Girls' Education

Our expertise: programming for the advancement of girls’ education

Our strong track record and vast experience of delivering results in girls’ education enables us to provide meaningful insights from our high-impact programmes. We recognise the importance of teaching quality and inclusive pedagogy, creating local coaches and investing in leaders, building community coalitions for girls’ education, harnessing peer support, developing systems to support female leadership, and investing in gender-disaggregated data to create programmes which make a tangible, positive difference for girls all over the world.

We have spent over 20 years bringing the best international evidence on girls’ education to our programme design. At the same time, we have continued to learn and innovate. Here, we share seven lessons for success from our high-impact programmes:

  1. Invest in teaching quality, including inclusive pedagogy. We know that girls can be the canary in the coal mine – they are often the first to drop out of school if their parents cannot see the learning benefits. We support teachers to develop high-quality instructional strategies which keep girls fully engaged and learning. For example, in Kenya, we recently launched our gender-responsive STEM training, while in Rwanda, after just one year of support for wider inclusive pedagogy under our Building Learning Foundations programme, the number of maths teachers reaching benchmark competencies in inclusive teaching increased by eight percentage points (45% to 53%).
  2. Create local coaches and instructional leaders who can support teachers on an ongoing basis. One-off training sessions are not enough – evidence from adult learning theory suggests that it is vital to institutionalise new ways of working and offer teachers ongoing support. Through our Wasichana Wote Wasome (‘let all girls learn’) programme in Kenya, we have developed a skilled network of over 100 pedagogical coaches who act as local champions for new instructional techniques, and who offer teachers ongoing feedback and support. An external evaluation of the programme from 2013-2017 concluded that girls’ literacy outcomes improved by an average of 0.53 standard deviation – a gain of nearly one extra year (0.98) of schooling over the programme’s lifetime, compared to a control group.
  3. Recognise that school leaders have a critical role to play. Evidence shows that girls thrive where there is a whole-school ethos which promotes their inclusion and learning: this needs leadership, not just standalone interventions. In all of our work across Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda, we take a holistic approach to girls’ education and offer explicit support to school leaders for gender-inclusive school improvement strategies. For example, in Rwanda, 2,600 school leaders are participating in professional learning communities in which strategies for supporting girls’ education are discussed and shared.
  4. Build coalitions for girls’ education with local communities. Evidence shows that many of the barriers to girls’ education lie at the household and community level, so effective interventions must go beyond the school. In addition, we know change is more likely to be sustainable when people – including influential community leaders – have a meaningful stake in designing the solution. In Kenya, our network of over 500 community health volunteers puts this into practice. They have built strong partnerships with local communities to help them identify barriers to girls’ education and explore ways to effectively promote girls’ attendance in school.
  5. Harness the power of girl peer support.  A significant body of evidence demonstrates the power of peer influence – and the limitations of top-down change. Education Development Trust has longstanding expertise in promoting positive behaviour change for girls’ education and health and social outcomes. From 1999 to 2007, we led a ground-breaking school-based HIV prevention programme (PSABH), reaching 17,000 schools across Kenya. The programme made use of teacher training, peer-led events and peer mentors, and external evaluations showed meaningful gains in pupil knowledge, attitudes, self-efficacy and risk-reducing sexual behaviours, compared to control groups. We now use this expertise to support peer-led activities and networks in schools, such as ‘girl clubs’, which can improve girls’ health, motivation and school attendance outcomes.
  6. Develop capacity and systems that promote female leaders. Education Development Trust takes the long view on issues such as the under-representation of women in school governance and leadership roles – which evidence shows has a detrimental effect on girls’ learning outcomes. In Rwanda, for example, we recognised that the majority of primary teachers are female, whilst primary school leaders are predominately male. In early 2020, we worked with policymakers and local officials to identify the new School Subject Leader (SSL) role as a career pathway into headship. Through careful training of district and school leaders on a gender-sensitive selection process, we ensured that 72% of the first cohort of 900 SSLs were female.
  7. Invest in gender-disaggregated data, tracking and early warning systems to support the most vulnerable. We know that girls can drop out of school or fall behind in their learning at any stage of their school journey. The best programmes are able to spot risk factors and rapidly adapt to put targeted interventions in place. In Rwanda, all of our monitoring and evaluation data is gender-disaggregated. In Kenya, we make use of sophisticated data and tracking systems for over 70,000 girls – including local intelligence from coaches and community health volunteers – to identify those at risk, as well as their learning needs. We respond with highly tailored solutions to help girls get back on track, such as catch-up programmes for adolescent mothers, with the aim of placing them back into mainstream school.