Secondary education is a gateway to the opportunities and benefits of economic and social development. Demand for access to higher levels of education is growing dramatically as countries approach universal primary education. The global Education For All (EFA) effort provides added momentum for the growth in secondary education. Furthermore, globalization and the increasing demand for a more sophisticated labor force, combined with the growth of knowledge-based economies gives a sense of urgency to the heightened demand for secondary education.
In today’s world, secondary education has a vital mission - one which combines the policy peculiarities of being at the same time terminal and preparatory, compulsory and post-compulsory, uniform and diverse, general and vocational. Secondary education is now being recognized as the cornerstone of educational systems in the 21st century. Quality secondary education is indispensable in creating a bright future for individuals and nations alike.
What is the World Bank doing to support secondary education?
Since World Bank lending for education began in 1963, the Bank has played a prominent role in assisting developing countries in their efforts to expand secondary education and to improve the quality of institutions and programs.
Over the past two decades the Bank has advocated lending for secondary education mainly in countries that have already achieved universal access to primary schooling. The Bank recommended cost recovery accompanied by selective scholarship schemes, and the encouragement of private and community schools to improve quality and efficiency in education through competition. Based on its experience in many countries, the Bank has advocated for a more holistic approach to secondary education, rather than one which focuses on vocational education.
In countries with high secondary education enrollments, Bank interventions have focused on (a) improving employability and productivity of school leavers through support to vocational secondary schools and (b) increasing country competitiveness by improving the quality of general secondary education to raise the overall productivity and trainability of the labor force. In countries with low secondary education enrollment, Bank projects have focused on (a) meeting specific shortages of educated manpower in the public and private sectors by raising secondary school completion rates and (b) improving the social conditions of the poor and reducing inequality by expanding access to secondary education.
For more information see Appendix J, World Bank Support for Secondary Educationin “Expanding Opportunities and Building Competencies for Young People: A New Agenda for Secondary Education”
How much lending takes place in the area of secondary education?
The World Bank is currently assisting 67 countries with the development of their secondary education systems. Lending for secondary education totaled US$5.0 billion between 1990 and 2009, with projection of US$320 million in new lending for 2010. Additional support for secondary education efforts is included as part of the general education lending each year.
Since the mid-1990s, four factors have promoted a rapid increase in the share of lending to general secondary education. First, as primary completion rates have risen, the demand for secondary places has grown. Second, the equitable and sustainable financing and management of secondary education has become a major challenge, especially in low-income countries. Third, the role of secondary education in economic and social development is being reassessed in the context of globalization and competitiveness in the information age. Fourth, changes in secondary education are being driven by rapid transformations in technology and labor markets.
The objectives of World Bank-supported secondary education projects can be grouped into six categories:
expansion of secondary education
poverty and equity focus
improvement of quality of secondary education
rehabilitation of physical facilities
improvement of efficiency and management in secondary education
Current and past World Bank lending levels are available at EdStats.
Who do we work with?
The World Bank collaborates with educational leaders and international organizations worldwide to promote the sharing of knowledge, research, policy analysis, and best practices designed to strengthen access, quality, and equity in secondary education. The World Bank works in partnership with a wide range of organizations including the following:
With the World Bank education policy placing so much emphasis on the importance of basic education, is secondary education being neglected?
No. The World Bank recognizes the critical role of secondary education to the economic, social, and human capital development of nations around the world. Historically, secondary education has often been neglected in developing and financing educational systems, but today its vital importance cannot be ignored. Secondary education is the crucial link between primary schooling, tertiary education, and the labor market. Its ability to connect the different destinations and to take young people where they want to go in life is more important than ever before. In recognition of this, in 2005 the World Bank published “Expanding Opportunities and Building Competencies for Young People,” a comprehensive look at issues and policy options for secondary education in the 21st century.
What has the World Bank identified as the most promising directions for the development of secondary education?
There is no question that secondary education has a key role to play in the social, economic, and human capital development of countries around the world. The task before today’s societies is to transform secondary education institutions and current schooling practices to align them with the demands of a globalized and technology-driven world. Policymakers and educators must address the twin challenges of increasing “access to” and “quality and relevance of” secondary education for all young people. And, secondary education systems everywhere will need to be more flexible, relevant, and responsive to both local needs and the global environment in the 21st century.