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Education for All: How We Can Leverage the Non-State Sector to Reach Our Goals

Harry A. Patrinos's picture

Many have argued this past week for an increased financial boost to achieve the education Millennium Development Goals -- universal primary completion and gender parity in education. But what should spending focus on, and how can we get the best from both public and private financing?

Not only are we missing the mark in terms of the MDGs for education – currently 69 million children of primary age are out of school, but this is only part of the story. Millions of children drop out early every year, and many of those who do graduate are still not mastering the basic skills in reading and math that are necessary to help them find gainful employment. As we scale up efforts, we must leverage the resources and participation of all, including private and non-state actors, to help reach these goals.

Education practitioners can often be squeamish about involving the non-state sector. But judicious involvement of non-state players such as NGOs, communities, faith-based organizations, trade unions, private companies, and individual practitioners can improve school performance – through competition, accountability and autonomy – as well as expand access. Non-state initiatives can bring fresh ideas into the mix and such innovations often increase the involvement of students, parents and teachers. Our new toolkit released with the CfBT Education Trust assists policymakers in understanding how the public and private sector can better collaborate to expand access and improve the quality of education.

Making learning for all a reality is a priority for the development community and the call for increased funding is essential. But it’s not just about pouring more cash into the poorest areas. Now more than ever we have a growing body of evidence on what works to increase both enrolment and quality.

In our recent book, Making Schools Work, Barbara Bruns, Deon Filmer and I outline ways to address the education crisis based on recent evidence from a number of rigorous evaluations.  Some of the most promising examples comes from the need to improve quality by increasing teacher accountability. Since school systems are predominantly state-funded and therefore subject to top-down teacher policies, innovation has come from contracting within the public system. Schools that don’t rely on public funding have more autonomy over teacher hiring, firing and management. This has led to experiments using both carrots and sticks to improve teacher accountability. We look at two types of policies: bonuses for teachers that achieve improved student results; and the hiring of ‘contract teachers’. These teachers can be subject to standards set by the community, rather than a distant central government and our research shows that contract teachers had the single largest effect of all on improving quality. 

As we step up our efforts to achieve learning for all, we clearly have to use every means at our disposal. Expanding the use of contract teachers can be a quick way of extending access to education and achieving our goals.  Tapping the non-state sector to support such contracting efforts is worth a try.  As are attempts to involve parents and the community in overseeing teacher performance, another area that we reviewed in our book and for which we show promising results.  All this needs to be done within strong systems of accountability that include the dissemination of school results to all stakeholders.

Check out our Engaging the Private Non-State Sector in Education toolkit for more.


Submitted by A Collier on
I think your ideas and comments are very valued and exciting for the future of development. However as a MSC Student in International Development, I think you are missing a key issue in regards to teachers and their monitoring. Surely the project needs to look more widely and research deeper into teachers anxiety and their socio-economic issues. For example, do they not feel prepared or are they overwhelmed by the influx of new students in conditions that are perhaps not ready for such a high intake? Are there transport issues which could be resolved? Or is it familial ties that are the problem? Instead of putting money towards more 'accountability' policies and higher wages, money should be spent on researching the root causes of the teachers anxieties.

Submitted by Offei Okoffo Manteaw on
I am African, so will take a biased look at the subject; however, I believe too that as a global citizen some of these views will apply in diverse international contexts. First, I will say that I find it personally refreshing to see the Learning for All strategy; while it is not necessarily a move a way from the earlier strategy—Education for All, this new strategy at least seeks to expand on the notions of both learning and education. In that regard, the strategy recognizes that learning does not only happen in school classrooms but in other spaces and contexts. The strategy also calls on the world to reconsider what quality education is and what education systems (used inclusively here) should do to make education more functional and accessible. My fear, however, is that we may approach this strategy as we have in all past similar strategies by seeing it as another opportunity to pour money and resources into education systems. For most of Africa, money and resources may be required, but the question is how we ensure that they are maximized and utilized to full effect. I have always believed that the number one consideration for educational development in Africa is infrastructural and resource provision. Included in the required resources is quality teacher education. As part of the strategy, attention needs to be focused on attracting and retaining the best in teacher education to produce creative and adaptive teachers who can facilitate learning processes not only in schools but also in communities. This has been the traditional role of teachers in most communities in Africa and it was only possible because of the quality of teachers and the quality of training they received. This has since changed as most teachers now struggle to even live up to expectations in schools. Reasons vary and are numerous; however, it is important for this strategy to refocus on teachers as transformative intellectuals and bearers of pedagogy who can be functional both in formal and non-formal learning settings if and when given the appropriate training. The idea, I believe is to expand learning opportunities beyond the school wall by putting in place the necessary structures and arrangements to support that. Also in Africa, one approach to making Learning for All work is the engagement of the private sector in educational processes. Here, while non-state educational providers schools are already playing invaluable roles in the provision of learning opportunities, my focus is more on businesses who make educational development a part of their social responsibility agenda. Major business entities in Africa have committed to providing services to educational institutions in Africa. These services vary and include provision of materials and infrastructure such as buildings etc. These are currently done within the spirit of philanthropy even though businesses have external benefits. It will be helpful is these CSR or philanthropic activities are streamlined and used as avenues to support the Learning for All agenda. In this regard, I am suggesting that more school-business partnerships are encouraged to enhance learning processes. Schools as centers of pedagogies can benefit from the organizational efficiencies of the private sector and vice versa. Also, supports to schools from the private sector could be presented as incentives to both schools and their teachers if certain targets or goals are achieved. Thus, business roles in education could be moved away from philanthropy and PR activities to more substantial programming that actually go to enhance Learning for All.

Education for all is the right of every one. The education is the basic key for the development of any nation / country . With out education no revolution can be successful to build the nation.

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