Education Series: Research Brief 2022-01 – Transition to secondary education – Ethiopia



The transition to secondary school is a significant life stage for young people, as well as a period of adaptation that coincides with significant social, emotional and physiological changes in the lives of adolescents (Balvin and Banati 2016; Lee, Hollarek, and Krabbendam 2018). It is also a period when cognitive and analytical skills (Crone and Dahl 2012), autonomy (Fleming, 2005) and a capability to aspire and envision an imagined future (Hart, 2012) are developed. While navigating this critical stage, young refugees, who are simultaneously experiencing the challenges of forced displacement, have very limited opportunities to continue their education. For the academic year 2019/20, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the refugee gross enrolment rate at secondary level in 41 reporting countries stood at 34 per cent. In comparison, the average enrolment rate for host country learners for reporting countries were markedly higher, indicating a significant discrepancy in access when comparing host and refugee learners. Furthermore, disparity in access to secondary education for refugee learners by gender persists, with girls still at a disadvantage. Adolescent girls living in refugee camps or displaced in urban areas are less than half as likely as boysto attend and complete secondary school (UNHCR 2018). This is a missed opportunity, as each additional year of secondary education a girl completes is associated with a lower risk of early marriage and early pregnancy, sometimes by as much as six percentage points (Wodon et al. 2018). Failure to complete the transition to secondary education may therefore significantly reduce the possibility of girls and young women leading empowered and fulfilling lives.

The present study set out to identify, document and promote innovative ways to boost the transition from primary to secondary education among refugee youth, with a strong emphasis on adolescent girls of secondary school age, through case studies conducted in four countries: Egypt, Ethiopia, Malaysia and Uganda.

Key research questions

  • What are the key challenges in the transition to secondary education for refugee youth?
  • What are the support mechanisms in place to address these challenges?