Education International, which represents teachers unions around the world, issued a bulletin about disturbing developments in Liberia, which threaten freedom of research about the performance of corporate outsourced schools.
EI wrote in a letter I received:
“As you would be aware, just over 12 months ago, in an unprecedented move, the Government of Liberia announced its intention to out-source its entire primary and pre-primary school system to Bridge International Academies in 5 tranches.
“As a result of considerable opposition to the announcement, the Government announced a one year pilot program called Partnership Schools Liberia (PSL) involving 8 actors operating 93 schools.
“At the time of the announcement, the Government gave a number of assurances, including that the pilot would be subject to a rigorous evaluation.
“Approximately 6 weeks ago, less than 6 months into the “trial”, the Minister announced that he was preparing to announce a scale-up of the PSL without waiting for the outcome of the evaluation.
“On 18 May, in a further disturbing move, the Minister blocked an independent research team from the University of Wisconsin from conducting qualitative research into the PSL by denying them access to schools.”
Here is the letter:
AN OPEN LETTER TO GEORGE WERNER, MINISTER OF EDUCATION, LIBERIA
We are writing to express deep concern about both your reluctance to permit independent research of the Partnership Schools for Liberia pilot programme and your rush to expand the pilot before evidence is available.
Education International, with support from ActionAid, commissioned an independent research team from the University of Wisconsin to conduct qualitative research which was designed to complement the Randomised Control Trial evaluation that is already underway in Liberia with the Center for Global Development (CGD) in partnership with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). We understand that, having indicated your support for this complementary research, you withdrew that support at the last moment (just as the researchers were due to fly to Liberia) and will not now permit the researchers to access the pilot schools.
The Partnership Schools for Liberia pilot has a very high profile internationally and warrants detailed study. We understand that a lot has been invested in the RCT evaluation, but no single evaluation, however well-designed, will ever provide a comprehensive picture of a pilot programme as complex as the one you have initiated. By blocking independent research you are depriving the academic and policy community important opportunities to fully understand this pilot.
It is our view that permitting and facilitating independent academic inquiry is a precondition for transparency and good governance, particularly when you are seeking to challenge established practices and norms.
You will be aware of the widespread concerns about how Bridge International Academies blocked independent research in Uganda and have failed to allow external evaluation of their schools whilst making bold claims for their success based on their own internal data. This is very poor practice and we would be very concerned if the Ministry of Education in Liberia played a role in extending such practices.
Our second major area of concern relates to your plans to scale up the initial pilot programme even before findings from the evaluation and research come through. You have previously gone on record stressing that any scaling up would be subject to the findings from the initial pilot programme (over three years) but from the latest reports it seems you are now planning a significant expansion from September 2017, without any of those findings being ready. This flies in the face of evidence-based policy making and suggests that you are only paying lip-service to the importance of research and evaluation. Such a move makes the pilot programme appear to be one driven largely by ideology. Indeed it undermines the RCT evaluation as well as the value of any complementary research.
We urge you to move away from this present damaging path, to reassert the importance of using evidence to inform your policy choices and to commit publically to supporting and facilitating independent research at the start of the new school year in September.
from novemoore http://ift.tt/2rM7rhF