BRIEFLY: Secondary school, a bridge to the world of work

As many countries succeed in expanding access to primary schooling, demand for secondary school places is building. The latest edition of the Global Education Digest, published by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), highlights the number of children who are unable to enter secondary school. The problem is particularly acute in sub-Saharan Africa, where only around one-third of young people are able to enrol.

According to UNESCO’s Director General, expanding secondary schooling is “a minimum entitlement for equipping youth with the knowledge and skills they need to secure decent livelihoods in today’s globalized world.” Unless more secondary school places are made available, there is a real danger that education inequalities will widen further. This is likely to hold back progress towards other development goals, including improving child health. As we show in the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, about 1.8 million lives would have been saved in 2008 if child mortality rates for sub-Saharan Africa had fallen from the regional average to the level for children of mothers with at least some secondary education.

“In many ways, secondary education is a bridge for young people from the world of school to the world of work,” said Albert Motivans, Head of Education Indicators and Data Analysis at UIS. The 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report will look at the importance of extending access and improving the relevance of secondary schooling to ensure that all young people are equipped with the skills they need as they enter the workplace.

BRIÈVEMENT : L’école secondaire, une passerelle vers le monde du travail
Au fur et à mesure qu’un nombre grandissant de pays réussissent à développer l’accès à l’école primaire, la demande en enseignement secondaire progresse également. Publiée par l’Institut de statistique de l’UNESCO (ISU), la dernière édition du Recueil de données mondiales sur l’éducation met en lumière le nombre important d’enfants qui ne peuvent pas entrer à l’école secondaire. Le problème est particulièrement grave en Afrique subsaharienne, où seulement environ un tiers des enfants peuvent s’inscrire.

Selon la Directrice générale de l’UNESCO, un vaste développement de l’éducation secondaire « est la condition sine qua non pour doter les jeunes des connaissances et des compétences dont ils ont besoin pour s’assurer des moyens d’existence décents au sein du système mondialisé actuel. »  Si davantage de places ne sont pas mises à disposition dans les écoles secondaires, il existera un danger réel que les inégalités dans l’éducation continuent de s’aggraver. Une telle situation est susceptible d’entraver les progrès sur la voie des autres objectifs de développement, notamment en matière d’amélioration de la santé infantile. Comme nous le montrons dans le Rapport mondial de suivi sur l’Éducation pour tous 2011, environ 1,8 million de vies auraient pu être sauvées en 2008 si les taux de mortalité infantile en Afrique subsaharienne avaient pu passer de la moyenne régionale au niveau plus faible observé pour les enfants de mères ayant suivi des études secondaires.

« À de nombreux égards, l’éducation secondaire est une passerelle – pour les jeunes – entre l’école et le monde du travail, » a déclaré M. Albert Motivans, Chef, Indicateurs de l’éducation et analyse des données à l’ISU. Le Rapport mondial de suivi sur l’EPT 2012 s’intéressera à l’importance du développement de l’accès et de l’amélioration de la pertinence de l’éducation secondaire si l’on veut s’assurer que l’ensemble des jeunes soient dotés des compétences dont ils ont besoin pour s’insérer dans le monde du travail.

EN BREVE: La enseñanza secundaria, un puente hacia el mundo laboral
A medida que numerosos países amplían el acceso a la enseñanza primaria, aumenta la demanda de plazas en las escuelas secundarias. En la última edición del Compendio Mundial de la Educación, publicado por el Instituto de Estadística de la UNESCO (IEU), se hace hincapié en el número de niños que no logran ingresar en la enseñanza secundaria. El problema es particularmente grave en el África subsahariana, donde apenas un tercio de los jóvenes logran matricularse en ese nivel.

