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How the Private Sector Can Help Achieve Learning for All

Svava Bjarnason's picture

The World Bank Group’s new Education Strategy 2020 champions learning for all and recognizes that global progress towards this goal will require the commitment of all actors – including governments, communities and private entities. The strategy acknowledges the vital role the private sector can play in helping expand and improve educational opportunity. Private sector participation in education is a growing part of education systems and has helped make significant educational advancements possible in many countries.

How can we leverage the valuable contributions of the private sector to help realize the goal of Learning for All?

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is the World Bank Group’s private sector investment arm and has been supporting private sector participation in education for the past decade. For example, in Colombia IFC financing supports Uniminuto, a private tertiary education institution that provides low-cost professional and technical education for students from lower-income backgrounds.

Education has become one of IFC’s strategic pillars, with a current portfolio of over $400 million invested. IFC’s portfolio has  63 projects in 31 countries; 37% of which are in the poorest countries. The total value of projects co-financed by IFC is over $1.5 billion - since IFC funding is intended to be catalytic and help build capacity, it is not a majority investor in any given project. The strategic principles of Learning for All, which emphasize investing smartly to maximize resources, provides ground for new private sector investments to emerge with IFC financing over the next decade.

Building a better knowledge base of the scope and scale of private sector participation in education will be one valuable outcome of the new strategy. Country data collection efforts have historically focused almost wholly on public sector provision; therefore, little official data exists on private sector contributions to the sector. The proposed development of a broad system assessment tool and the work on SABER, the new benchmarking tool, will provide essential information and build a much clearer understanding of private sector issues, such as regulatory policy interventions to ensure quality and standards of provision.

Education Strategy 2020 provides a platform for increased dialogue between government and private sector providers. This will create a greater understanding of the private sector’s potential to meet demand for high quality education across the entire education landscape – from early childhood education to tertiary education and beyond. This dialogue begins with working purposefully together to identify opportunities for sharing knowledge and developing country assistance strategies that embrace elements of both public and private provision. Dialogue and action can build on early successes, such as the World Bank Group's recent:

The strategy also brings World Bank Group leadership together to identify specific instruments that will enable us to create new approaches to funding that meet growing country-level demand.  The recently launched Education for Employment (e4e) initiative in the Middle East and North Africa is a concrete example of a project that brings together efforts to achieve a common goal. 

As the implementation of our new Education Strategy evolves over the coming decade, there will continue to be significant changes in the global education landscape – and a more collaborative approach between the public and private sectors than in the previous decade will be necessary to achieve learning for all.

Want to learn more? Read The Role and Impact of Public-Private Partnerships in Education

Photo credit: IFC

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