Mastercard Foundation Releases Explosive Report on African Secondary Education

The 4th Industrial Revolution has been hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of the scourge have forced organizations to adopt remote learning and working tools at a scale never seen on this planet.

In its quest to add value to the human development of Africans, Mastercard Foundation embarked on extensive research projects that have been aggregated into one super report entitled, “Secondary Education in Africa: Preparing Youth for the Future of Work”.

For most young Africans, secondary education is the last schooling they will receive before entering the workforce. High quality, relevant secondary education that is accessible to all, can prepare youth to enter the workforce, improve productivity, and spur economic transformation, unlocking a virtuous cycle of both human and economic development.

Building on the success of African governments in expanding access to primary education, opening the door to quality, relevant secondary education is the next challenge. Now is the time to rethink secondary education systems, to ensure youth have the skills and knowledge they need.

Secondary Education in Africa: Preparing Youth for the Future of Work examines the skills, knowledge, and competencies necessary for the labour market. And offers best practices and recommendations for how secondary education can better prepare youth to succeed.

Upon compiling a laundry list of problems faced by African secondary school goers, the researchers did a good job at proposing possible solutions. The 10 recommended actions from the report are:

1. Provide political vision and leadership at the highest levels to support and prioritize investments and policies to reform and innovate in secondary education.

That includes:

  • Invest in creating a shared vision and buy-in to system reforms that expand the focus on skills for work in secondary education and responds to the needs of young people and their communities
  • Enable implementation through viable plans with clear roles and responsibilities for specific outcomes, accountability mechanisms, and adequate funding
  • Strengthen the capacity of ministries to translate inputs into outcomes through greater technical expertise, the ability to use and analyse data, and to overcome political economy constraints.

2. Integrate seven key skills relevant to labour market needs into secondary education curricula and pedagogy.


  • Strengthen foundational skills in literacy, numeracy and fluency in the language of instruction through greater curriculum time, stronger pedagogies, and remediation support where necessary
  • Develop 21st-century skills through interactive and group-based learning, experiential learning, and leadership development
  • Develop digital skills by strengthening teacher and student capacity to use digital technology and invest in hardware and software at school level
  • Strengthen STEM knowledge and skills through enhancing the quality of science teaching, increasing practical problem-solving activities, and reducing gender barriers
  • Expand opportunities for developing relevant technical and vocational skills through offering TVET courses in general secondary education, ensuring
  • TVET courses include foundational, 21st-century and digital skills and aligning technical and vocational courses to labour market needs
  • Promote entrepreneurship and work-readiness skills through co- and/or extracurricular courses, experiential learning and skills courses in business planning and management, financial literacy, and work-readiness
  • Ensure alignment between competency-based curriculum reforms, pedagogy and assessment systems, including reducing the number of high-stakes examinations, greater focus on assessment of skills, and conducting national assessments of learning to support teachers and schools falling behind.

3. Expand recruitment and training to fill projected gaps (10.8 million secondary school teachers by 2030). That will require a huge expansion in teacher recruitment and training while also improving teachers’ working conditions to attract good-quality new entrants and reduce attrition.

In addition:

  • Invest in high-quality pre-service teacher training that equips new teachers with subject matter content, pedagogical skills and fluency in the language of instruction, as well as supervised practice with experienced teachers
  • Develop stronger promotion and leadership pathways for high-performing teachers that allow them to provide instructional leadership and mentor junior colleagues
  • Institute certification programs for unqualified teachers using face-to-face and distance learning approaches
  • Prioritize digital skills development for all teachers
  • Invest in strengthening school leaders’ capacity to provide instructional leadership

4. Establish and formalize alternative pathways between non-formal and formal education with portable accreditation to increase access for out-of-school youth. Secondary systems must be increasingly structured in a flexible way to offer large numbers of youth alternative education pathways that allow for re-entry into formal schooling.


  • Scale successful and equitable education and training programs, including those provided by non-state actors, through links to the formal education system
  • Facilitate re-entry to school for adolescent mothers
  • Create an effective regulatory environment to harness the potential of non-state actors to expand provision of high-quality secondary education, TVET and ancillary services
  • Create national skills strategies and/or national qualifications frameworks that map available training and qualifications and create such pathways between levels and types of education and the labour market

5. Create pathways between secondary-level general education, TVET, and post-secondary and tertiary education. Governments and private institutions should create flexible admissions procedures, guidance, credit transfer procedures, bridging programs, and equivalency mechanisms that are recognized and accredited by the relevant authorities to formalize pathways between general and TVET education at all levels. National Qualifications Frameworks can also facilitate that process.

6. Institutionalize capacity to innovate in education within government. As the pace of social and economic change increases, and as greater numbers of youth seek to access secondary education, the need for innovation in education will intensify.

Ministries of education should:

  • Develop embedded innovation units that use an approach of continual piloting, testing,
    adaptation, and scaling of successful models so that promising approaches can be mainstreamed
  • Education innovation ecosystems that engage stakeholders across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors and foster critical debate with space to learn and fail

7. Generate substantial new resources for secondary education through a mix of strategies.

Those include:

  • Improve domestic resource mobilization
  • Explore innovative financing mechanisms such as results-based finance through social and development impact bonds
  • Crowd-in additional resources from the private and philanthropic sectors
  • Make more strategic use of Official Development Assistance
  • Reduce the cost of sending remittances to free up household spending on education

8. Complement efforts to provide fee-free secondary education with equity-based financing. Target the most disadvantaged students, girls in particular, with bursaries, scholarships, or cash transfers to enable them to meet secondary school costs such as uniforms, transport, and boarding. Targeted funding formulas to disadvantaged regions, schools, or groups also have strong potential.

9. Use available resources more efficiently. While more resources are needed in secondary education, much more can be done by using existing resources more efficiently, including:

  • Improve teacher quality, deployment, and utilization, and reduce teacher absenteeism
  • Counter high repetition and low learning, particularly at the primary level
  • Explore alternative forms of secondary education delivery, including reducing reliance on boarding facilities
  • Improve education system management
  • Ensure investments in secondary education are not at the expense of improving access and quality of primary education, which contributes to making spending on secondary
    education teaching and learning more effective and efficient.

10. Develop systems for cross-sectoral dialogue. Create mechanisms to bring together and facilitate dialogue between education sector stakeholders and other government and labour market actors such as ministries of finance, labour, youth, and ICT, as well as employers, industry associations, and unions. That can help increase the relevance of secondary education and strengthen broad-based support for reform.

The report can be accessed and downloaded here.

Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to enable young people in Africa and in Indigenous communities in Canada to access dignified and fulfilling work. It is one of the largest, private foundations in the world with a mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. The Foundation was created by Mastercard in 2006 as an independent organization with its own Board of Directors and management. For more information on the Foundation, please visit:


What do you think?

235 Points
Upvote Downvote

Written by mathsgee

Nikon Fails Racial Equality Test Amidst Black Lives Matter Campaign

Should Data Science be taught from primary school?