Alternative approaches to education provision for out-of-school youth in Malawi: The case of Complementary Basic Education

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

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Young people in Malawi face many challenges. Primary education is struggling with poor internal efficiency, low quality and poor educational outcomes. Access to post-primary education is limited and highly selective. The majority of young people who exit the formal education system dropout in the primary cycle. Few out-of-school youth have had access to technical, vocational or entrepreneurial training, or the chance to develop key skills to support and sustain livelihoods in the country’s predominantly rural-based economies.

Until recently education and skills development for out-of-school youth was given scant attention at the national level. However, in response to growing concerns about the ability to meet Education for All (EFA) targets and to support poverty alleviation strategies, the Malawi government now acknowledges the need for alternative approaches to basic education in order to cater for out-of-school children and youth. In 2006, the Complementary Basic Education (CBE) programme was launched in Malawi, first piloted and then expanded across several rural districts in Malawi.

This background paper presents an overview and analysis of the role of Complementary Basic Education in the educational provision for out-of-school youth. In doing so, it focuses on the expectations, participation and outcomes of older learners, as well as the challenges faced in the delivery of curriculum content and practical pre-vocational skills training in light of the differing needs of children and youth. It explores the interface between basic education and skills development and reflects on lessons to be learnt with regard to the design, implementation and mainstreaming of complementary and non-formal education programmes.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationParis
Commissioning bodyUNESCO
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Education
  • Malawi
  • Complementary Basic Education
  • Youth

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