*Liberian Education Advancement Program (LEAP) is a pilot program run by the Ministry of Education and selected non-state school operators. PSL has one overriding mission: to provide every child, regardless of family background or income, access to high-quality education. The program is working collaboratively with successful operators to create great schools that are hubs of innovation and educational excellence – with the ultimate aim of rolling out what works across the wider system.
During the first year of the program, which concluded in July 2017, providers operated 93 schools in 13 counties across Liberia, providing free, quality education to more than 27,000 students. The schools remained within the public sector, owned, financed, regulated and quality-assured by the government, with support from external donors, and free to all students.
During the second year, which began in September 2017, there has been a modest increase in the number of schools to 194, prioritizing increasing presence in disadvantaged regions such as the southeast.
LEAP school operators
We have a range of different school operators taking part in the trial, from inside and outside Liberia. They bring different experiences to the ways schools can be run in similar contexts, and their inclusion brings a wealth of diversity and allows different models to be used. When choosing which operators to work with, we worked with Ark to run a rigorous competitive bidding process, from which seven operators were chosen from a total of 11 bids. PSL was the first randomized control trial of public schools under private management in Africa, and the only such project worldwide to incorporate such rigorous evaluation from the very start. The operators are:
- BRAC Liberia – the Liberia branch of the NGO from Bangladesh
- Bridge International Academies
- More Than Me – a Liberian charity that focuses on providing better education in the country, particularly for girls
- Omega Schools – which runs schools in Ghana for low-income communities
- Rising Academies – a group of schools which currently works in Sierra Leone
- Street Child, a charity that works with vulnerable children in Liberia and Sierra Leone
- Youth Movement for Collective Action
As of the second year, all operators are on the same contract.
- PSL Partnership Agreement Between Government of Liberia (See bottom of page for annex documents)
- List of LEAP Schools and Operators
Are operators making a profit out of LEAP?
The school operator pool includes a range of different operators – both profit and non-profit. The ultimate goal is the quality of education, and all providers are measured on this. All LEAP Schools are tuition-free and non-selective. Non-government operators are funded by government and donors, and they are accountable to Government for the results they deliver. All operators that are collaborating on LEAP are doing so because they share our mission for a better education for all pupils in Liberia – and this includes free education for all pupils. The Ministry has designed clear deliverables, and decisions on future involvement which depend on performance.
LEAP schools: measuring success
The Ministry of Education worked with Ark in year one of the program (a charity group working in an advisory role to the government) to improve the process for collecting and making better use of school data, as well as introducing inspection frameworks and standardized tests – neither of which existed in Liberia before. There is rigorous and regular ongoing monitoring of school operating partners by Social Finance, to ensure operators deliver quality education and are using public fund responsibly. At the end of year one, an external independent evaluation (run by the Center for Global Development and Innovations for Poverty Action) formed the basis for a mid-line report, which you can find on the Center for Global Development’s site.
LEAP schools are regularly monitored by the Ministry of Education, and data and assessments provide an ongoing picture of what is happening in the schools. LEAP draws on the best evidence around the world in similar programs. We do not see LEAP as an experiment, but rather an ambitious attempt to kick-start change based on best practice.
Other LEAP-related documents:
The Liberian Education Advancement Program (LEAP) was previously referred to as the Partnership Schools for Liberia.