Girls' Secondary 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’ participation in quality, relevant secondary education in four countries:  India, Nigeria, and Uganda, 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 an annual Call for Proposals issued jointly with donor partners brought together under the Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE). This donor collaborative seeks to increase secondary education access and improve learning outcomes for marginalized populations.  

PSIPSE is an element in the MacArthur Girls’ Secondary Education strategy that supports the development of, and the evidence base for, education models that improve learning quality and relevance. These are models that equip girls with 21st century transferable skills such as literacy, numeracy, problem-solving, critical thinking, financial management, and leadership, which research demonstrates are correlated with increasing income opportunities. We do not fund technical or vocational training that falls solely within the formal secondary education system and at TVET schools.
We fund four types of projects:

  • Pilot Projects that are developing and testing new models or feasible approaches to identified barriers and challenges.
  • Expanding and Adapting Projects that are rigorously testing a developed model with a well-defined theory of change that has proven impactful and cost effective.
  • Scale-up Projects that have been piloted and rigorously tested and are ready to scale at a local, regional, or national level.
  • 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.

Funded projects are responsive to local cultural contexts, may make appropriate use of technology, and have clear pathways to institutionalization within or alongside education systems.

Geographic Focus Areas

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

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

Operational Guidelines

Applicants must consider the following in project design:

  • 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 March 2015