As the operators participating in the Partnership Schools for Liberia initiative prepare for a September opening of schools, the Ministry of Education has disclosed that River Gee and Grand Kru will be left out of the initiative to allow private operators to manage public schools.
According to ministry officials, schools were randomly selected to allow for proper evaluation. That, along with specific criteria for schools allowed to participate in the program, left out the two counties.
Katherine Pavelich, a consultant with the ministry, said the operators responding to the request for proposal were initially asked to name three or four counties of interest. The goal was to ensure that PSL was spread all across Liberia to demonstrate that this was a program that could be done across the country.
She said as the primary schools were being selected, they had to fit criteria already set by the ministry including having at least six classrooms and running on a single shift because many operators would be extending the school day longer than what was typical in Liberian schools.
â€œSo we used the EMIS data to identify the schools,â€ she said, referring to the system that contains educational data and statistics for the ministry. â€œAnd we matched that with not only the operatorsâ€™ preference but also the ministryâ€™s suggestion to be spreading out and reaching out into some of the counties that they would feel less comfortable with.â€
The result was a list of schools across the country that met the criteria set for PSL schools. Pavelich said, of these schools, the ministry then randomized the schools, with half of them being selected as PSL schools, and the rest randomly selected as control schools.
As Pavelich explained, it was important to have control schools because the ministry needed to determine reasonably whether private management of PSL schools would be tied to the schoolsâ€™ performance as opposed to the schools being influenced by the preferential selection and training of teachers, better facilities, and a longer school day. The control schools would still be managed by the government, but they would also have these similar upgrades that PSL schools were undergoing.
â€œThe randomization is what decided if the schools werenâ€™t in certain counties and the randomization is completely out of our hands, but we were lucky enough that the schools did end up being in 13 out of the 15 counties,â€ Pavelich said. â€œAnd randomization is, I would say, the gold standard of evaluation because weâ€™ve reached all these counties across Liberia, the evaluation will give us a good idea of what the impact of PSL is and how the impact can be applied in future years and if this program should be scaled in Liberia.â€
Featured photo by Dominic Chavez/World Bank