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2016 Call for Proposals

Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE) announces a Call for Proposals to improve the quality of secondary education in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi.

Applicants must register at by November 21, 2016 to be eligible to submit a proposal.  

The Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education

The Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE) is a collaboration of donors that seeks to improve the educational outcomes for marginalized populations in developing countries, particularly in Africa . PSIPSE supports the development and testing of innovative models to address challenges in secondary education. It promotes efforts to find local solutions to problems and generate evidence of effective strategies. Besides grant-making, PSIPSE contributes to secondary education through learning and influencing activities. It places a strong emphasis on continuous learning and strives to inform and contribute to system-level change in secondary education.  Since 2012, PSIPSE has built a portfolio of 59 projects in eight countries in Africa and Asia, hence contributing $50 million to the sector. PSIPSE seeks to support projects through different stages of implementation. In addition to innovations, PSIPSE has facilitated and supported the scale-up of effective interventions in its target countries.



PSIPSE seeks to build on early contributions that have begun to demonstrate impact, while seizing the opportunity presented by the world’s adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, including recognition of the importance of quality education for achieving all of the SDGs. In particular, PSIPSE’s 2016 Call for Proposals aims to contribute to efforts to reach Sustainable Development Goal 4 on Education, especially Target 4.1: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes”  and Target 4.5, “By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.” 
To this end, PSIPSE invites innovative, cost-effective, context-relevant and sustainable solutions that address the quality of secondary education in order to contribute to improved learning outcomes – defined as basic knowledge and skills needed to advance education, lead productive and healthy lives, and to attain sustainable livelihoods – for marginalized populations. 
PSIPSE invites proposals for innovative projects in four sub-Saharan African countries: 

  • Kenya
  • Uganda
  • Tanzania (Mainland and Zanzibar)
  • Malawi

Each of these countries has recently endeavored to expand access to secondary education and to improve the quality of education, while also reaching marginalized populations. All have or are in the process of implementing reforms to the secondary school curriculum to make it more competence and skills-based, and to prepare youth for employment by equipping them with the skills, mindsets and proficiencies demanded by employers.

To ensure the relevance of this Call for Proposals to governments, PSIPSE seeks to target its support to areas of priority for the public education sector.  To this end, PSIPSE collaborated with the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) in Kenya to examine areas of priority for governments in each of the four countries targeted in this RFP. PSIPSE solicited perspectives from a range of stakeholders – including government, teachers, and implementers – on country-level priorities for improving the quality of secondary education in the context of recent developments in education policy and national development strategies. 
Through the country analysis, PSIPSE has extracted a few cross-cutting themes that contribute to improved educational outcomes for learners and building evidence of effective strategies.  Applicants are encouraged to respond to these themes or others that may be relevant within their context as well as the overarching theme of improving quality:

  • Build on existing policies and priorities for student learning
  • Enhance teacher capacity and professional development
  • Improve school and systems management and efficiency

Project Categories

The project design must fall within one of the categories below. Please see Funding Categories document for complete details of each category: 

  1. Innovation Challenge: Project model is un-tested, but proposes an innovative way to address a problem in the education system. Applicants in this category are challenged to think outside the box and explore creative and new ideas for dealing with recurring problems. Innovation projects can be funded up to a total of US$500,000 over two to four years.
  2. Expanding & Adapting: Project model is well defined and developed and has already been piloted for a minimum of two to four years. Involves rigorous evaluation and continued adaptation as the project expands to new implementation sites. Expanding & Adapting projects can be funded up to US$1 million over two to four years.
  3. Collaboration: This category calls for unique partnership among two or more organizations, each of whom brings complementary expertise and individual strengths to pursue a common vision. In this category, organizations doing similar work are encouraged to come together as partners and expand the impact of their individual work. Collaboration projects can be funded up to US$500,000 million over a maximum of two to four years. 
  4. Evidence-to-Action:  While all applicants are expected to include a component of stakeholder engagement within their project frameworks, an Evidence-to-Action project is primarily focused on engaging actors who are well-positioned to guide a systemic change in secondary education that support the wider goals and objectives of PSIPSE presented in this Call.  Evidence-to-Action projects can be funded up to a total of $500,000 over two to four years.

