Secondary Education Development

In February 2014, as part of the UK Department for International Development’s (DFID’s) ongoing professional development of their education advisers, Prof. Keith Lewin delivered a series of seminars on secondary education development. Prof. Lewin is an expert in International Education and Development from University of Sussex. His seminars cover several key topics including the rationales and challenges of expanding secondary schooling and how to finance such expansion. Examples of approaches to plan expansion were also provided. Each seminar has a short and an extended version of the video available. The accompanying presentations are also available to download as PDFs. A list of relevant literature and key resources is provided below, in the form of an annotated bibliography.

This short video provides an introduction to the series:


Seminar 1 – Expanding Secondary Schooling in Low Income Countries – Rationales and Challenges

Seminar 2 – Financing the expansion of secondary schools in low income countries

Seminar 3 – Four Approaches to Planning Expansion of Secondary Schooling


Keith Lewin is a Professor of International Education and Development and Director of the Consortium for Research on Educational Access, Transitions and Equity (CREATE). Previously he was Director of the Centre for International Education (1995-2011) at the University of Sussex and Founder of the International Masters programme in Education. He holds degrees in Physics, Science Policy, and Development from Manchester and Sussex Universities and was the first graduate scholar of the Institute of Development Studies. He has worked extensively for the major bilateral and multilateral aid agencies and for many national governments in Africa and Asia.

Relevant literature

Banerjee A., Glewwe P., Powers S. and Wasserman M. 2013, Expanding Access and Increasing Student Learning in Post Primary Education in Developing Countries: A Review of the Evidence

This paper summarises rigorous empirical evidence on policies aimed at improving access, quality, and relevance of post-primary education around the world and identifies an agenda for future research. The evidence on Post Primary Education (PPE) may be organised into two broad topics: the demand for education from students and parents, and the supply of education from governments and private providers.

Lewin K. 2011, Beyond Universal Access to Elementary Education in India: Is it Achievable at Affordable Costs? CREATE Pathways to Access Research Monograph No. 53. Brighton: University of Sussex

This research monograph explores some of the key issues in managing the growth of secondary schooling in India. It argues that investment in this area has been neglected for many years, with the emphasis since the 1990s being focused on universalising access to elementary schooling, a task that remains far from complete. This paper considers the constraints on expansion that arise from current levels of elementary school graduation, the costs and affordability of secondary schooling, the infrastructure needs, and increased teacher supply. It concludes that policy dialogue around secondary school expansion is a central concern if India is to close the gap between itself and China and other rapidly developing countries in educating most of its population beyond the elementary level.

Lewin K. & Sabates R. 2011, Changing Patterns of Access to Education in Anglophone and Francophone Countries in Sub Saharan Africa: Is Education for All Pro-Poor? CREATE Pathways to Access Research Monograph No. 52. Brighton: University of Sussex

Since 1990 most countries in Sub Saharan Africa have focused on universalising access to primary education. An increasing number are also now aiming to improve basic education up to Grade 9 or more. However, growth has been uneven, gains have not always been sustained, very rapid expansion has stressed infrastructure and teacher supply, and there are concerns that the number of over age children may have increased and quality may have deteriorated. This paper explores patterns of growth in participation in six Anglophone (Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia) and seven Francophone (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali, Niger and Senegal) countries in SSA. These countries have all had large scale Universal Primary Education programmes supported with external finance, and all have demographic and health survey (DHS) data sets collected at least ten years apart, first in the 1990s and subsequently after 2000. The results show that progress towards universal access to education has been patchy and sometimes disappointing. Though there has been some progress, it falls far short of the gains that were anticipated. In a small but worrying number of cases the gains have been small or negative. In others much more progress is needed to achieve universal access with equity and to close the gap between the poorest and other households.

Lewin K., Wasanga P. ,Wanderi E. and Somerset A. 2011, Participation and Performance in Education in Sub-Saharan Africa with special reference to Kenya: Improving Policy and Practice. CREATE Pathways to Access Research Monograph No. 75, Brighton: University of Sussex

This paper explores aspects of exclusion from education and how patterns of participation have been changing using national data sets. The first part of the analysis uses administrative data from countries in Sub Saharan Africa to chart enrolments by grade over the last decade and explore how enrolment has been changing in terms of grade, gender, and age. After establishing key issues that are raised by the data across eight countries the paper develops a detailed case study of changes in participation and performance in Kenya using data from the Kenya National Examinations Council. The study shows that the aspirations of Education for All remain far from being met in many countries and many of those who enrol in Grade 1 fail to complete primary or lower secondary school. Progress has been patchy and it remains the case that over enrolment in the lower Grades is common (with more enrolled than there are children in the relevant age group as a result of over-aged entry and progression), and less than half the age group progressing through lower secondary school.

