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Does learning in mother tongue matter? Evidence from a natural experiment in Ethiopia

Economics of Education Review Volume 55, Number 1, ISSN 0272-7757 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


This paper offers empirical evidence on whether learning in mother tongue improves educational outcomes in primary school. We exploit the variation in changes in medium of instruction across schools located in different districts in Ethiopia following the 1994 education reform. This reform has provided opportunity for states in Ethiopia to choose the medium of instruction in primary schools located within their jurisdictions. Since the reform has affected only schools in some districts, but not in others, we assign children into treatment and control groups depending on whether the medium of instruction in the districts in which children live has changed following the reform. Using data from the 2% public-use microdata samples of the 1994 and 2007 Ethiopian population censuses as pre- and post-reform data, respectively, we estimate difference-in-differences models. The results from our preferred specification suggest that the 1994 education reform has increased the probabilities of both enrollment in primary school and whether a child attends the “right” grade for her/his age, and the effects are relatively stronger for kids in rural areas. Falsification tests suggest that our results are not confounded by other factors. This evidence supports the argument that mother-tongue instruction improves educational outcomes in primary school.


Seid, Y. (2016). Does learning in mother tongue matter? Evidence from a natural experiment in Ethiopia. Economics of Education Review, 55(1), 21-38. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved August 17, 2022 from .

This record was imported from Economics of Education Review on March 1, 2019. Economics of Education Review is a publication of Elsevier.

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