In 2018, the Government of Ethiopia committed to large-scale, donor-supported reforms aimed at improving equitable learning in the basic education system – the General Education Quality Improvement Program for Equity (GEQIP-E).

This paper examines the reform design process in the context of Ethiopia’s political environment as a strong developmental state, assessing the influence of different stakeholder priorities which have led to the focus on equity within the quality reforms. Drawing on qualitative data from 81 key informant interviews with federal and regional government officials and donors, the paper explores the negotiation and power dynamics which have shaped the design of the reforms. It finds that a legacy of moderately successful reforms, and a shared commitment to global goals, paved the way for negotiations of more complex and ambitious reforms between government actors and donors. Within government, the authors identify that regional governments were only tokenistically included in the reform process. Given that regions are responsible for the implementation of these reforms, their limited involvement in the design could have implications for success.