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Scaling Education Finance Solutions and Bridging Education to Employment for Youth


Through the Scaling Education Finance Solutions and Bridging Educastion to Employment for Youth project, Opportunity International and Credit Suisse (now UBS) are working together to mobilize capital to school owners, parents, students, and vocational centers to increase access to quality education and training, which will lead to improved learning outcomes for children and employment prospects for youth.

Ultimately, our goal is for more children and youth to learn and access quality education, increasing their future employment prospects.

  • Project Duration: 2022 – 2024
  • Geographic Focus: Global
  • Partners: Credit Suisse, Opportunity International

The Challenge

At the household level, those living in poverty suffered the greatest setbacks and economic devastations from COVID-19. Many of these families were struggling before the pandemic, and were pushed further into poverty, making difficult decisions about their children’s education.

At the macro level, COVID-19 exacerbated the global crisis for accessibility and affordability of quality education. UNESCO and the World Bank found that two-thirds of low- and lower-middle income countries cut their education budgets during the pandemic, further expanding the already massive global education deficit.

  • U$24 billion is the estimated global education financing deficit
  • At the height of the pandemic, 1.6 billion children were out of school worldwide (World Bank).
  • 3 out of 4 students globally cannot be reached by remote learning and/or belong to the poorest households (UNICEF).
  • Nearly 50% of the world’s children were “learning poor” before the pandemic, meaning they are unlikely to reach adulthood with basic numeracy and literacy skills. Because of COVID-19, that number is now closer to 60% (World Economic Forum).
  • World Bank analyses estimated that the first five months of school closures alone cost students $16,000 in future earnings.
  • An analysis conducted by Opportunity in 2020 shows that an additional 66 million new seats in non-state schools in low- and middle-income countries will be required to meet the anticipated demand in the next five years, but this will require unlocking and mobilizing more private capital.

Millions of students, who have been out of school for more than one year, are at an extreme risk of never returning to school. Girls face the greatest barriers. As schools shuttered their doors worldwide, affordable non-state school leaders have struggled to maintain their school operations and continue paying teachers without income from school fees. Many families have lost jobs and now face greater challenges in being able to afford school fees. Household spending as well as government spending on education is decreasing as a result of COVID – how significant the gap is varies based on studies. As a result, many schools, teachers, and families face increasing hurdles to resuming education, and its clear immediate actions and systemic changes are required. Additionally, Africa’s youth population is on track to increase almost 3x between now and 2100, further increasing the demand for job opportunities.

  • An estimated 75% of Africa’s population is under the age of 35, which drives significant demands for employment and self-employment opportunities.
  • The African Development Bank estimates that one-third of youth are ‘unemployed and discouraged’ and another one-third are ‘vulnerably employed’. Only one in six are in wage employment.
  • There is a skills mismatch that keeps a large number of youths out of formal employment. This skills mismatch is driven by barriers to access and low availability/poor quality education and training.

Our Approach

To address these challenges created by the pandemic, in partnership with Credit Suisse (now UBS) and other visionary supporters, Opportunity is implementing three key program strategies:

  1. Adapt and scale the Education Finance model to accelerate impact. Today, the demand for quality schools represents one of the biggest unmet market opportunities in the world. Opportunity EduFinance has continued scaling its work in countries with large numbers of children out of school, in school but not learning, and with significant skills gaps driving youth unemployment. Opportunity EduFinance is also accelerating its expansion plans to unlock significant capital into the affordable private education sector. We will do this by recruiting, training, and supporting new financial institution partners to build education lending portfolios (school improvement loans to school owners and school fee loans to parents and students). We offer our financial institution partners technical services in the following areas: market assessments, product design, portfolio analysis, staff training, and automated credit scoring. We are also working on matching impact investment funds available in the market with our financial institution partners’ needs for additional loan capital. Through the combination of these services, our goal is to cumulatively impact an additional 7 million children.

  2. Digitize the Education Quality program to reach more schools. Through the project, Opportunity is expanding the digitally-enabled Education Quality program to 2,000 additional schools, impacting 600,000 students. Opportunity’s education quality team (education specialists) works with financial institution partners to get introductions to school proprietors who are committed to improving the quality of education in their schools by participating in Opportunity’s three-year Pathways to Excellence program (school development plan and teacher training), also called EduQuality. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Opportunity had plans to digitize EduQuality content, moving towards a ‘blended learning’ (mix of in-person and digital/paperless) delivery model. The school closures due to the COVID crisis significantly heightened the need for digital solutions and accelerated the pace for developing our digital content.

    Opportunity’s EduQuality team is using the Chalkboard for Education platform where it has developed and uploaded the EduQuality training content that can be used offline or in low-connectivity communities. This allows the EduQuality team to standardize training quality delivered by our rapidly growing education specialists teams. Digital content also expands the volume of resources and training content available to school leaders and teachers, while also reducing the number of in-person trainings needed to deliver content, better accommodating school leaders’ busy schedules during the school year. The blended learning model also drives down the overall EduQuality delivery costs, enabling Opportunity to offer the program to more schools currently enrolled in the lending program. Opportunity’s EduQuality expansion strategy focuses on the importance of contextualization of training resources, including translation, alignment with national teaching standards, and use of locally relevant examples for greater impact and learning. Digital resources include the Pathways to Excellence guide, Supplementary Resource library for school development planning, digital submission of the School Development Plan template, School Leadership Professional Development training content, and Teacher Mentor Professional Development modules that mentors will also deliver to their peer teachers. Over the duration of the project, more than 2,000 schools will receive tablets for school leaders and teacher mentors to access Opportunity’s EduQuality content on Chalkboard Education, ultimately driving changes in schools that create an enabling environment for over 600,000 students to improve their learning.

  3. Pilot Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Loan Products to drive youth employment opportunities. There is increasing recognition of the important role technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions can play to provide market-relevant job skills to students, if given the necessary market information, access, and financing. Investments and capacity building in the TVET sector could play a massive role in creating job opportunities (formal and self-employment) for young people, improving the future of work. To increase access to skills training for youth and further document learnings on the links between education and meaningful employment, Opportunity is providing financial institutions with technical services and other financial instruments (i.e. loan guarantees, collateral buy-downs, etc.) to reduce risk and build TVET loan portfolios: (1) school improvement loans to TVET school proprietors; (2) TVET school fee loans to parents and students; (3) start-up business loans to TVET graduates. 


  • Financial Institutions launch and grow EduFinance portfolios offering schools and parents tailored loan products
  • Schools improve the quality of education they offer students by boosting their capacity to run high quality, sustainable school businesses
  • Vocational Training Centers use capital to invest in expanding access to students, and improving the quality of training offered with investments in equipment, training staff and other resources, and students use loans to enroll in quality training programs linked to high demand market skills and to start new businesses

Project Details




Credit Suisse (now UBS)



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