Mastercard Foundation launches ‘blueprint’ for secondary education in Africa

August 13, 2020
ACET, Aug. 12 – A new report released today from the Mastercard Foundation urges African governments to make relevant changes to secondary education on the continent to reap the potential of Africa’s demographic dividend.

The study — “Secondary Education in Africa: Preparing Youth for the Future of Work” — offers evidence-based options and potential practices to better prepare African youth for the changing nature of work. The African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) partnered with Mastercard on background research, with a particular focus on the need to bolster technical and vocational training so that Africa’s future labor force has the right skills to meet future job demands.

At a virtual launch for the report that featured H.E. President Paul Kagame and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf among other notable speakers, Mastercard Foundation President and CEO Reeta Roy said the report was produced to identify attainable actions.

“We have learned that even the smallest, smartest adjustments can create a huge difference, that innovation doesn’t need to be expensive and out of reach, and that collaboration is essential if we are to have impact in education,” Roy said.

According to ACET Senior Director of Research Edward K. Brown, whose presentation for the webinar was interrupted by technical difficulties, the study makes a compelling case for all governments to boost secondary education since it is “the appropriate level for a successful entry into the world of work”—a point that Kagame also emphasized.

Africa’s “path to prosperity” will be defined by the quality of education provided to its youth, Kagame said. “Secondary school is the link that prepares young people to succeed in the workplace.”

In view of the changing nature of work, and as the last schooling many Africans will receive, secondary education must equip students with the skills and knowledge required for both the formal and informal sector, the study argues, through foundational skills like literacy and numeracy, technical and vocational skills for work-readiness, and forward-looking skills that place an emphasis on the digital economy, entrepreneurship, and STEM technologies.

“There is a compelling case for human capital development, particularly, secondary, technical and vocational training as key drivers of economic growth and economic transformation and they should be considered as priority investments,” Brown added.

The report notes that some critical needs for improving skills development in secondary education include investing in high-quality teachers and teacher training, improved — and accessible — learning materials, and assessment frameworks aligned with revised curricula. In addition, young people need better pathways to transition between secondary-level general education, technical and vocational training, and the tertiary sector “so technical education is not viewed as a dead-end.”

“This report is the blueprint for secondary education in Africa,” Roy said, “but the blueprint is only as good as the actions that it inspires.”

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