Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education

The Challenge

Despite significant progress in achieving primary education and gender equality in primary school enrollment, secondary education remains illusive. Secondary schools are scarce and mostly located in central towns and urban areas. Secondary schools enroll fewer girls than boys and too few poor and disadvantaged children. Clear evidence shows that a quality secondary school education is measurably associated with positive effects on health, well-being, and productivity. Moreover, many children 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.

At the same time there is a shift occuring in the workforce in developing countries. Economic opportunities are shrinking the subsistence farming and small-scale industrial sector in favor of a far more complex mix of formal and informal economic activities. This makes targeting and calibrating the scale-up of secondary education even more important, but many questions surrounding accessibility, quality and relevance remain unanswered.

The Opportunity

To accelerate innovation in secondary education programming, research and development in selected countries, the Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE) was formed. PSIPSE is led by a group of private donors and donor advisors, including Central Square Foundation, ELMA Philanthropies, Human Dignity Foundation, Intel Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Marshall Family Foundation, MasterCard Foundation, and an anonymous donor.

The donor collaborative has issued multiple calls for projects ideas that could help inform the imminent expansion and transformation of secondary education and is funding more than 40 projects. Project durations are one to three years and  are located across East Africa (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda), India, and Nigeria. The donor collaborative is committed to monitoring the funded projects, drawing out and sharing important learnings from the efforts, and using these learnings to inform future programming.

Our Work

Results for Development Institute (R4D) served as the learning partner for PSIPSE from 2013-2014. R4D evaluated and synthesized learnings from the PSIPSE’s projects.

Technical Assistance

  • Provided context-specific strategic and technical guidance
  • Supported peer-to-peer learning via a Learning Fund

 Fostering Networks

  • Held three regional convenings to link grantees with each other as well as stakeholders (including policymakers and funders)
  • Developed an online Community of Practice (COP) to strengthen the grantee network

 Analyzing and Synthesizing Learnings

  • Profiled grantees, with relevant profiles shared on forums like the Center for Education Innovations
  • Analyzed regional lessons and thematic challenges and added to the evidence base of post-primary education
  • Disseminated findings and recommendations to key stakeholders in the secondary education space

One of the distinctive features of our work was a collaboration with a local partner or individual consultant in each of the three regions where the donors’ grantees are based. R4D worked with three well-established local partners to support grantees’ work:

East Africa – Centre for Social Sector, Education, and Policy Analysis (CSSEPA)

CSSEPA is a Kenyan public interest development organization specializing in capacity development, project evaluations, policy reviews, action research, monitoring service, delivery and reforms.

India – Catalyst Management Services (CMS)

CMS is a professional service company with extensive experience in M&E, impact assessments, and documentation in the livelihoods, education, and health sector.

Nigeria – The Education Partnership Centre (TEP Centre)

TEP Centre is an education partnership consultancy, specializing in research, design, implementation, support and evaluation of education programs, projects and initiatives across the public, private and non-profit sectors.

Local learning partners provided on-the-ground technical guidance (including but not limited to monitoring and evaluation (M&E) support), synthesized lessons learned, and hosted a regional convening to connect grantees and other stakeholders. Additionally, partners helped support the development of an online Community of Practice, hosted on R4D’s Center for Education Innovations. CEI aims to increase access to quality education for the poor by identifying, analyzing, and connecting education innovations. In addition to our local partners, we drew on the support of a panel of expert advisors.

2013 and 2014 Activities:

Regional Convenings

As a learning partner for PSIPSE, R4D organized three regional convenings in order to bring together PSIPSE grantees, donors, regional policymakers, and other key stakeholders. The purpose of these convenings was to share information, results, and lessons in innovation in secondary education in each region, explore possible solutions for addressing challenges and constraints in secondary education by region, and identify areas of collaboration among PSIPSE projects as well as support peer-to-peer networking.

The first PSIPSE convening was co-hosted by R4D and CMS in Jaipur, India on India in November 2013. The second PSIPSE Convening was co-hosted by R4D and CSSEPA in took place in Nairobi, Kenya in March 2014. The final PSIPSE Convening was co-hosted by R4D at the TEP Centre and took place in Lagos, Nigeria in January 2015. PSIPSE donors, 2012 and 2013 PSIPSE projects, and other innovators, researchers, and government officials attended both events. Through a combination of presentations, breakout sessions, and panels, the convenings explored issues facing secondary education in India, East Africa, and Nigeria.

Analytical Reports

In both years as a learning partner, R4D in conjunction with its local learning partners developed various analytical reports. These include reports on country or regional themes and challenges in secondary education and a report mapping the themes and approaches used by each project. Below are links to the series of themes and challenges reports authored by local learning partners:

CSSEPA (East Africa)

  • Transforming Secondary Education in East Africa to Embrace Entrepreneurship, Vocational Training, and Life Skills
  • The Use of Technology in Teacher Development for Secondary Education in East Africa
  • Prioritizing Girls’ Secondary Education in East Africa

CMS (India)

  • Status of the Girl Child in Secondary Education in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan
  • Vocationalization of Secondary Education in India

TEP Centre (Nigeria)

  • Learning Outcomes in Nigeria
  • The Use of Technology as an Educational Tool in Nigeria
  • Teacher Training and Development in Nigeria

Learning Fund 

R4D created a learning fund in order to strengthen peer-to-peer learning between PSIPSE projects, foster collaboration between projects and thematic experts, and allow projects access to resources they may otherwise be unable to access. Funding varied by activity (an average of $5,000 was budgeted for each), and applications included an outline of activities, a plan for disseminating learnings, and a budget.

PSIPSE Resources



Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE)


Center for Social Sector, Education, and Policy Analysis (CSSEPA), Catalyst Management Services, The Education Partnership Centre



Global & Regional Initiatives

R4D is a globally recognized leader for designing initiatives that connect implementers, experts and funders across countries to build knowledge and get that knowledge into practice.