Bridging the Gap of Secondary School Education: The Role and Impact of the Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEIP)

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that human capital is the single most important factor required to achieve sustained and inclusive economic growth. Now more than ever, there is the need for workforces that have been prepared for the more highly skilled jobs of the future, and to be effectively competitive in the global economy. At the root of human capital development is education and whilst emphasis appears to be at both ends of the spectrum – basic primary education and tertiary-level education, the most important building block remains second cycle education. This has gained even more prominence as young people are the fastest-growing segment of the population in the developing world.

According to key development institutions, access to secondary school education has several benefits. For example, requiring young persons, especially girls to continue their education beyond the basic level leads to a significant reduction in incidents of child marriage. Furthermore, access to secondary school education has a positive correlation with reduced family sizes, improved child health, and chances of survival. There is further empirical evidence that it leads to a reduction in crime and overall, has a net positive impact on society-wide productivity levels.

Ghana has attained near-universal access to basic education of more than 90 percent. The case has been historically lower for higher secondary education, where enrolment was below 45 percent as of 2014, with significant gender and regional disparities in access. According to the Ghana Education Service (GES), at this time, students from the most deprived communities were as much as six times less likely to access secondary education.

To remedy the situation, the Government of Ghana sought to increase access to secondary school education by expanding facilities, with an emphasis on non-residential, or Day, schools as opposed to the more traditional boarding schools. To this end, the state committed to building 200 new Community Day Senior High Schools (SHS), especially in deprived areas. Funding, however, was a constraint.

Enter SEIP

The World Bank responded favourably to address the funding constraint through a results-based financing approach; the first of its kind in the country.

Results-based financing, according to the Global Partnership for Results-Based Approaches (GPRBA), includes a range of financing mechanisms where financing is linked and provided after the delivery of pre-agreed and verified results. It enhances accountability on the part of donors to the sources of their financing, as well as reminding recipients of their obligations.

Under the Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEIP), the World Bankaddressed the infrastructure challenges by funding the construction of 23 new schools in districts, which previously had no public secondary schools, over five years, from 2014 to 2019.

“The SEIP was financed with the International Development Association (IDA) credit of $196 million. This included $156 million at project approval in 2014 and additional financing of $40 million approved in 2019 at the request of the government of Ghana.

The arrangement also included the award of scholarships and bursaries to the poorest students from low-income house-holds, especially girls.

The World Bank notes that “scholarships were modified into bursaries with the introduction of free secondary education in 2017.” Students’ transportation and school supplies other than textbooks are some of the items addressed by the bursaries.

Scope

The SEIP had as its mandate, the primary business of constructing new schools in 23 districts. These schools came with classroom blocks, staff flats, canteen blocks, and bungalows, among others.

The project developed acriterion used to select about 10,400 students who were awarded scholarships for their secondary education. School Performance Partnerships were formed which led to the improvement of learning outcomes in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Additionally, data on all public and private senior secondary schools were mapped onto a dedicated portal for easy access by students and parents to basic information about each school. Also, regular training sessions were conducted for heads of schools and their assistants in good management practices which enhanced their leadership skills for improved performance.

Impact

According to the GES, SEIP has supported the following improvements in secondary education since its inception in 2014:

  • .
  • Increase in SHS educational attainment within the two poorest quintiles in the targeted districts from 8.4 percent in 2014 to 13.5 percent in 2017.
  • Twenty-three new senior secondary schools have been constructed and 125 rehabilitated, increasing the number of spaces available in targeted schools by over 43,000 seats between 2014 and 2021.
  • to assist potential lower secondary school students to make school choices and transition to higher secondary schools.
  • In 2020, at least 1.1 million senior secondary school students in Ghana were provided logins to I-Campus (online learning platform) modules.
  • I-Boxes –which provide offline access to a range of curriculum-based video lessons, quizzes, virtual laboratories, and summary notes­– have been installed in all beneficiary secondary schools, including newly constructed ones.

Looking ahead

The importance of secondary school-level education cannot be overemphasised. For a vast majority of young persons, especially those from deprived regions, it might represent the final level of formal education they will receive before entering the workforce. Successive governments have tried to remedy the obvious gaping holes, albeit with limited success owing to many constraints, most of them financial.

SEIP has given insight into how a results-based financing approach drives accountability and yields results. The onus is on all stakeholders, particularly the state to adopt similar measures and rethink secondary education systems and ensure young people, especially girls and those from deprived areas have the skills and knowledge they need to be relevant for the future of work.

Despite being more than double the Sub-Saharan Africa average of 34 percent, according to the MasterCard Foundation, attention from local policymakers and other stakeholders must go beyond gross rates of enrollment – which has grown to 77.67 percent in 2020 – to ensure that more students actually complete their secondary school education and are globally competitive. The nation’s economic prosperity hinges on this more than anything else.

The Writer is SEIP Communications Team Lead & Head, Public Relations Unit, GES HQ.

By Cassandra Twum Ampofo

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