3.3.1 Supply and demand side analysis reveals gaps in our understanding of girls’ access to quality, relevant secondary education

As many countries make progress or achieve Millennium Development Goals related to primary education, YEO stakeholders have begun to examine post-primary education in deeper and more sophisticated ways. Secondary education is particularly important for the AGYW sector. Educated girls tend to have fewer children, higher incomes, and improved health outcomes. In addition, those benefits are likely to be transmitted to the next generation. But what needs to happen to ensure that AGYW advance past primary education and continue into secondary? Supply and demand analysis seeks to understand both how young people and families demand education and how schools, school systems, and countries supply that education. While the knowledge base on primary education is relatively strong, less is known about secondary education.  Secondary education is 36 times more costly than primary. Pregnancy and marriage impact girls’ ability to access secondary school. Initial research, described below, used a supply and demand analysis to understand exactly where gaps in the evidence base exist.

Research Spotlight: The MacArthur Foundation and J-PAL Review Rigorous Evaluations on Secondary Education

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, understanding the key role of education in supporting its work on maternal health and sustainable development, sponsors research on girls’ secondary education, funds pilot projects, and supports other institutions in developing effective secondary education programs. The Foundation focuses on India, Nigeria (home to the largest number of out-of-school children in the world), and Uganda. Research conducted by MIT’s Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) included a review of 42 rigorous papers with experimental design to examine what is known about improving secondary education, both on the demand and supply sides.

Researchers found a deeper evidence base on the demand side. They found:

  • Cost of school matters
  • Conditional cash transfers (CCTs), even in small amounts, seem to increase enrollment
  • Providing credit for school increases enrollment
  • Providing information to parents and students about the benefits of secondary education for increasing income levels raises enrollments
  • Exposure to female role models such as village leaders increases educational attainment for girls
  • Additional questions for a future research agenda include: How best to provide information on returns to education? Can CCTs work where attendance is hard to track? What is the impact of female teachers on girls

On the supply side, researchers found:

  • Less information about what works in the classroom, at a school management level, and for vocational, technical, and worker training.
  • Additional questions for a future research agenda include: Differences in public versus privately provided education? Role of ICTs in secondary education? Impact of teacher performance incentives, ICTs, or mother tongue instruction? And, the types of support needed for girls, marginalized populations, and dropouts to improve learning outcomes?

J-PAL will be launching a Post-Primary Education Initiative, funded in part by MacArthur, to investigate some of these questions through a series of randomized evaluations over several years. J-PAL will partner with researchers and organizations in countries around the world to conduct these evaluations. For more information, contact Shawn Powers, [email protected]