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Private education plays expanding role across Africa (Financial Times)

May 3, 2017

From the article:

As many as one in four young Africans, or 66m pupils, could be enrolled in some form of private education by 2021, furthering what has been a surge of private schooling across the continent, according to a report. The growth in private education has been driven by parents’ lack of faith in public education or inability to find a place, but critics warn that private schools can exacerbate inequality, erode expertise in the public sector and, in some cases, provide an inferior education. The report, conducted by Caerus Capital, a Washington-based consultancy, concluded, however, that African governments that block the advance of private education on ideological grounds risk losing out on both finance and expertise...

Many African governments struggle to pay teachers, some of whom skip school to farm or do second jobs. Roughly 30m children in sub-Saharan Africa, whose population is growing faster than on any other continent, receive no schooling at all, according to Unicef. In practice, gaps have been plugged by private entities, from local faith-based and community schools in remote villages or slums, to international groups offering both low- and high-cost education. Quality is mixed. Some private schools achieve better results than state ones, although critics say that is because they cater to better-off students. But others are of poor quality...

Justin Sandefur, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, said it was important to distinguish between fee-paying schools and private provision of free education. There had long been a consensus among educators that poor families should not be paying for education, he said.

However, he said some African governments did not have the capacity to deliver free, universal schooling, in which case they might contract private providers to improve quality and reach. Liberia last year began a pilot project to contract out the management of some schools to for-profit and not-for-profit providers.

However, Mr Sandefur said there was little evidence to back claims that private providers could consistently improve standards or that successful schemes could be scaled up to national level.

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