Link Community Development

Improving the quality of education in Africa

Education, Training and Agenda 2030: What progress one year on?

NORRAG News, December 2017: Education, Training and Agenda 2030: What progress one year on?

Following the first anniversary of the announcement of the Sustainable Development Goals, Link's work is featured as NORRAG explore what progress has been made. 

Implementing SDG 4 in Ethiopia: Lessons from Girls' Eduction Challenge Project

Pages 106-107 of NORRAG News: December 2017 Edition

Keywords: Ethiopia; girls’ education; sustainability


Summary:  Link Community Development has delivered a Girls' Education Challenge Project in four districts of Ethiopia with improvements in learning, attendance and retention, as measured against Ethiopia’s own education indicators. But will a country with limited finance and capacity also be able to measure any success against global SDG 4 indicators, and should they have to?

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Agenda outlines the commitment of all Member States to “work tirelessly” for “full implementation” of the SDGs by 2030. In Ethiopia, the process of contextualising the globally-developed goals has begun. A national workshop was held in April 2016 and the Government of Ethiopia has welcomed the support of the UN Country Team and SDG Task Force in rolling-out the SDGs through national SDG implementation plans and policies. However, the targets and monitoring mechanisms are not yet integrated into the key guiding policy documents of the Government of Ethiopia and the numerous, ambitious and diverse targets in Goal 4 mean that there is a very long and challenging road ahead if they are to be even partially achieved within the next 14 years. Faced with the reality of limited financing and limited capacity, some degree of prioritisation amongst the ten Goal 4 targets is inevitable, such as focusing on the interventions which can have the biggest impact on learner outcomes, which reach the marginalised sub-groups and which offer the best value for money.

The government has confirmed that SDGs in Ethiopia will be implemented under the Growth and Transformation Plan II; however the current version of the plan only makes passing reference to alignment with the SDGs and there is no detail on how an inclusive process for agreeing and monitoring locally-relevant goals at federal, regional and zonal levels will be managed. Similarly, the 5th Education Sector Development Plan (ESDPV) refers to the achievement of the MDGs and to ‘future sustainable development goals’, but as yet without any clear statement of the partnerships required to adapt, implement and monitor SDG 4. Both of these documents were developed just before the SDG Agenda was agreed and they will no doubt be updated in the coming months to ensure that the SDG goals and targets are integrated into national priorities, actions, plans and budgets. It is important but very demanding that this focus on the SDGs is maintained in the face of competing national priorities and challenges.

Ethiopia has made significant progress in universal primary education (UPE) with a net enrolment of 90% girls and 95% boys for grades one to eight (ESDPV, August 2015). However, gender disparity sits at 0.94% with a performance gap of 2.4%. Learning outcomes for all are poor with only 60% reaching ‘below’ basic for English and 56% for maths (National Learning Assessment 2014). Quality and equity remain challenges. Ethiopia’s Girls’ Education Strategy is going someway to address these issues but with limited resources to implement the recommendations, only limited progress can be made.

Link, through its Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) project funded by DFID, is working very closely with the Ministry of Education in Ethiopia to reach several Goal 4 targets. We are directly contributing to ensuring all girls and boys complete a free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education; eliminating gender disparities; achieving literacy and numeracy outcomes; and the building of gender sensitive learning environments. Indirectly our programme will eventually impact all targets as children progress through an improved education system with higher quality teaching and communities aware of the value of education, especially for girls in the four project districts.

Link’s GEC project, with its core aims of improving attendance, retention and performance, addresses the challenges of quality and equity in a sustainable and scalable way. The GEC fund manager, stated “Link’s holistic approach aligns with government policy in Ethiopia and extends ownership to all levels of the community by working closely with government staff and local institutions. This supports sustainability and improves social accountability” (GEC Thematic Papers, September 2016).

Through our GEC-Transition project we plan to take this learning further to support especially marginalised sub-groups such as girls with disabilities, young mothers and orphans. We would like to ensure that the learning we have developed can be applied more broadly in support of SDG 4 and that we collect and use data sets which are compatible with the monitoring mechanisms to be established for SDG 4. This will require better alignment and communication between district, zone, regional and federal levels and adequate coordination platforms. But the Government of Ethiopia needs to define what methods and tools will be applied to monitor SDG4 and how all development partners can play a role in this task. 

The GEC project reaches over 63,000 girls in four neighbouring districts in  at a cost of only £15 per girl per year. The success, which is also evidenced in preliminary end line findings, the value for money and the embeddedness within local and regional government, as well as the local communities, should enable Ethiopia to deliver a significantly improved education system for all. However, with SDG 4 targets that reach far beyond UPE and even USE, successful projects such as this, are unlikely to make much dent on the impossible demands that SDG 4 places on countries, especially low-incomes ones. The Ministry of Education has “increasing access, equity and efficiency at both primary and secondary levels” as key targets. With limited capacity and financing in a context of inadequate human and physical resources SDG 4 is too ambitious. But without ambition will change happen? At the least, SDG 4 can be an important guide for education policy-makers and development intervention design, and will hopefully encourage the allocation of increasing levels of donor funds towards the most critical areas of the inclusive and quality education challenge.



For followup on the various sources mentioned see the site:


To cite this article: Ross S., (2016) Implementing SDG 4 in Ethiopia: Lessons from a Girls' Education Challenge Project, NORRAG News, 54, 106-107. Retrieved from:


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