New Public Private Partnerships in Education

By Sarah Carson

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) in education are often categorized based solely on funding and management—i.e., private funding and public management and vice versa.  However, these categories oversimplify the complex partnership structures developed in recent years to meet one of today’s most pressing development challenges – youth education and workforce training.

Education PPPs 1 (1)Some governments have begun to contract out infrastructure services to private companies. For example, in Egypt’s New Schools PPP Project, the government’s General Authority of Educational Buildings contracted out school design, construction, and maintenance services to the private sector through an open bidding process. The government, meanwhile, continues to provide funding and all educational services. In the project’s first stage alone, it enabled the creation of 345 new public schools throughout Egypt.

In private professional support services partnerships, the government remains the principal source of funding and management, but the private sector supplements service delivery by providing professional services such as teacher training. This is the widely-lauded model used by Colombian NGO Escuela Nueva, which assists government schools in updating curricula, teaching educational methods, and other technical assistance.

Community schools are designed to enhance local ownership of education, by giving communities much of the management responsibilities. Financial support for these initiatives is often drawn from a combination of government ministries, civil society organizations, and the community. One frequently cited example is the Reaching Out of School Children initiative in Bangladesh, which was able to bring over 790,000 out-of-school children into its community schools between 2005-2012. This project was funded by a combination of the World Bank, Bangladesh’s Ministry of Education, local government offices, NGOs, and the community-run Center of Management Committee.

In private-to-public transfers, a private organization both funds and manages a school and facilitates but only temporarily, preparing the school for an eventual transition to public management. The U.S. used this strategy in USAID’s Partnership for Advancing Community Education in Afghanistan (PACE-A). This program was designed to expand educational services to Afghanistan’s conflict-affected and displaced communities and eventually reached 29 districts in rural Afghanistan. Under PACE-A, teachers received the national Afghan teacher training certification and students were educated using the Afghan curriculum in order to facilitate the eventual transfer of these privately-operated schools into government hands.

These examples highlight some of the diverse and innovative partnerships that have arisen in global education. Understanding how these partnerships work, and how they can be adopted in various contexts, is an important step toward continued progress.

Sarah Carson is a researcher with the Project on Prosperity and Development.

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