After concerted efforts to progress primary education, ensuring accessible, quality secondary education is the next step for most African countries – particularly in marginalised communities. Inclusive, high-quality secondary education can equip Africa’s next generation with the skills and knowledge they need to lead social, political, environmental, and economic transformation. Yet today, secondary education is often neither high-quality nor accessible for millions of African adolescents.

PEAS has one of the largest secondary school networks in Sub-Saharan Africa, and we’re working hand-in-hand with governments to strengthen the wider education system. Each year, we reach 169,000 students across PEAS schools and PEAS partner schools Uganda, Zambia, and Ghana.

Evidence shows that PEAS’ secondary school model is more equitable and cost-effective than comparison schools, while providing a higher quality of education, particularly for girls and other groups who need the most support. PEAS strong school leadership is a key driver of our schools’ results, and we are now working with governments to implement this across the wider system.

After 15 years of testing and innovating in PEAS schools, we know how to deliver transformational secondary education. Now, we want to share our lessons learned about what works when delivering high-quality, low-cost secondary education that reaches all young people, particularly the most marginalised.

  1. In rural settings, building a new school only goes part of the way to increasing access. Unless communities and caregivers believe their families will benefit from education, they will keep their children, especially girls, at home. We believe that our communities are key drivers of educational success, supporting our schools and students to achieve. PEAS school leaders collaborate closely with their local communities and engage them in school decision-making to ensure that they understand and support the aims and objectives of our schools. Our schools have inclusive admissions policies, strong safeguarding practices, deliver great learning outcomes and support students to develop essential life skills that set them up for success.

 

  1. School management is a key driver of better learning and retention. At PEAS, we know that our school leaders are uniquely placed to drive change in their schools. They understand the challenges students face in and outside the school, and have strong links with the community. We empower leaders to create transformative school environments for all students, for example by developing School Improvement Plans (SIP) using evidence from annual inspections and drawing in perspectives from the school community. Independent research by the University of Sussex[1] highlights PEAS schools as an exemplar (and outlier) in Uganda with respect to school management, with PEAS schools being substantially better managed than other school types and performing correspondingly better in terms of student outcomes.

 

  1. Ensuring all young people are safe should be every school’s top priority. PEAS takes a zero-tolerance, student-centred approach to safeguarding and child protection. Our global safeguarding standards, accredited by “Keeping Children Safe”, provide clear guidance and expectations for staff, students, and school visitors. To ensure consistency, we have trained Child Protection Focal Point Persons at school, regional, country, and global level. Each school has a trained Senior Woman Teachers to oversee the physical and emotional welfare of female students. PEAS schools have stronger child protection policies, training, and implementation than comparison schools fostering a student body that feels more confident and secure at school[2].

 

  1. High-quality instruction and a relevant curriculum are essential building blocks of any education system. But it’s hard to get right. PEAS has developed a school-based model for improving teaching. Through ongoing, in-service teacher training, we support our teachers to deliver inclusive, student-centred lessons using PEAS’ evidence-based Top 10 Teaching Practices. Teachers’ “learner-centred approach” is a distinctive area of PEAS’ expertise[3], and the key to supporting students to fulfil their academic potential. PEAS schools deliver the national curriculum and a range of co-curricular activities, including a Life Skills Programme which equips students with essential skills for the future and helps them to make healthy choices, cooperate with others, and make a positive contribution to their community.

 

  1. In low-resource contexts, secondary schools must find ways to make use of available resources more efficiently. For over 15 years, PEAS has been committed to improving the efficiency of school operations. We’ve learned that improved financial management can be achieved by giving school leaders greater autonomy over their school’s finances, and that cost-efficiency doesn’t have to compromise quality. Embedding cost-efficiencies, such as larger class sizes and in-school teacher development, have enabled PEAS to educate more students without impacting the quality of teaching and learning. Our experience has shown that frugal school construction[4] and blended boarding models can reduce construction costs and enhance equity by reducing the commuting distance to secondary school for rural children. Our schools deliver better learning outcomes for poorer students and do so more cost efficiently than other school types.

 

For more information about PEAS cost-efficient school operating model and our education approach, email info@peas.org.uk

 

[1] Lee Crawfurd (2016) ‘School management in Uganda’, RISE Programme Working Paper.

[2] Jigsaw (2021) GEARRing Up for Success: GEC-T Endline Report. https://www.peas.org.uk/resources/gearring-up-for-success-gec-t-endline-report/

[3] Jigsaw (2021) GEARRing Up for Success: GEC-T Endline Report. https://www.peas.org.uk/resources/gearring-up-for-success-gec-t-endline-report/

[4] We want our schools to be as cost effective as possible without comprising on quality. For example, using reinforced concrete for our structures is cost effective and guarantees safety.

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