Investment in secondary schooling has been overlooked since the Jomtien World Conference on Education for All in 1990. Development partners have prioritised the universalisation of primary education over investment at other levels. The Millennium Development Goals reinforced this preference in development financing and the Fast Track Initiative also reinforced what can be seen as an unbalanced strategy of educational development.
There are at least six reasons why investment at secondary level is central to development. First, the output of primary school systems is set to increase by 200% or more over the next 10 years as UPE and completion is approached. This will create large unmet demand for secondary places with consequences for political stability arising from unmet aspirations and for equity. Second, the progress towards the MDGs requires an adequate flow of qualified secondary graduates into primary teaching which will be compromised where secondary output is small. It also depends on sustained demand for primary schooling which will falter if transition rates into secondary fall. Third, HIV and AIDS have decimated the active labour force and undermined prospects for economic growth in some SSA countries. Several studies point to evidence that those with secondary schooling are less at risk than those with lower levels of educational achievement. The human capital that has been lost has to be replenished if prospects for recovery are to bear fruit and this requires more than basic education.
Fourth, poverty reduction will stall unless income distribution improves. Successful completion of secondary schooling is becoming the major mechanism for allocating life chances in much of SSA, acting as a filter for access to better paid livelihoods and occupations. Fifth, competitiveness, especially in high value-added and knowledge-based sectors of the economy, depends on knowledge, skills and competencies associated with abstract reasoning, analysis, language and communication skills, and the application of science and technology. These are most efficiently acquired through secondary schooling. Sixth, curriculum reform at secondary level is essential both because it has been widely neglected and because expanded access will enrol children with different learning needs and capabilities. Increased participation without more relevant, effective and efficient learning and teaching will not be fit for purpose and may create more problems than it solves.
Research on secondary expansion has been undertaken through the World Bank’s Secondary Education in Africa Programme (SEIA) and with the International Institute of Educational Planning in Paris
Four Recent Publications:
Lewin K M (2008) Strategies for Sustainable Financing in Sub Saharan Africa. Secondary Education in Africa Programme. Africa Region Human Development; Secondary Education in Africa Series: Study Number 1, World Bank, Washington DC pp150
Lewin, K. M., (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
Lewin, K. M., (2011) Expanding Access to Secondary Education: Can India Catch Up? Special Edition of the International Journal and Educational Development (IJED) Access, Equity and Transitions in Education in Low Income Countries Edited by Keith M. Lewin, Angela W. Little and Frances Hunt
Lewin K M, Caillods F (2001) Financing Secondary Education in Developing Countries; Strategies for Sustainable Growth. International Institute for Educational Planning, Paris. 370pp ISBN 92-803-1139-9