A quality secondary school education is measurably associated with positive effects on health, well-being, and productivity. However, while primary schools are now widespread internationally with near equal numbers of boys and girls enrolled, secondary schools remain scarce, are mostly in central towns and urban areas, and enroll fewer girls than boys and too few poor and disadvantaged children. Many children in developing countries are leaving primary school without basic literacy and numeracy, and those who do make it to secondary school are often unprepared for the higher levels of learning required. Moreover, the world of work in developing countries is changing from a focus on widespread subsistence agriculture and small-scale industrial sector work to a much more complex mix of formal and informal economic activities. This makes targeting and calibrating the scale-up of secondary education even more challenging, and many questions surrounding accessibility, quality, and relevance remain unanswered. Innovation is needed to ensure more marginalized young people are able to access and complete quality, relevant, secondary education, and demonstrate learning.
The Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE) is a funder collaborative that seeks to increase secondary education access and improve learning outcomes for marginalized populations. The Partnership works toward this goal by funding in-country interventions that accelerate innovation, support evidence-based policy reforms, and capture and disseminate learnings to key stakeholders. The Partnership is led by a group of private donors and donor advisors, including the MacArthur Foundation, The MasterCard Foundation, Human Dignity Foundation, Intel Foundation, and an anonymous donor.
In 2012 and 2013, the group issued two multi-donor RFPs to solicit projects that could help inform the imminent expansion and transformation of secondary education. Based on the responses to the RFPs, the donor collaborative has issued approximately $24 million in grants, funding 42 projects that support better access, teaching, and learning outcomes for students at the secondary level. Project durations are one to three years, and are located across East Africa (encompassing Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and East DRC), India, and Nigeria. The donor partners are committed to monitoring the funded projects, drawing out and sharing important learnings, and using these learnings to inform future programming. In April 2014, the Partnership announced its third RFP, as well as the addition of Comic Relief and Dubai Cares to its ranks. Both organizations have historically focused on primary education in developing countries, and joined the Partnership in an effort to secure the transition of students from primary to secondary education.
Working collaboratively presents an opportunity to learn from the pool of initiatives through knowledge sharing at the country and global levels, as well as among donors. The Partnership is committed to drawing out and disseminating important learnings, using this knowledge to enhance the impact of projects, and informing future programming. The Partnership works with a learning partner that synthesizes grantees’ strategic approaches, provides technical assistance to grantees (e.g., monitoring and evaluation, programmatic expertise), and connects grantees with each other.