Liberia: Uproar amongst academics as Ministry of education blocks independent research on privatisation

published 14 June 2017 updated 15 June 2017

Renowned academics from all over the world are asking the Education Minister of Liberia to allow independent research on a private for-profit education project.

Over 30 academics from renowned universities have signed an open letter to George Werner, Minister of Education of Liberia, expressing their deep concern about “both [his] reluctance to permit independent research of the Partnership Schools for Liberia pilot programme and [his] rush to expand the pilot before evidence is available.” The Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) project aims to outsource all Liberian primary and pre-primary schools, opening  the door to a sweeping privatisation of the country’s school system.

The letter comes after a last-minute action by the Werner Ministry, who blocked an independent research team from the University of Wisconsin commissioned by Education International and ActionAid. The aim of the research mission was to conduct a qualitative study of the Partnership Schools for Liberia pilot project. However, the researchers were denied access to schools. “It is our view that permitting and facilitating independent academic inquiry is a precondition for transparency and good governance,” the signatories remind.

Without enough data to fully understand how the Partnership schools will operate and what impact they are bound to have on the education system, the letter argues that the government should be extra careful in its plans to scale up the initial pilot programme. The expansion, planned from September 2017, could be a “damaging path.”

Last April, the minister earned himself a public rebuke by the government appointed evaluation team for announce the scaling-up of the pilot before any reports had been submitted . In a tweet to which an open letter is attached, the lead reviewer says "Next year too soon to scale (no evidence, no capacity)."

The open letter signed by the academics can be found here