Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) is a pilot programme run by the Liberian 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, 93 Liberian schools were selected to be managed by non-state operators, in a randomised control trial. The schools will remain within the public sector, owned, financed, regulated and quality assured by government, with support from external donors, and free to all students.
PSL 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 is 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
- Liberian Youth Network – a children’s charity from Liberia
- 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
- Stella Maris Polytechnic – a Liberian higher education institution
- Street Child, a charity that works with vulnerable children in Liberia and Sierra Leone
In addition, we have directly contracted Bridge International Academies, who are running 25 schools as part of PSL.
Are operators making a profit out of PSL?
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 will be measured on this. 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. All operators that are collaborating on PSL 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. Operators will have clear deliverables, and decisions on future involvement will depend on performance.
PSL schools: measuring success
The Ministry of Education has worked with Ark (a charity group working in an advisory role to the government) to improve 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. This will allow us to see the results of the pilot, and compare these to the control group. There will also be rigorous and regular ongoing monitoring of school operating partners, to ensure they 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) has formed the basis for a mid-line report, which you can find on the Center for Global Development’s site.
PSL schools will be regularly monitored by the Ministry of Education, and data and assessments will provide an ongoing picture of what is happening in the schools. PSL is drawing on the best evidence around the world in similar programs. We do not see PSL as an experiment, but rather an ambitious attempt to kick-start change based on best practice.