Según ha declarado la Directora General de la UNESCO, la ampliación de la enseñanza secundaria es “un derecho mínimo que dota a los jóvenes de los conocimientos y las competencias que necesitan para lograr medios de subsistencia decorosos en la sociedad mundializada de hoy en día”. Si no se aumenta la oferta de enseñanza secundaria, existe el peligro cierto de que las desigualdades educativas se amplíen aún más. Con toda probabilidad, esta situación retrasaría la consecución de otros objetivos de desarrollo, entre ellos el de mejorar la salud infantil. Como explicamos en el Informe de Seguimiento de la Educación para Todos en el Mundo de 2011, en 2008 hubieran podido salvarse unos 1,8 millones de niños en el África subsahariana, si las tasas de mortalidad de la región hubieran descendido a los niveles que prevalecían entre los niños cuyas madres habían recibido al menos los rudimentos de la instrucción de nivel secundario.

“En muchos aspectos, la enseñanza secundaria es un puente entre el ámbito escolar y el laboral”, afirmó Albert Motivans, Jefe de la Unidad de Indicadores y Análisis de Datos sobre Educación del IEU. El Informe de Seguimiento de la EPT en el Mundo de 2012 examinará la importancia de ampliar el acceso y mejorar la pertinencia de la enseñanza secundaria, a fin de velar por que todos los jóvenes puedan adquirir las competencias que necesitan para ingresar en el mercado laboral.

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7 Responses to BRIEFLY: Secondary school, a bridge to the world of work

  1. Helen Abadzi says:

    In low-income countries many public-school students simply don’t learn enough to qualify for many work skills. They may be barely literate at entry and are typically doomed to study without textbooks. How many of the readers have spent 6 years copying out textbook contents every day? In this respect, secondary schools are more likely medieval monasteries (except that the notes get thrown out at the end of each year).
    Textbook availability and costs ought to be an international scandal of huge proportions (see our blogs on print poverty on the website).
    We need a huge wave of indignant protests against multinational publishers !
    Can you take up this fight?


  2. The growing attention to secondary school is certainly needed and welcome. Yet I also find it worrisome, for main two reasons, at least one of which parallels challenges faced in the efforts to achieve EFA. The first is the focus on formal education structures, the “school,” as providing the bridge to work. Certainly there is employment out there for which formal schooling is required, but there is also much work for which nonformal education and training are fully, and sometimes more, appropriate. Additionally, both the direct and the opportunity costs of providing secondary schooling for all is well beyond what most developing nations can afford. Just as accomplishing basic education for all is only possible for now and the near future with a mix of formal and nonformal delivery systems, the same is true (and likely more so) of secondary education.

    Second, the notion that education for work happens at the secondary level risks distracting decision-makers, funders and the rest of us from the reality that we must look much more closely at how primary education (formal and nonformal) can also do this. This is not to suggest that primary graduates should be readied to enter the workforce directly (even though this is reality for far too many children) but rather that primary education can, and indeed must, provide children with the intellectual, behavioural and proto-technical competencies and orientation for employment even if they don’t continue schooling past primary (still the case for the vast majority of children in much of the world).

    So, YES, let’s definitely work harder and better at making sure that secondary school prepares youth better for embarking on the path to productive employment, irrespective the length of each individual path. But let’s also “double-down” on nonformal post-primary eduction options while also raising the sociocultural and economic relevance of primary education, as more and more national education strategies are identifying as a specific goal.




    • Nicole Bella says:

