Secondary school education is measurably associated with positive effects on health, well-being, and productivity. For girls, research shows that those with more years of education marry later, have smaller families, and survive childbirth at higher rates (McAlister and. They experience reduced incidences of HIV/AIDS, earn more and live in societies with higher national rates of economic growth.
Given this, governments in developing countries are working to provide secondary education on a larger scale and build on the primary education gains connected to the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All initiatives. However, while primary schools are widespread, with near equal numbers of boys and girls enrolled, secondary schools remain scarce, are mostly in central towns and urban areas, and enroll fewer girls than boys and too few poor and disadvantaged children.
Evidence also shows that many girls 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. Importantly, the world of work in developing countries is also changing from a focus on subsistence agriculture and small-scale industry to a more complex mix of formal and informal economic activities in local and globally-connected economies. Although secondary education is the level from which most girls will enter the labor force, it is still largely conceptualized as a route to tertiary education and has relatively high per student costs compared to primary education.
Questions about secondary education that need answers, include how to increase demand, improve teacher skills, promote employment-relevant skills, and support alternative models of learning for learners in low-income settings. There is therefore an urgent need to support and build the evidence base for new models that deliver quality, relevant, and accessible secondary learning to often-neglected populations, including the poor, girls, those living with disabilities, those in areas affected by conflict, and other disadvantaged groups.