Philanthropic Groups Partner to Increase Participation in Secondary Education in Developing Countries
June 1, 2012 | Press Release | Girls' Secondary Education in Developing Countries

A group of philanthropic organizations are forming a partnership to provide up to $5 million for efforts to increase the participation, quality, and relevance of secondary education for marginalized children, especially girls, in developing countries. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The MasterCard Foundation, Douglas B. Marshall Jr. Family Foundation and an anonymous donor will identify and support innovative initiatives that provide learning opportunities and life and livelihood skills for underserved youth between the ages 12-19 in East Africa (Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda), Nigeria, and India.

High-quality, relevant secondary school education has measurable positive associations with young people’s health, improved child mortality rates, reduced population growth, and greater economic growth. Likewise, more education for girls brings well demonstrated benefits for them and is correlated with related benefits for the whole society. Girls with higher levels of education marry later, have smaller families, survive childbirth at higher rates, experience reduced incidences of HIV/AIDS, have children more likely to survive to age five, earn more, and may contribute to higher rates of economic growth at the national level.

More participation and better quality education for girls could be a game changer for international development.

“More participation and better quality education for girls could be a game changer for international development,” said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci. “It offers the potential for large economic and social gains for individuals, their families, communities, and the world.”

In developing countries, one additional year of education adds about 10 percent to a person’s earnings, and a 12 percent reduction in world poverty could be achieved if all students in low-income countries were to obtain basic reading skills in school, according to a 2011 report by the Center for Universal Education at Brookings.

“Young people need access to educational opportunities that will help them transition into the workforce and lead successful lives,” said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation. “This initiative will identify innovative projects in secondary education that lead to relevant and rewarding employment for young people in developing countries.”

The collaborating organizations will jointly select projects focused on pilot interventions that offer innovative solutions to improve learning and access to education for marginalized groups of childen; research to build a rigorous evidence base regarding the barriers to providing quality, relevant secondary education to underserved populations and policy relevant solutions for overcoming these barriers; and planning for scaling-up successful models.

Interested organizations must submit an initial letter of inquiry no later than July 5, 2012. More information about the call for proposals and the selection process is available at

MacArthur’s participation is part of an initial $10 million commitment to support and spur efforts to improve the participation and quality of learning in secondary education by girls in the developing world. The Foundation has already awarded more than $1.2 million in grants to support related research and collaboration.  MacArthur plans to deepen its investments in secondary education in Nigeria, India, and Africa’s Great Lakes region in the future. 

About the MacArthur Foundation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society

About The MasterCard Foundation

The MasterCard Foundation advances microfinance and youth learning to promote financial inclusion and prosperity. Through collaboration with committed partners in 48 countries, The MasterCard Foundation is helping people living in poverty to access opportunities to learn and prosper. An independent, private Foundation based in Toronto, Canada, The MasterCard Foundation was established through the generosity of MasterCard Worldwide at the time of the company’s initial public offering in 2006. 

About the Douglas B. Marshall, Jr. Family Foundation

The mission of the Douglas B. Marshall, Jr. Family Foundation is to support education and research at all levels. This includes supporting cutting edge research as well as basic education, especially in areas of literacy, numeracy, and science. The foundation currently focuses on supporting evidence-based, cost-effective programs that improve educational outcomes in developing countries and projects that contribute to the evidence base on what works to improve educational outcomes.  

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