eBASE, effective basic services:Aspiration Interventions Local Summary

Aspiration Interventions Local Summary

Summary of the research evidence on the impact of Aspiration interventions on the educational attainment of pupils in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).


The text below is a summary of the research evidence on the impact of Aspiration interventions on the educational attainment of pupils in sub-Saharan Africa. The information here is valuable for African school leaders, administrators and policy makers. It is even more valuable for parents who maybe thinking of better ways to improve on the educational attainment of their children.

Effective Basic Services (eBASE) Africa developed this summary using available research evidence while also taking into consideration prominent themes arising from key informant interviews (KII) and focus group discussions (FGD), particularly FGD with teachers and students. This implies the presence and participation of all key stakeholders; the policy makers, the implementers or enforcers of policy and the beneficiaries. The research evidence in this summary is acquired from a detailed and replicable search protocol used on a wide range – listed below – of research databases for related studies in low- and middle-income countries in general and sub-Saharan Africa in particular.

Definition of strand

Aspirations refers to the future plans or achievements young people hope for, and good educational outcomes is key to ensuring that pupils meet their aspirations regarding careers, university and future education. The EEF identifies three broad categories of aspiration interventions including: interventions focusing on parents and families; interventions focusing on teaching practice; and out-of-school interventions or extra-curricular activities, which sometimes involves peers and mentors (Higgins, et al., 2016).

Why is this strand important?

Quality education is a catalyst for development and as the definition above suggests, it can support learners to meet their long-term plans. The world is fast evolving, and the work environment is in need of individuals with theoretical knowledge and practical skills. This requires a careful orientation towards a competency-based approach to education. Therefore, it is important that parents and teachers engage with learners to know their plans, orientate learners towards these future plans and create opportunities (through practical learning and extracurricular activities) for learners to acquire the necessary skills in a specific domain of interest.

Summary of research in Sub-Saharan Africa

There is a lack of research evidence on aspiration interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Some studies have analysed how practical work is being used to motivate learners. A study on the aims of practical physics teaching in four Sub-Saharan African countries concludes that motivating students’, nurturing personal development and life skills of students’, and contributing to national economic development’ are some of the reasons for teaching practical physics lessons (Babalola, Lambourne, & Swithenby, 2019). However, this study does not report the impact of motivating students through practical physics on the learning outcomes.

Other studies of aspiration interventions in SSA explores inclusive education for children with disabilities from a gender lens. In a study of children with disabilities in West and East Africa, Hui, et, al., (2017) find that girls with disabilities were less ambitious regarding their educational and career aspirations than boys with disabilities. The authors suggest that although children with disabilities face social exclusion within education, societal views that girls with disabilities have limited educational potential (and are inherently dependent) leads to lower levels of self-esteem. In line with research on the relationship between empowering girls and learning outcomes, Ashraf, at, al., (2020) conclude that enhancing the negotiation skills of eight-grade Zambian girls improved educational outcomes over a three-year period. Based on the findings from a Randomised Control Trial (RCT) in Zambia, the study suggests that girls participation in negotiation training improved school enrolment and educational investment by 11th grade, increased enrolment in high quality morning’ schooling, and led to a reduction in school dropout at the transition to secondary school.

Kozuka, et, al., (2016), in an experimental study from a School-Based Management Project in Burkina Faso, note that an increase in community participation in school management had a strong impact on 6th grade students compared to other grades. This trend suggests that improving parental aspirations through community participation may support children to pursue their education at a higher level.


Most studies on aspiration interventions in SSA do not target raising aspiration of students as a primary outcome. Likewise, these studies do not establish a relationship between aspiration and the learning outcomes of students. Nonetheless, studies in some SSA countries, which were conducted as experimental studies, have focused on raising aspirations through practical lessons, girls’ empowerment and community participation school-based management.

Researchers have also identified some factors that could reduce the aspiration of learners in inclusive education. One study indicates that girls with disabilities are less ambitious in terms of their education and career aspirations due to societal perceptions of girls with disabilities as having limited educational potential.

Overall, the research evidence on aspiration interventions in SSA is quite limited. There is need for in-depth research on the impact of various components of aspiration interventions on the academic achievement of learners in SSA, particularly out-of-school interventions or extracurricular activities involving peers and mentors.

Impact, Security, and Cost of Local Evidence

There are no impact studies that directly assess the impact of aspiration interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa. The search for published evidence yielded twenty-two studies. Only four of these twenty-two studies were of relevance to the strand. Among these four studies, there is one RCT.

The local evidence of the impact of Aspiration interventions on attainment is limited. The cost of implementing Aspiration interventions is likely to be moderate.

Search terms:

‘’education aspiration’’ OR aim* OR ambition* OR desire* OR passion* OR eagerness*

Databases searched:

EBSCO (ebooks, ERICS, Education Administration Abstract, Education Abstract)
Campbell Collaboration
Global Partnership for Education
Hand Search


Ashraf, N., Bau, N., Low, C., & McGinn, K. (2020). Negotiating a Better Future: How Interpersonal Skills facilitate Intergenerational Investment. The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2020).

Babalola, F. B., Lambourne, R., & Swithenby, S. (2019). The Real Aims that Shape the Teaching of Practical Physics in Sub-Saharan Africa. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education 18.

Higgins, S., Katsipataki, M., Villanueva-Aguilera, A., Coleman, R., Henderson, P., Major, L., … Mason, D. (2016). The Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit.’, Manual.
London: Education Endowment Foundation.

Hui, N., Vickery, E., Njelesani, J., & Cameron, D. (2017). Gendered experiences of inclusive education for children with disabilities in West and East Africa. International Journal of Inclusive Education.

Kozuka, E., Yasuyuki, S., & Todo, Y. (2016). How can Community Participation Improve Educational Outcomes? Experimental Evidence from a School-Based Management Project in Burkina Faso. JICA Research Institute: JICA-RI Working Paper No 112.