Girls' Education in Developing Countries Grant Guidelines

Understand guideline and funding cycles

MacArthur publishes program guidelines to help applicants determine whether their idea for a grant fits within a particular grantmaking strategy. 

As a general rule, applicants should base this decision on three related criteria that appear in program guidelines: the topical focus addressed by the grantmaking strategy; the geographic area covered by the grantmaking strategy; and, finally, the type of funding (i.e., general operating support, research, program support, etc.) that supports the grantmaking strategy.

Like most strategic grantmaking foundations, the MacArthur Foundation considers funding only those applications that closely match the topical, geographic, and funding criteria for a specific grantmaking strategy.


The Foundation supports efforts to improve girls’ access to quality, relevant secondary education in three countries: Uganda, Nigeria, and India, where support complements other MacArthur investments in the areas of maternal and reproductive health, human rights, and conservation. MacArthur also supports projects at the international level  that contribute to building the evidence base and improving policy frameworks for expanded access to quality learning opportunities for girls at the national level, particularly in our focus countries.

What MacArthur Funds

Our primary funding mechanism is a call for proposals with donor partners brought together under the Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE).

In addition to funding currently awarded through the PSIPSE, a very small number of grants are made independently of this process. Such grants respond to opportunities to leverage financial or in-kind support from donors, governments, and other actors. Organizations may apply for support for projects in Uganda, Nigeria, or India or related activities at the international level. The latter include efforts to promote collaboration among stakeholders to improve policy and the evidence base for providing quality, relevant learning opportunities for girls.

All girls’ secondary education grants align with the Foundation’s objectives of improving access to and the provision of quality, relevant secondary education opportunities for girls, especially for the marginalized, and the refinement of our strategic foci in this field. We fund three types of projects:

  • Research to address critical questions or evaluate promising programs and that has the capacity to advance innovation in secondary education. Research projects must have strong likelihood of influencing policy and practice.
  • Pilot projects testing innovations that positively affect girls’ learning and access to education through fresh and innovative solutions that re-think the content, instructional methods, delivery systems and partnerships common in secondary education.
  • Evidenced-based advocacy to strengthen national and sub-national secondary education policy development and implementation.

We fund organizations working on any of the following thematic issues:

Improving teacher effectiveness 
  • Promoting teachers’ use of gender-sensitive approaches to improve girls’ learning outcomes
  • Innovative training programs geared for teachers working with marginalized girls to improve access, completion and overall achievement levels
  • Integrating active learning, critical thinking and problem solving in the classroom
  • Improving teaching of science, technology, engineering, and math subjects, and life and career skills
Increasing girls’ demand for secondary education
  • Maximizing community, parent, and/or youth awareness of the benefits to different educational options and associated career pathways, thereby leading to greater participation in secondary education
  • Innovative, non-cash-based, ways to address the opportunity costs of enrolling in and completing secondary school
  • Alternative cost-effective models for the delivery of secondary level learning
  • Expanding access, retention and re-entry in formal and non-formal education for girls who are pregnant
Assessing the impact of information and communications technologies on student learning and teacher training in the face of growing demand for education and limited funds.
  • Applications of low-cost technologies that bridge teacher skill gaps and improve student learning outcomes, and/or improve access to learning
  • Learner-centered models that address youth living in remote areas, working youth or adolescent mothers and pregnant teens
  • Technologies for educator training
Promoting labor and life skills
  • Understanding the skills that are necessary to prepare girls for life and for labor markets, and exploring how these skills can be effectively incorporated into schooling
  • Cost-effective ways that non-formal education providers or remedial learning centers can support the acquisition of these skills and provide links back to formal education 

Geographic Focus Areas

Applicants may submit projects for consideration pursuant to the above outlined thematic areas of interest in:

  • Uganda (particularly the following regions: Northern Uganda, West Nile Sub-region, and Western Uganda)
  • Nigeria (particularly the states of Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa, Lagos, Rivers, and Cross Rivers)
  • India (particularly the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra)

Operational Guidelines

While knowledge is limited about best practices in secondary education in developing countries, particular approaches may hold promise. We encourage applicants to consider the following in project design:

  • Promoting increased local accountability for schooling through community mobilization and engagement with schools and the education process
  • Planning and implementing interventions in consort with local actors and educational authorities, such as local education ministries, professional associations, and civil society groups
  • Inclusion of rigorous monitoring in project design to promote and document learning during and at the conclusion of project implementation
  • Identification of specific pathways, actors and steps necessary for achieving desired outcomes and for scaling up educational interventions in a future project phase


Updated April 1, 2013