Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Publications Database

Language use in education and human capital formation: Evidence from the Ethiopian educational reform

Ramachandran, Rajesh
Volume: 98
Pages: 195 - 213
Month: Oktober
ISSN-Print: 0305-750X
Link External Source: Online Version
Year: 2017
Keywords: Africa education policy Ethiopia human capital language of instruction

In 1994, Ethiopia introduced mother tongue instruction in primary schooling for the largest ethnic group in the country. Combining data from before and after the policy change, from the regions that gain access to mother tongue schooling, along with the regions and ethnic groups that face no change in language policy, I estimate the effect of mother tongue instruction on human capital formation. The results show that access to mother tongue schooling increases the ability to read by 40%. Moreover, it increases the completed years of schooling by more than half a year, and the probability of completing primary schooling by five percentage points. The ability to read by permitting access to printed sources of information, increases newspaper readership by around 25% and makes it 17% points more likely that individuals report using pamphlets, posters or leaflets as a source of information about family planning. My preferred interpretation of the results is that provision of schooling in a language spoken at home, and used for social interactions, reduces the cost and increases the efficiency of learning. The result highlights the use of non-native languages, an almost ubiquitous practice in Sub-Saharan Africa, as a potentially important factor underlying the large educational failures in this part of the world.