This study investigated regional and gender differences in academic achievement in Ethiopia, and examined whether these differences can be explained in terms of unequal educational opportunities (EO). Educational opportunity was operationalized in a broad sense based on a regional differentiation in terms of socio-economic and school environment factors. The study results are based on a multilevel analysis of the 2014 and 2015 national standardized exam for grade 12 students (n = 194503 and n = 205719). Whereas the Central (high EO) regions outperformed the other regions (Cohen’s d = 0.85) as expected, there were some inconsistencies in the comparison between Established (mid EO) regions and Emerging (low EO) regions. Coincidentally, the two Emerging regions that were unexpectedly performing at the level of the Established regions were also the two regions in which there was no evidence for a gender gap in achievement. For other regions, including the Central regions, evidence for a gender gap sometimes as large as the regional gap was identified, with boys having on average higher scores than girls (Cohen’s d = [0.02, 0.92] with an average of 0.50). Plausible explanations and further policy recommendations are discussed.
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