed, pupil-teacher ratio for primary schools has improved and repetition rates dropped substantially (MOE, 2019). However, there are still lots to work on as about 2.6 million children of primary school age are out of school, of which 57% are girls (UNICEF, 2018). In addition, only 25% of secondary school aged children are enrolled in secondary schools. There are very high dropout rates before the completion of primary education, with only 58% of children completing a full eight years of schooling (UNICEF, 2018). At national level, the dropout rate for female and male students in primary schools (Grades 1-8) is 17.3% and 17.7%, respectively (MOE, 2019). Besides, improving quality of education has remained elusive. For instance, a report by the Ministry of Education (MOE, 2019) indicated that 63% of students in lower primary school are not performing to the required standard set by the ministry (i.e. 50% and above). Again, the National Learning Assessment (NLA) in grades 4 and 8 showed that students’ average achievement was below the 50% of the required standard (NEAEA, 2020), reading scores in grade 4 are of particular concern as 44% of students tested were below the basic level in reading in 2015 (World Bank, 2017), and only 32.4% of students in grades 2 and 3, combined, exhibited relatively functional reading proficiency (USAID, 2019).
Cognizant of these challenges of the education sector, a new education roadmap was developed in 2018 and has been widely discussed. An important component of education improvement is strengthening the country’s assessment system so as to support evidence-based intervention and decision-making. To this end, the ministry of education has planned to develop a National Assessment Framework which will guide school level, regional and national assessments. Besides, as there is a plan for Ethiopia to be part of the international assessment systems, mainly of Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), piloting the tests so as to know the stand of our students from international standards and make the necessary preparations is essential. These demand understanding of prevailing conditions in schools. This brief report is about a study conducted to examine school conditions in relation to student enrolment, efficiency indicators, the teaching work force, instructional practices, resource adequacy, and student learning that is particularly important to design effective solutions that improve quality of learning and assessment in schools.