Effective, evidence-based policies on post-primary education are of vital importance as many developing countries start to the see a bulge in secondary and postsecondary enrollment, the product of the achievement of near-universal access to primary school. Finding ways to deliver and promote access to high-quality post-primary education, and to ensure that education is relevant to labor market needs, is one of the great challenges of our times. This must be accomplished in countries where governments face severe budget constraints and many, of not most, parents are too poor to cover the costs out of pocket.
International reports such as "A Global Compact on Learning", by the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, emphasize providing opportunities for post-primary education as a first-tier policy challenge. In addition, there has been considerably less progress in gender parity at the secondary level. Meeting these challenges will require a combination of using existing resources more effectively -- which requires both understanding which inputs are key and which are not -- and a range of innovations that may fundamentally alter the current methods of instruction.
To that end, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) has launched a Post-Primary Education Initiative intended to promote policy-relevant research on secondary and post-secondary education in developing countries, which together will be referred to as post-primary education. This paper is a first step in that process. It reviews the evidence to date on post-primary education and highlight the gaps in the literature, with a focus on identifying policies that should be given the highest priority for future research
Different countries define primary and secondary schooling differently, and in many countries students attend middle schools, upper primary schools, or junior secondary schools before attending secondary school. For the purpose of this review, "post-primary education" includes everything from upper primary, middle, or junior secondary school through tertiary education, as defined by the local context in different countries, including vocational school and other alternative tracks for this age group. In practice, this means that in the research reviewed, the majority of children are in 5th grade (i.e. 10-11 years old) and older.
The review is organized as follows. Section II provides some background on postprimary education in the developing world. Section III explains how papers were selected for this review. Section IV presents a conceptual framework for thinking about postprimary education (PPE), including a brief discussion of measuring outcomes. Section V reviews the evidence pertaining to the demand for schooling (the impact of policies that attempt to increase the willingness of households to send their children to school), and Section VI reviews the evidence on the supply of schooling (the impact of policies that change school and teacher characteristics, and more generally how schools are organized). A final section summarizes the findings, highlighting several research gaps that should receive high priority in future research.