      Mr. Muskin, your comment raises important questions and issues, most of them are quite legitimate. First, you are certainly right that by only focusing on formal education one may fail to see the important role played by the non-formal education sector in helping to extend education and training opportunities particularly to the most excluded and marginalized, and thus also in contributing to make education for all a reality truly for all. As we have been arguing and we will be stressing again in the 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report under preparation, there is an imperative need to increase and diversify education opportunities, including by developing second chance education programmes to meet the learning needs of those who either have never had access to education, have gone to school but left it too early or have completed school without mastering basic and essential skills and thus getting strong foundations. Non-formal education has all its part to play in this, but provided it does not turn to be a second-category education and that appropriate and solid bridges are established with the formal education sector to permit to those who would like to pursue their learning to do so.
      Second, you are also right that in many developing countries, most of the economy is informal and that all those engaged in should be well-equipped in terms of skills and of opportunities to continue to increase their knowledge and enhance their competencies, and why not to enter the formal economy sector if here again they wish. Indeed, while informal economy is a reality and a fact in many places around the world which cannot be denied, it should not be seen as a fatality both for individuals and countries themselves. Both of them need viable and sustainable economy systems that enable them not only to escape from extreme poverty, but to poverty in short.
      Finally, yes many developing countries particularly low-income ones face multiple challenges at once, and this is a unique case in the history compared to what the situation in the past of the today more developed countries was. Many low-income countries still have to provide quality primary education to all their citizens, while facing as others the challenges posed by the increasing global and knowledge-based economies they are also engaged in. In others words, while these countries need to make universal primary education a reality they also have to look ahead by developing the other education levels, including early childhood education that is the foundation for further learning as we all know. Countries need to have a holistic and long-term vision and approach to education and more generally the many of the problems they face. Yes, the world as a whole faces uncertain times in the context of the ongoing financial crisis that poses a lot of budget and financial constraints, and low-income countries are certainly not spared and already have limited resources to start with. In this context, there are tough choices and decisions to make. However, budget constraints should not always be a pretext for status quo and for not looking ahead.
      Education (and the higher it is the better) is first of all an investment and is part of the solution for the individuals to get out of poverty, and to enhance their work opportunities and once again in an increased knowledge-based and competitive economies. Importantly, this education challenge also applies to countries themselves many of which have made post-primary education, and particularly universal basic education, no more a distant goal. This is something we have to welcome because governments should do more to meet the many and various learning needs of their people and not do less. Yes, primary education and preferably of good quality is certainly important and still a priority in many places across the world, but it is far from being sufficient and in low-income countries too. And these latter will certainly not get out of their under-development by betting only on primary education.
      Yes, many countries do face important resources constraints, but the discourse about “both the direct and the opportunity costs of providing secondary schooling for all is well beyond what most developing nations can afford” looks like condemning these countries to their fate, further locking them in their under-development, and their people in poverty. The accounting vision of things is certainly important, but it should not impede any action and the need to keep moving ahead.
      How to find a right and equitable balance between the issue of finance and resource constraints and the need to recognize that in the increased knowledge- based economies we are engaged in, education and the higher it is, is key to equip both individuals and countries with means to cope with a competitive and constantly changing world? A real and hard headache equation to solve. Isn’t it?


      • Ms. Bella, thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking reaction to my earlier comment. As you state, we are in broad agreement on most of the issues we raise; and I would say even on all issues. The point I believe warrants underscoring most is the following: while we undertake the challenging, lengthy process of moving towards a situation where all children are in high quality, relevant primary AND secondary schooling, we must undertake NOW to strengthen the quality and relevance of the primary and post-primary education options to which the majority of children have access presently. Further, I would argue that there are many trends in education and training (e.g., with technology and competency-based approaches) that might be moving systems increasingly towards nonformal rather than formal delivery. While we build our massive bridges, let’s not abandon the more make-shift approaches that still permit folks to traverse the waters.


      • Formal education is essential and non-formal may in some way redeem the lack of formal education but what is actually required is that equal access to equality in education is a must- hence those who have not had formal education must get an opportunity to join the formal stream- at whatever point of time- informal learning in the formal set up far exceeds in all aspects for any individuals growth


  3. Barbara MacDonald says:

    As as we work on increasing access to secondary school, let’s also make sure that there is a qualified teaching staff, trained in inclusive practices and student-centred pedagogy.

    Let’s increase the availability of academic and career counselling and that the curriculum includes “life skills” related to the local context, including managing finances.

    Where there are technical-vocational options, let’s make sure they are developed in collaboration with local business and service providers and that micro-credit is accessible for graduate students.


  4. Life skills training is essential for increasing the employability of the youth and there is a huge gap between school and college education. Enhancing these skills and developing competencies for the youth must be a top priority, so that our students are better equipped for the job market. Making career choices and decisions can be facilitated by Career Development. Keeping this in mind India Career Development Association is trying to contribute in its own way by organising such programs.


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