Map of Ethiopia


A grade 3 student reading a paragraph from his textbook at the Andode Primary School in Addis Ababa.
A grade three student reads a paragraph from his textbook at the Andode Primary School in Addis Ababa. Early reading improves children’s lifelong development.
Haweni Gonfa, IQPEP

USAID’s mission in Ethiopia supports the Agency's Education Strategy and the mission’s development objectives by planning, managing, and monitoring activities that achieve results across multiple levels of the education system. For more than 15 years, USAID’s education activities in Ethiopia have addressed a variety of needs related to education access, equity, quality, and relevance. This has been accomplished in close partnership with the Ministry of Education. Today, quality of education remains the biggest challenge and priority facing the Ethiopian education system.

International research has conclusively demonstrated that children who do not attain reading proficiency at the primary level are on a lifetime trajectory of limited educational progress and therefore limited economic and developmental opportunity. Ethiopia’s first Early Grade Reading Assessment, funded by USAID in 2010, showed very low reading performance for first through third grade students across the country: approximately one-third of second graders are non-readers and approximately half scored zero on a comprehension test. These devastating results prompted USAID to prioritize early grade literacy, partnering with the Ministry of Education and regional state education bureaus, and linking with other donors to implement a comprehensive, country-wide approach to improving students’ learning outcomes. In Ethiopia, USAID is on track to improve the reading abilities of 15 million primary school children. Major activities supported by the mission include:

  • Improving the reading and writing skills of students in primary schools, with an increasing focus on vulnerable populations and traditionally underserved communities

  • Developing relevant national curriculum

  • Providing quality materials to support instruction and out-of-school activities

  • Improving the professional capacity of grade 1-8 teachers

  • Improving the planning and management capacity of the primary education system at national, regional, district, and community levels

  • Strengthening parental and community involvement

In higher education, USAID burgeoning portfolio has a two-prong focus. First, USAID creates strong university partnerships, upgrades faculty skills, and builds local institutional capacity in graduate-level education and research, including on critical topics such as sustainable water resource management. Second, USAID invests in the next generation of Ethiopian leaders by improving female university students’ academic and life skills during their first year of study. In addition, USAID implements a workforce development activity, which targets more than 34,000 unemployed and underemployed Ethiopian youth ages 15-29.

USAID works closely with donor partners and the private sector to leverage support for its activities, including through the Ministry of Education’s $550 million multi-donor funded General Education Quality Improvement Program.

Major Activities

  • Improving Early Grade Reading through three Ethiopian Non-Governmental Organizations: Working in three regions, these activities develop supplementary reading materials, organize reading corners and clubs, and strengthen parental and community engagement around reading activities as part of USAID Forward. Together, these activities are directly contributing to USAID’s goal of improving the early grade reading skills of 15 million children in Ethiopia.

  • Reading for Ethiopia’s Achievement Developed (READ): This activity focuses on establishing a firm foundation for high-quality teaching and learning in the early grades. It trains teachers and develops curriculum and associated teaching and learning materials in order to improve reading in primary schools. As of June 2015, READ has successfully developed a new national reading curriculum and more than 200 textbooks for seven mother tongue languages, printed and distributed approximately 2.6 million textbooks and teacher guides, and trained more than 64,000 primary school teachers who are now prepared to implement the revised reading curriculum. Working in close partnership with the Ministry of Education, READ will impact more than 75 percent of primary school children nationwide.

  • USAID’s Building the Potential of Youth: This recently awarded, innovative youth workforce development activity incorporates many of the best practices and directives outlined in the Agency’s Youth Policy. It complements the mission’s existing agriculture and private sector development programs. The activity’s primary goal is to help youth increase their assets and incomes through employment or better employment in order for them to achieve economic self-sufficiency, while building the capacity of local institutions to continue this work in the long term. Rural youth will receive literacy, numeracy, and life skills training alongside vocational and entrepreneurship development activities through partnerships with training, small-business, and micro-finance institutions. This activity targets 30 districts and will reach 35,000 youth, with a focus on the most vulnerable, particularly women and those transitioning out of pastoralism.



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Last updated: January 27, 2016

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