Voices of the next generation

Posted on 06 April 2018

What challenges will we inherit as a new generation of international education and development professionals? Would you like to have more of a voice and build your confidence as a professional in international education and development? Are you ready to start talking about education in a whole new way?

Join peers and colleagues at a one-day conference on Thursday 14 June for your opportunity to put forward your ideas and your innovations, whether in implementation or research, to shape the future of education in development.

The conference will take place at the Cambridge Education offices in London

For any questions or more information about the conference, please email

How to solve Lagos State's education conundrum?

Posted on 27 March 2018

Private schools are now a major player on the Lagos education scene, dominating at the pre-primary and primary levels. Approximately 18,000 schools have opened, with the majority unapproved by the government, and offering varying standards of education and facilities. As many as 1.4 million children are spread across these private schools, against just 1.1 million children in 1,600 public schools. The success of this new sector is critical for Lagos’s aspirations of becoming a major player on the global stage.

In 2013, the state government invited DFID Nigeria to fund a five-year programme to address the market constraints faced by private schools, providing support and guidance to help them become a formal contributor to the city’s future.

Fast facts

  • More than 525,000 children from across nearly 5,000 schools have directly benefitted from DEEPEN’s interventions
  • Of these schools, half have received loans, and over a third rate their financial position to be ‘stronger’ than what it was 12 months ago
  • Over 200 episodes of education radio programmes have been broadcast with an average of 800,000 listeners monthly


New private schools are opening almost every day in Lagos, sometimes with inadequate facilities and substandard teaching. However, parents are prepared to find the money, as these private schools are perceived to offer better quality education when compared to government schools. Overall, the poor levels of numeracy and literacy in Lagos remain a significant barrier as the city tries to adjust to rapid population growth.

While private schools give a potential solution for the growing problems of access to education, they face stark financial hurdles that threaten to disrupt their development, especially at the lower end of the market. Unregulated by the government, banks are reluctant to offer credit. Parents with informal employment often pay late or not in full. The proprietors may bring enthusiasm for education, but many have little experience in financial planning or cash flow management. The severe arrears can destabilise the sustainability of the school as a business and deprive them of the means to invest in improving educational quality.


Cambridge Education is the managing partner for DEEPEN (Developing Effective Private Education Nigeria), an initiative by DFID to improve learning outcomes in Lagos’ private schools. Using a market-development approach, the programme continues the progress from the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN), with a particular focus on improving learning outcomes of children from low-income families.

Our team conducted a detailed market analysis to identify the main constraints for improved private education in Lagos, with subsequent interventions classified into four priority areas:

  • Rules and Standards: Improving the formal regulatory framework and informal cultural practices that undermine the private education sector. In particular, this looked at improving the approval system, eliminating multiple taxation and working with the school associations to improve their organisational capacity.
  • Information: Addressing the lack of reliable information available to parents, schools, and policy-makers for making informed decisions about education. Interventions centred on media development, quality and more frequent reporting by journalists, and engagement with local communities on education issues.
  • Finance: Confronting inaccessibility of financial services and products to meet the needs of schools and their parents. DEEPEN has run pilots to improve fee payment systems and access to credit, as well as business development services.
  • School Improvement Services: Tackling the absence of affordable and effective services for low-cost schools to improve their academic leadership and teaching practices. This involves working closely with school leaders and teachers to raise standards of both management and teachers.

What is an M4P approach?

DEEPEN adopted a market systems – or ‘making markets work for the poor’ (M4P) – approach. It works by understanding the structures, rules and incentives around which the core of a market, i.e. ‘supply and demand’ works – and then unblocking the main constraints that prevent it from working better for the poor. What a market systems approach does not do is provide short term fixes in the form of funds, goods and services that may undermine market systems and do long term damage. For example, encouraging new financial services aimed at better fee collection from parents are more sustainable solutions to the problem of school financing than simply offering one-off grants for school improvement.

M4P is grounded on the principle of ‘doing no harm’: every proposed intervention considers what impacts – negative and positive – it may have and ensures sustainability. This approach builds on recent successes for DFID in Nigeria, South Africa and Bangladesh.


