Despite criticisms from certain quarters regarding government’s current effort to upgrade the education sector through the outsourcing of primary education to the private sector, investigations conducted by this paper show that private public partnerships actually benefit the poor or low income families who don’t have the money to send their kids to private schools but want quality education for their kids at the same time.
According to recent World Bank studies on the necessity of contracting public schools to private institutions, “private organizations can advise public schools in pedagogical and management issues for a specific period of time, under contract stipulations and with the possibility of transferring the school back into public management. When a private contractor provides schools with technical assistance and has the ability to influence school decision-making, this can help reduce inefficiencies and thus improve the management of the school.”Vol 1 No 59 front cover
Under the PPP arrangement, governments can hire private organizations to provide a range of support services to public and private schools that cater to low-income students. In many countries, the capacity of the public sector to deliver high-quality education is compromised by a lack of knowledge of effective pedagogical (teaching) practices. To mitigate this, governments can contract with private organizations that have had proven successes with their education methods to provide certain key services such as teacher training, curriculum design, textbook provision, and supplemental services for public or private schools educating poor students.
This is just what Education Minister George says he’s fighting for through the innovative “Partnership Schools for Liberia” program.
“Every child deserves a great education – one that allows her to follow her dreams and achieve her potential. And yet in Liberia we are failing too many of our children. Our teachers, our schools and our system all face deep and embedded challenges. Unfortunately, it is in the poorest communities where those challenges are greatest,” says Werner.
The new project to be launched in September 2016, aims to bring lessons from elsewhere in the world, including South Africa, Kenya, the US and UK, to Liberia.
“We have learned from these models and are adapting them to our own unique context. The project is called Partnership Schools for Liberia. The Ministry of Education will contract operators from within and outside of Liberia to run public primary schools. The schools will remain within the public sector, owned, financed, regulated and quality assured by government, with support from external donors. Together, we will bring new ideas, new capacity, new systems and new expertise to a system that is struggling to deliver,” Werner says.
Partnership Schools, Werner maintains, have one overriding mission: to provide every child, regardless of family background or income, access to high-quality education. “All Partnership Schools will be free and non-selective. No tuition fees will be charged. Instead non-government operators will be funded by government and donors, and they will be accountable to government for the results they deliver,” the education czar told Capitol Times.
With 1-5 million of Liberian children enrolled in primary schools, most of which lack basic facilities such as latrine, safe drinking water and recreational facilities, it is increasing dawning on more Liberians the need to rethink the educational sector through outsourcing of primary education .
“I believe the main issue has been the lack of enough public awareness about this so-called PPP program. Honestly, we all want quality education for our children. If it can be done through partnership schools we are willing to test the system,” says James Kiadii, a resident of Brewerville City and a graduate of the William V.S. Tubman High School in Sinkor during the early 1980s.
The Faith Kinder Care School is the leading private primary education school in Lower Virginia, where most low income families are sending their kids. The school’s teaching style is completely different from any public school in the community, parents admit.
“Of course we welcome this step being undertaken by the Ministry of Education to upgrade our primary education system. We hope they will come to us at the right time to tap into our knowledge base,” says Vero Togar, principal of the Faith Kinder Care School.
Criticisms aside, with the countless best practices outlined in favor of partnership schools, Liberia might – just might benefit from an “experiment” that could turn things 360 degrees in favor of education.