Gender equity in enrolments is being approached in the eight countries included in the analysis but patterns differ and are contextually located. In all the countries many of those enrolled remain seriously over-age, and urban rural differences persist in enrolment status. The detailed case study of data from Kenya complements the cross national analysis. It shows how uneven growth in participation has been after the announcement of free primary education, and how strongly patterns vary by county. Strikingly it confirms that older children score on average much lower on the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) than younger children, and that this is likely to exclude older candidates from the best secondary schools. This is a source of considerable inequity since over-age status is associated with poverty.

Lewin K. 2008, Strategies for Sustainable Financing of Secondary Schooling in Sub Saharan Africa. Secondary Education in Africa (SEIA): Africa Human Development Series; World Bank, Washington DC

This paper discusses strategies for sustainable financing of secondary education in Sub-Saharan Africa. It provides insight into options for financing the expansion of secondary education and training in Africa. It highlights the need to undertake fundamental reforms swiftly. Secondary education and training in Sub-Saharan Africa faces the challenge of improved efficiency and improved quality simultaneously with a fast growing demand. Sustainable financing will also require more effective public-private partnerships, because governments have many priorities and do not have a lot of room for significant additional public funding of post-primary systems. Educational reforms are needed to expand enrollment in secondary schooling in affordable ways. These reforms will contribute to poverty reduction by increasing the levels of knowledge, skills, and capability; diminishing inequalities in access that limit social mobility and skew income distribution; and contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that relate to education.

Verspoor A. et al. 2008, At the Crossroads: Choices for Secondary Education in Africa. The World Bank: Africa Human Development Series

This report explores good practices and potential solutions for developing and sustaining high-quality secondary education systems in African countries. It contains elements of a roadmap for improving the responsiveness of Africa’s secondary education systems to the challenges of the 21st century. Its main objective is to facilitate policy dialogue within African countries and between those countries and their development partners. It addresses issues concerning the education of youth about 12 to 18 years old.

Lewin K. 2007, Expanding Access to Secondary Schooling in Sub-Saharan Africa: Key Planning and Finance Issues. CREATE Pathways to Access Research Monograph No. 8. Brighton: University of Sussex

In sub-Saharan Africa the number of children finishing primary school is increasing, in part as a result of successful Education for All programmes. However, the majority of secondary age children remain excluded from access to good quality secondary schooling. This monograph argues that the knowledge and skill that secondary schools can provide is central to closing the gap between Sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world in the capabilities in the labour force that can sustain growth. It makes the case for the managed expansion of secondary schooling in Sub-Saharan Africa offering new insights into necessary reforms of policy and practice. It makes several recommendations, including revisiting budget shares between educational levels and overall spending on secondary education if higher participation is to be achieved. Also, better management of the flow of pupils and structural changes are recommended to facilitate higher secondary enrolment rates at affordable costs and diminish gender inequities. Improved teacher training and deployment will also be critical to successful expansion. Curricula are required that address societal needs and secondary expansion without curriculum reform risks irrelevance and wastage.

Lewin K. 2007, Long Term Planning for EFA and the MDGs: Modes and Mechanisms. CREATE Pathways to Access Research Monograph No. 7. Brighton: University of Sussex

This paper provides an overview and guidance for the long term planning of education systems in the context of Education for All and the MDGs. It argues that long term gains in educational access depend on anticipating future financial and non-financial constraints on growth and on successful implementation of plans which support growth that can be sustained. Examples are provided of recent expansion of primary schooling which failed to take a sufficiently long term approach to growth and has risked the creation of resource bottlenecks, poor trade offs between quality and quantity, and dependence on uncertain financing.

Lewin K. 2007, The Limits to Growth of Non-Government Private Schooling in Sub Saharan Africa. CREATE Pathways to Access Research Monograph No. 5. Brighton: University of Sussex

This paper considers the constraints and contextual realities that may limits to Growth of Non-Government Private Schooling in Sub Saharan Africa. There is evidence that in some poor countries private provision has been growing especially at the secondary level. The reasons for this include excess demand, differentiated demand, and the opportunities created for entrepreneurs by newly liberalised regulatory frameworks for educational services. This paper draws attention to the diversity of non-government private provision. It also presents estimates of the numbers of children currently out of school and their location in Sub-Saharan Africa. The extent to which exclusion is related to wealth, location and gender, focusing on economic constraints is discussed. Costs related to teachers are modelled to indicate likely minimum operating costs for unsubsidised schooling. It offers an analysis of the underlying demographic realities of expanded enrolment to reinforce the need to understand the magnitude of the task of achieving the MDGs and the need to identify mechanisms that expand services to large numbers of school-age children drawn from the poorest households.

