2015 was the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an ambitious multi-stakeholder effort that builds upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to outline a set of global outcomes and targets for the next 15 years. The proposed Goal 4, relating to equitable and inclusive education and lifelong learning, is expansive, calling for access to early childhood education and the completion of free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education for all boys and girls. However, there are uncertainties around how to mobilize additional financing for upper secondary education, and how to mitigate against negative impacts a focus on fee-free upper secondary education could have on the quality and equity at lower levels of education.
The Malala Fund – a non-profit organization focused on empowering girls through secondary education – commissioned R4D to develop a technical paper on financing upper secondary education in the post-2015 education agenda. The study builds on the analysis by the Education for All Global Monitoring Report (GMR) to shed further light on the cost of providing fee-free access to both upper and lower secondary school by 2030.
R4D’s technical study identifies the approximate range of the global cost for achieving universal upper secondary school access and delves into lessons learned from country experiences in providing universal fee-free secondary education. Through interviews with expert stakeholders, a literature review, and cost modelling, the study explores the cost of universal upper secondary education, lessons that can be drawn from different countries that embarked on this process, and options for financing fee-free education. The research also investigates strategies to mitigate negative impacts of fee-free upper secondary education on equity and quality at the lower levels.