What matters for education reform? Lessons from the Partnership Schools for Liberia experiment and beyond

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Pauline Rose,
World Education Blog,
Sept 13, 2017


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Privatization and private investment are often seen as key to the creation of educational opportunities in the devleoping world. This article (4 page PDF) is a useful and fairminded look at some such initiatives in Liberia. It shows there are grounds for scepticism about the claims being made. “After one year, public schools managed by private operators raised student learning by 60 percent compared to standard public schools. But costs were high, performance varied across operators, and contracts authorized the largest operator to push excess pupils and under-performing teachers into other government schools.” The question here is: could the same result be obtained by public, or state-sponsored, schooling. Yes and no. Probably yes, if the conditions were the same. But the state doesn’t have the liberty to simply demand more money, nor to exclude a population of students from schooling. We need to remember that gains realized by privatization always come at a cost, and that the people being asked to pay are often those least likely to be consulted.

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