Partnering with the private sector is an increasingly popular—but largely unproven—tool to improve public service delivery in fragile states. When the Liberian government delegated management of 93 public schools to private contractors, it sparked controversy at home and internationally. In response, the government agreed to an impact evaluation of learning outcomes one year into the program. Senior fellow Justin Sandefur and a team of researchers conducted a randomized control trial, finding that while privately managed schools improved learning, the largest contractor ran up high costs and brought negative unintended consequences for some pupils and teachers. Sandefur and his coauthors presented their findings to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her cabinet, injecting much-needed data to the heated debate around public-private partnerships for education.
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