Within the above categories, PSIPSE will fund both implementation projects as well as research. PSIPSE encourages partnerships in all four of the project categories among two or more organizations, each of which bring complementary expertise and strengths to pursue a common vision. We recognize that these categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive and encourage you to apply under the category that you determine fit best. 
It should be noted that the majority of PSIPSE grants are awarded at between $150,000 to $750,000, though in certain cases, projects have been funded anywhere within the range of $50,000 to $5,000,000.

Project Eligibility

-    The PSIPSE will NOT fund projects focused on:

  • Large scale infrastructure building
  • Individual schools seeking to build a new school or to add a new building at an existing school
  • Scholarships or scholarship funds
  • Technical or vocational training and schools designed exclusively to prepare students for specific industries

-    Since one of the strategic pillars of PSIPSE is learning through evidence building, applicants are required to have, in their project design, a built-in scope for frequent monitoring and evaluation with a focus on measurement of learning outcomes. Such monitoring and evaluation ensures a continuous stream of information to measure progress towards improving the quality secondary education as measured through improvements to student learning. 

-    The applicant organization(s) should have a presence in the target country.

Project Beneficiaries

In all PSIPSE projects, the ultimate beneficiaries are young people. Projects may focus on populations at different stages in the educational progression—namely, youth who are:

  • In secondary school (a student who is currently enrolled in a secondary school) 
  • Out of school (an individual who is out of school and the project helps in re-entry or earning secondary education qualifications)  
  • Transitioning from primary to secondary 
  • Transitioning from lower to upper secondary

All projects should benefit learners living in low-resource or poverty-affected areas, and can serve target marginalized populations which include, but are not limited to:

  • Pregnant girls or young mothers
  • Youth displaced or in post-conflict settings
  • Youth in rural and remote areas or urban slums
  • Learners with physical, intellectual, and/or developmental disabilities

Organization Eligibility

The call is open to registered organizations, including private sector entities that operate in a non-profit capacity.  PSIPSE cannot support projects with private sector benefit; private sector collaboration with non-profit entities is eligible. Applicants may be single organizations or organizations working in a collaboration (please see FAQs document for more information). Organizations may submit proposals for more than one project. Past and current PSIPSE grantees are eligible to apply. The call is not open to individuals. 
National and local level organizations that demonstrate capacity for project management are given funding preference. Projects that are led by organizations headquartered outside of the four focus countries are expected to demonstrate substantive partnership with organizations based in-country.  

Application Timeline

The application process will involve two stages, as seen below. 

In order to submit a proposal, applicants must register online at by the Monday, November 21, 2016 [5pm EST] registration deadline. Only those who have registered will be eligible to apply. After completion of the online registration, the system may flag an applicant as ineligible to submit a proposal. The PSIPSE Manager will review each flagged registration to make a final determination, Applicants can expect to be notified of their eligibility status no later than November 25, 2016. More information on the application process is in the Application Instructions and FAQ documents.

Review of Proposals and decision process: Select applicants will be invited to engage in discussions with donors as they pursue funding decisions during the period of March - May, 2017. Final decisions will be communicated to all applicants by the second quarter of 2017.

Child Protection

PSIPSE recognizes the rights of all children to be protected from any harm or abuse and is committed to taking all the necessary steps to ensure that children are protected and receive the support they need, recognizing that some children face particular risks related to their gender, race, disability, etc. Applicants who advance to the Proposal stage will be expected to state how they are addressing child protection in their applications. 

Learning Partner

PSIPSE has engaged a learning partner who will synthesize aggregate learnings from across all projects that the donor collaborative is supporting. More information on the Learning Partner will be provided at the time of grant award. Award recipients will be expected to collaborate with the learning partner by sharing information about their project including data on project applicants and participants, participating in interviews, etc. The PSIPSE may engage multiple learning partners over time.