Is Preschool Education Instrumental for the Completion of Secondary Education in Ethiopia? Lessons Drawn from the Longitudinal Data of Young Lives

Mesele W. Araya
Young Lives / Antonio Fiorente

Despite the plethora of studies in high income countries, little is known about the long-term contributions of early childhood investment in low income countries. This study then used longitudinal data from the Young Lives Project in Ethiopia to examine the contribution of preschool participation on successful completion of secondary education and the chance of transitioning to institutions of higher learning at the proper ages. Controlled for relevant covariates, marginal probability from a logit estimate shows that preschoolers are 25.7% more likely to complete secondary education than their non-preschool counterparts at the proper age. The marginal returns are higher for those who attended preschool for 3 and 2 years than those who attended only for 1 year. Those who attended for three years are particularly found with higher probability of making transition to higher education at the age of 18. The results are robust to alternative IV methods. The lesson is that a significant part of children’s educational inequalities at later ages are explained by the level of early childhood investment as the result of “skill begets skill”. In spite of such significance of early childhood investment, public investment being allocated to the preschool subsector is meagre, relative to the other subsectors. Based on the current preschool landscape of the country only one- fourth of the 7.4 million preschool aged children–mainly from the well-to-do families and urban areas–are able to make their way to this vital learning stage while children of the majority simply begin primary school without any early exposure and consequently face considerable difficulties on their later educational pathways such as difficulty of completing secondary education and incapable of transitioning to institutions of higher learning at the proper ages.