World Bank, 2005, Expanding Opportunities and Building Competencies for Young People: A New Agenda for Secondary Education Directions in Development Washington DC World Bank

This paper explores the key issues facing secondary education in the 21st century. In the global development community where gains and successes are always hard-won, providing youngsters with a dynamic education that takes them from primary to tertiary education and beyond and that helps spur economic growth is surely one of the best investments a country can make, especially when it is equally available to all young people regardless of gender, income, or ethnic group. The challenges are two-fold: to increase access to secondary education and, at the same time, to improve the quality and relevance of secondary education. These challenges must be met in the constantly changing environment of globalisation and a technology-based knowledge society.

Secondary education is the highway between primary schooling, tertiary education and the labour market. Its ability to connect these destinations and take young people where they want to go in life is crucial. Based on surveys of education specialists around the world, this book puts forth policy alternatives and options to assist policymakers in developing countries and transition economies as they expand, reform, and transform their secondary education systems for a brighter future.

Lewin K. and Caillods F. 2001 Financing Secondary Education in Developing Countries; Strategies for Sustainable Growth. UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning, Paris.

At the World Conference on Education for All in 1990, most developing countries reaffirmed their commitment to providing universal access to a first cycle of education to their school-age children. As a result, primary enrolments throughout the developing world have grown, fuelled by grants, expanded lending and by substantial domestic allocations of resources. Little attention was paid at the conference to the consequences of enrolment expansion in relation to the resources needed for secondary-schools. However, it was clear then that in many developing countries secondary school participation rates could not grow rapidly without changes in the structure and nature of their financing. Countries with the lowest gross enrolment rates at secondary had the highest ratio of costs per student as a proportion of GNP per capita and were often allocating substantial proportions of the total education budget to secondary. This book takes up the challenge that was predicted and explores the problems and issues that surround secondary-school financing.

Other resources

Jones A., Jones C. and Ndaruhutse S. 2014, Higher Education and Developmental Leadership – The Case of Ghana. Developmental Leadership Program (DLP)

This study highlights the important role that quality education, at both secondary and higher level, has played in the formation of developmental leadership in Ghana. Its findings include the way in which quality education (largely residential in Ghana) has promoted social integration and shared values, and can help form networks and coalitions that have a greater chance of initiating and sustaining reform.

Jones A. 2014, How quality secondary and higher education can improve national leadership: lessons from Ghana. DLP

This blog questions whether the focus on the education crisis at primary level too narrow. It draws on evidence from Ghana.

Thompson S., Featherstone I. and Bolton L. 2013, What works in secondary education. Helpdesk Report. HEART

This helpdesk report produced for DFID  focuses on what works in secondary education, with examples from Asia and Africa. It is divided into four sections that look at quality (focusing on teacher training), financing the expansion of secondary education, curriculum and assessment and infrastructure.

Diamond I. 2013, Video on DFID’s education programme priorities. HEART, IDS, UK

In this video, Sir Ian Diamond reflects on a Round Table convened by DFID at the UKFIET Conference in Oxford in September 2013. He comments on the session and the education programme in general. He supports the shift in focus from primary to secondary education, but emphasises that careful planning is needed, particularly regarding costs and curriculum development. The quality of the education being provided is of utmost importance. While no magic bullet exists to improve education, carefully implemented monitoring and evaluation of innovative programmes can make a real difference. DFID’s education programme aims to ultimately ensure that when school leavers exit the education programme they have the key skills they need.

Martin K. 2011, Comparing the performance of private versus public secondary education. Helpdesk Report, HEART, IDS, UK

This paper presents and analyses the evidence that exists for India and the Asia region that compares the learning achievements and relative cost of private versus public secondary education, as indicators of their relative performance. It found that there is some evidence for advantages in private schooling, particularly when focusing on learning achievements within specific subjects. Studies also provide good insight into the methodological challenges in comparing public and private schools, and in isolating the factors that influence learning achievement.


You may also be interested in