Learning gains set to continue as Liberian government commits to public private partnership program

Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) is a radical initiative designed to transform the future of Liberian children. It is bold and brave; an education flagship program led by Africans for Africa that could have exciting consequences for the rest of the Continent. When a new Liberian government took the helm, after a measured election process, President Weah committed to education, putting it at the heart of the Government’s agenda. In his State of the Nation Address he said: “The improvement of our education system is and shall remain a constant and major priority during my administration.”

PSL seemed a fitting vehicle to fulfil that commitment. But, wisely the President and the Minister for Education decided to explore the education landscape in Liberia and come to their own conclusions. The new leadership at the helm of the Ministry of Education wanted to see with their own eyes what was happening in traditional public schools and across PSL schools now that the program has been running for nearly two years.

Their investigation followed a highly anticipated independent evaluation conducted by the Centre for Global Development and Innovations for Poverty Action last year. The study was greeted with much excitement and pride when it revealed learning had increased by 60% inside partnership schools. (With Bridge PSL students learning twice as much as their peers.)

Of course, all was not perfect. It never is at the beginning of major reform initiatives, and rightly the new government wanted to examine the program for itself before committing to its future development. For example, the Government’s capacity to employ new teachers and fill critical vacancies at some schools has been hampered by several challenges, including payroll enrollment. Working closely with the Ministry of Education to support vetting and placement of qualified teachers and identifying so called ‘ghost teachers’ has been an important task. Progress has been made and just last week the Executive Mansion said that 480 teachers had been added to the payroll.

Despite some challenges, PSL has helped deliver meaningful change and for the first time it seems that a generation of children have the chance of leaving school able to read and write. The Ministry agrees, after “routine performance management measured through program assessment and reporting”. We are grateful that after careful reflection, assessment and stakeholder engagement the new Government has decided that the country’s flagship education initiative will continue in Liberia.

There is of course work to be done to put the program on the correct footing for the long term and we are looking forward to working closely with the Ministry to implement those changes; and helping to forge a strategy that will enhance the effectiveness of the public-private partnership programme. We are excited to continue to serve local families and communities from Monrovia to Maryland County and proud to continue as a partner of the Government of Liberia. Over the next year I am confident we will see learning gains further improved as the program embeds itself in the country; more teachers will get on the government payroll and more of Liberia’s children will shine bright.