Preparing all youth to succeed in school, work, and life

Definition Life Skills.png

Demand for secondary education continues to grow in many low- and middle-income countries. The Sustainable Development Goals set ambitious targets focused on achieving universal basic education and ensuring no one is left behind. In meeting this call for inclusive access to quality education, ensuring the relevancy of this education is a key priority. How do we best support youth to acquire the knowledge and skills that will allow them to thrive in school, work, and life? Emerging evidence suggest LIFE SKILLS play a critical role, with the potential to strengthen young people’s agency and resilience, and predict a range of long-term outcomes, including health, job performance, and wages.

The Study 

With many questions still remaining about how to effectively and inclusively teach and assess these skills, the Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE) has been supporting its grantee partners to test diverse approaches to strengthening life skills.

The PSIPSE commissioned an in-depth study of 18 projects; uncovering actionable lessons on how to design, deliver, measure, and scale-up youth life skills programming in low- and middle-income countries. The study is intended for practitioners and government officials interested in building, improving and expanding work around life skills, as well as donors looking to advance this field and provide useful guidance to their grantees.


Click image for “Cheat Sheet” with high-level summary of the PSIPSE study

Click image for “Cheat Sheet” with high-level summary of the PSIPSE study


Lessons Learned on How to Design, Implement, Assess, and Scale Successful Programming


Building Youth Life Skills: 8 Tips for Practitioners


Building Youth Life Skills: 6 Lessons for Government Officials

High-quality teaching is central in creating an educational environment that supports learning for all. This study draws lessons from the experiences of PSIPSE grantees testing approaches to improving the quality of teaching. These lessons and implications can inform the work of implementers in the field as well as future grant-making and strategy development among PSIPSE donors and other stakeholders seeking to catalyze systemic reforms to improve teacher quality.

This brief draws on the insights of PSIPSE partners to offer 10 concrete tips on designing an intervention, partnering with key stakeholders, and motivating teachers.

Mathematica undertook an initiative-wide monitoring effort, “The PSIPSE: 2016 Monitoring Results,” to take stock of ongoing PSIPSE interventions and identify areas for improvement. The findings reveal positive early returns on program activities and suggest how international secondary education program implementers and policymakers can promote positive outcomes in the future.

This review summarizes the findings from a growing body literature, focusing on rigorous studies that quantify the magnitude of the impacts by using a credible comparison group to isolate the effects of an intervention from (1) other changes in the prevailing environment that occurred over time and (2) pre-existing differences between groups. Drawing on previous systematic reviews, updated with recent additions, we highlight what is known and identify the gaps that remain.

Mathematica Policy Research started working with the PSIPSE in late 2014 as its learning partner. In this brief, we share our independent analysis of the PSIPSE approach to effecting change in secondary education—starting with the partnership’s theory of change, countries of focus, and interventions supported. We end by presenting the monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) framework developed for the PSIPSE and distilling some implications of our analysis for the future.

Regional Learning Partner Reports

Learning partners developed various analytical reports on country or regional themes and challenges in secondary education and a report mapping the themes and approaches used by each project. Below are links to the series of themes and challenges reports authored by local learning partners:

CSSEPA Reports - East Africa:

CSM Reports - India:

TEP Centre Reports - Nigeria: