Liberia asks NGOs to run country’s state schools
14th February, 2018: Liberia’s education system is
notorious for its highest percentage of out-of- school primary children in the
world. In a bid to improve the availability and quality of schools, the West
African country has asked a range of non-government organizations to run some
of the country’s state schools, to see how results compare.
As expected, it has triggered a controversy, with supporters defending it as a bold innovation which will raise standards and opponents dismissing it as a pathway to privatizing the state school system.
The Liberian government has decided to transfer the management of 93 government schools to eight private operators - mostly international school groups, but also some home grown operators. These schools remained state schools - with government teachers, open enrolment, and no fees. It is visualized as a kind of public-private partnership. The program is officially called Partnership Schools for Liberia program (PSL)
The program compares well with the academies programme, which has been rolled out in England several years ago.
An independent assessment team has found out that students of schools under PSL program has made learning gains of more than half an extra year of schooling in English, and two thirds of an extra year in maths - versus the government schools. On average learning gains were 60% higher in partnership schools in the experiment compared with the government schools is recorded.
It is also found that teachers of PSL Schools were 20% more likely to be in school during a random spot check, while students spent roughly twice as long learning each week.
PSL has also brought down the cumulative cost on the part of the government by making the educational process much more efficient.
The report states: “But for education reformers worldwide and for the children of Liberia, this has been a promising intervention - the challenge is now to build up government capacity and bring down costs. Both are likely to be necessary if a promising experiment can truly change the face of Liberian education.”