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Language use in education and primary schooling attainment: evidence from a natural experiment in Ethiopia

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  • Rajesh Ramachandran

    () (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona)

Abstract

The extensive use of foreign languages in schooling might have an important role to play in the poor educational outcomes observed on the African continent. Exploiting the language policy change of 1994 in Ethiopia as a natural experiment, we estimate the effects of provision of mother tongue instruction on the largest ethnic group in the country. Our results suggest that provision of mother tongue education led to an increase of 0.75 to 1 year of primary schooling in the affected cohort. Moreover the entire increase in the years of schooling can be attributed to the intensive margin of education. The language policy change, conditional on enrolment, increased the percentage of people completing 6 years or more of schooling by 31%. Applying our findings to a set of African countries shows that even after accounting for the costs of provision, introduction of mother tongue instruction imply potentially large benefits and increases the percentage of population completing primary schooling by as much as 15% points. These finding have important policy implications at a time when surging enrolment rates and already stretched educational budgets in the African continent imply need for solutions which can increase the quality of education without requiring huge capital or infrastructural outlays.

Suggested Citation

  • Rajesh Ramachandran, 2012. "Language use in education and primary schooling attainment: evidence from a natural experiment in Ethiopia," Working Papers 2012/34, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  • Handle: RePEc:ieb:wpaper:2012/6/doc2012-34
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Angrist, Joshua & Chin, Aimee & Godoy, Ricardo, 2008. "Is Spanish-only schooling responsible for the Puerto Rican language gap?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1-2), pages 105-128, February.
    2. Esther Duflo, 2001. "Schooling and Labor Market Consequences of School Construction in Indonesia: Evidence from an Unusual Policy Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 795-813, September.
    3. Appleton, S., 2000. "Education and Health at the Household Level in Sub-Saharan Africa," Papers 33, Chicago - Graduate School of Business.
    4. Chin, Aimee & Daysal, N. Meltem & Imberman, Scott A., 2013. "Impact of bilingual education programs on limited English proficient students and their peers: Regression discontinuity evidence from Texas," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 63-78.
    5. George Psacharopoulos & Harry Anthony Patrinos, 2004. "Returns to investment in education: a further update," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(2), pages 111-134.
    6. Edward P. Lazear, 1999. "Culture and Language," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages 95-126, December.
    7. World Bank, 2005. "Education in Ethiopia : Strengthening the Foundation for Sustainable Progress," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 7434, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bethlehem A. Argaw, 2016. "Quasi-experimental evidence on the effects of mother tongue-based education on reading skills and early labour market outcomes," WIDER Working Paper Series 004, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Education; language policy; difference in difference estimator; institutions;

    JEL classification:

    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • Z18 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Public Policy

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