Adolescence is a unique window of opportunity; it is a stage of accelerated cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional development. It is the moment when young people benefit most from an education which develops their skills and widens their opportunities. For most young people in the areas where PEAS works, secondary education is the last formal stage of education before entering the labour market, starting a family, and participating in democracy. With every additional year of schooling, young people’s future earnings will increase by 18%, a percentage that is higher and will increase more over time for girls. Educating adolescents, particularly girls, enhances their agency, and reduces their dependence on others and the likelihood that they will experience violence at home.
Africa’s greatest potential resource is its rapidly expanding population of adolescents. In our lifetime, over half of the world’s young people will be African. This presents a time-bound opportunity for economic, environmental, and social transformation, but one that can only be seized if the adolescent population are educated and skilled for the future. Young people increasingly need agile skill sets to keep pace with technological advancements and changes in the labour market, to adapt and respond to environmental demands and to proactively engage in their communities and societies. Expanding access to high quality relevant secondary education has the potential to deliver this, and maximise the opportunity of this demographic dividend.
Yet, today secondary education is neither relevant nor in reach for millions of African adolescents. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest completion rates for secondary education in the world. Of those in school, only one in ten have reached the minimum level of proficiency in basic numeracy and literacy. Whether they can seize the opportunities of tomorrow depends on whether they can access high-quality, relevant secondary education today. Although it is critical to act now, only 5% of international aid spending is currently targeted at the secondary level.
PEAS believes it is time for a revolution in secondary education. Secondary schools must be at the heart of this revolution. Schools matter to our students, our communities, and our governments, but they need to, and can, deliver more.
PEAS are pioneers and leaders in secondary education. After 15 years of running one of the largest school networks in sub-Saharan Africa and partnering with governments to improve the wider education system, we know how to deliver transformational secondary education. We build our schools in communities that would otherwise have no access to secondary education, we keep our fees as close to zero as possible to ensure equity of provision, or zero where possible, and we maintain the quality of our schools through our unique approach to school network management. Evidence shows that our students come from poorer households and make faster learning progress. And our girls are more confident and better equipped for life after school. But we believe all students deserve a quality education, not just students at PEAS schools. That is why we work hand in hand with governments so that national education systems can deliver more for their young people.
Read our next blog in the series to learn more about PEAS’ approach to delivering transformational secondary education.
 Psacharopolous, G. and Patrinos, H. A. (2018). ‘Returns to Investment in Education: A Decennial Review of the Global Literature’. The World Bank. Available at: https://documents.worldbank.org/en/publication/documents-reports/documentdetail/442521523465644318/returns-to-investment-in-education-a-decennial-review-of-the-global-literature
 UNESCO (2019) Meeting Commitments: Are countries on track to achieve SDG 4? Fact sheet. Available at: https://en.unesco.org/gem-report/node/3094#:~:text=Co%2Dproduced%20with%20the%20UNESCO,still%20be%20out%20of%20school.