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Schooling with learning: The effect of free primary education and mother tongue instruction reforms in Ethiopia

Economics of Education Review Volume 69, Number 1, ISSN 0272-7757 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


In developing regions, significant increases in primary school enrollment are often generated by large national level programs, which could simultaneously promote overcrowding and reductions in education quality. In a difference-in-differences framework, this paper exploits geographic variation in pre-reform levels of schooling and the timing of the policy changes in Ethiopia to examine the impact of both removing school fees and introducing mother tongue instruction in the early 1990s. The two reforms lead to a net increase of approximately 0.7 years of school. Further evidence suggests that the additional enrollment also led to an increase in literacy, knowledge of family planning material from newspapers and magazines, knowledge of HIV, and the likelihood of knowing a location for HIV testing. These increases occur without a concurrent increase in reading, suggesting an improved ability to identify and retain information. However, the positive returns were generated by the removal of school fees. The introduction of mother tongue instruction led to a reduction in schooling and had no impact on literacy; consequences that were most severe in regions that introduced the new language of instruction in a script that was rarely used prior to the reform.


Chicoine, L. (2019). Schooling with learning: The effect of free primary education and mother tongue instruction reforms in Ethiopia. Economics of Education Review, 69(1), 94-107. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved August 9, 2020 from .

This record was imported from Economics of Education Review on March 15, 2019. Economics of Education Review is a publication of Elsevier.

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