Global partnerships: Moving the needle on education in Liberia

By: Leslie Engle Young, PoP Chief Impact Officer

There are numerous reasons why the education system in Liberia has deteriorated. Under-supported teaching, lack of accountability, insufficient funds, 14 years of civil war and, more recently, the Ebola virus, which has further stonewalled educational reforms.

Photo Credit: Bridge International Academies

The future of Liberian students remains stagnant:

  • More than 1/3 of 2nd grade kids cannot read.
  • Since many are held back, teenagers often take classes with 6 year olds.
  • In 2014, only 13 candidates out of 15,000 passed an entrance exam for the University of Liberia. In 2013, not one candidate passed. 1

In January 2016, the Liberian Ministry of Education announced its intention to launch a public private partnership with the goal of enhancing their school system Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL). Launched in September 2016, PSL consists of 93 schools, which are operated by 8 private actors.

PoP believes that everyone deserves access to a quality education, so we partnered with Bridge International Academies to begin working in 25 of these schools. Bridge has developed systems and processes integrated with innovations in technology to ensure that every student receives a high quality education. With the support of Worldreader, our role is to reinforce the work of Bridge by supplying and maintaining an e-reader program in order to increase literacy.

This pilot is being externally evaluated through a randomized control trial led by economist Justin Sandefur from the Center for Global Development, and Innovations for Poverty Action. The evaluation will measure the performance of schools run by the private partners (treatment schools) compared against that of the government run schools (control schools).

Caring deeply about using data collection to inform our strategy and programmatic evolution, together with Bridge, PoP has implemented an internal evaluation system using Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) testing. A sample of treatment and control schools are being tested during baseline, midline and endline periods during this first year of program implementation.

This evaluation is not meant to definitively determine the impact of our program, but rather to provide some indication of the relative benefits to these students that result from our programmatic intervention with Bridge. This pilot assessment, unlike an impact study, favors rapid response over precision and certainty. The tradeoffs that impair precision and certainty, such as its small sample size, the use of a nonrandom comparison group of schools and a sizable student attrition rate, are also the features of the study that reduce time and cost, and ultimately make it possible to produce a rapid performance comparison.

After receiving midline results, we’ve observed clear performance differences between treatment and control schools. In just four months of instruction, early grade students in the program are demonstrating superior reading skills compared to those of their counterparts in traditional public schools. In other words, students in this program are reading faster and with greater accuracy.

It will be some time before we know the full impact of the intervention, but these initial findings suggest that students in Bridge PSL public schools are learning better and faster than their peers.

As an organization dedicated to advancements in learning through experimentation and innovation, PoP is excited to move forward with this project in Liberia with the goal of informing our partnership strategy in literacy.

To learn more about the partnership and its results, see the Learning in Liberia full report.


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