By conclusion of the programme in 2018, DEEPEN aims to have helped establish a vibrant and dynamic market for private education especially low-cost schools. While DEEPEN was designed to focus on Lagos State, the programme has recently expanded into Kano state in the North East and Anambra state in the South East.

What would sustainable success look like?

  • Increased access to, and use of, low cost school improvement services
  • Improved consumer understanding of education quality
  • Increased capacity to invest in education as a result of increased profitability and creditworthiness
  • Improved capacity of private school associations to serve their members and lobby government
  • Competition between public and private systems based around quality by ensuring access to the public examination system
  • A government that is increasingly supportive of private education

Landmark initiatives to date include the introduction of a government-validated grading system - the Graded Assessment of Private Schools (GAPS) – which aims to raise standards of teaching and ‘mobile money’ pilots which have highlighted the opportunities and challenges in changing the way that parents pay their fees. Another finance pilot has paved the way for greater access to credit through partnership between the school associations and Accion Microfinance bank. Now, other financial institutions are crowding into this growth sector, with its proven high rates of return on investment.

The programme’s work around school improvement services is proving sustainable, with clear evidence of crowding in from competitor providers not involved in the original scope. Likewise, work to increase peer-to-peer information sharing among schools and support for business development are expected to prove sustainable against the benchmarks listed above.

Transforming Teacher Education and Learning (T-TEL)

Posted on 27 March 2018

However, the education system is struggling to keep pace with the rate of progress. The government has therefore initiated a UK aid-sponsored change programme, managed by Cambridge Education, which will overhaul pre-service teacher training.


To maintain Ghana’s forward momentum, the Ministry of Education is looking to develop students with skills in critical analysis and critical thinking. The current education system is more focused on teaching children to pass exams rather than solving problems or working in groups.

Children sit quietly in rows, memorising facts handed down by the teacher and then they repeat them as well as they can on the exam paper. In the past, efforts to improve teaching standards with in-service workshops and training courses enjoyed short-term success, before teachers reverted to old habits.

Moreover, the wider support network for teachers did little to incentivise higher performance, while pre-service training perpetuated the existing system and propelled young teachers into the firing line with insufficient practical experience. Typically, student teachers only gained meaningful experience in a classroom in the third year of a three-year diploma, and then often received limited supervision.

Courses were the same for both primary and junior secondary education, despite the huge difference in aptitudes needed. In addition, students would often take leave of absence from teaching to start a new university degree, as the teaching diploma did not carry the same level of professional prestige.


The Government of Ghana has recognised teaching as the barrier to better learning outcomes, and also the potential solution for progress. The launch of Transforming Teacher Education and Learning (T-TEL) aims to give the next wave of teachers the right core and technical skills from the start of their careers, by improving the quality of teaching and learning in all 40 Colleges of Education (CoEs).

The project started in 2014 and is funded by UK aid as part of its Girls Participatory Approaches to Students Success (G-PASS) programme. This new wave of teachers will look at education in a different way, adopting more modern teaching techniques that put the child at the centre of the process.

T-TEL aims to improve the level of tutoring in CoEs across the core subjects of mathematics, English and science, and support better management of the colleges. The Cambridge Education team will help reform the pre-service curriculum, including more opportunities for students to teach in classrooms from the start of their training. We are also working with the ministry and regulatory bodies on policy reform, and introducing incentives to innovate and improve performance.

Students will have the opportunity to specialise as early childhood, primary or junior secondary teachers from the start of the course. Importantly, the ministry is also making plans to upgrade the diploma into a four-year Bachelor of Education degree, to raise its standing among those considering a career as a teacher.


While pre-service reform is typically more testing than in-service realignment, the high level of political will and political backing is providing the right environment for deep systemic change that will embed performance management as business as usual. The challenge is greater, but so too are the rewards.

The intended outcome of the programme is the development of teachers who can demonstrate interactive, student-focused instructional methods. Recent results show that these methods have increased significantly from 0.8% at baseline (2014) to 17.9% at midline (2016).

Importantly, teacher training will be supported by a sweep of other education reforms such as the licensing of teachers, a revised basic education curriculum for children, teacher observations to monitor performance and then a promotion structure that’s linked to that performance (rather than simply years in service). The government is further demonstrating its commitment to educational reform by making secondary education free for all students.

Find out more on T-TEL's website.