Region: East Asia and Pacific
Keywords: Education, Knowledge Lab
In this paper, the authors describe why public-private partnerships (PPPs) should be considered as a potential approach for improving education outcomes in Asia. Theyhighlight several interesting models that are emerging across the region, including case examples from Malaysia, Pakistan, Hong Kong and India, as well as the neighbouring geographies of Australia and New Zealand. Further, the authors describe the challenges that PPP models often encounter, especially in Asia. Finally, they outline some key success factors to consider as government and private players increasingly engage in such partnerships, drawing on learnings from within Asia and other parts of the world.
Education, especially primary and secondary education, is critical to empowering people in the low- and middle-income brackets in countries around the world. However, quality education outcomes continue to remain elusive in many emerging countries, with low- and middle-income families facing the greatest challenge.
Some countries in Asia have made significant leaps in education. Singapore, for instance,
is considered to be among the top-performing countries in the world in terms of its school system. The top seven scorers in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings in 2012 were from Asian economies, with Singapore and Shanghai (China) having further extended their lead since the last PISA test.1 However, several Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia and Indonesia were ranked within the bottom third of the 65 participating countries in PISA 2012. And not only do some South Asian countries (e.g., India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) not even participate in PISA, they do not have any annual national assessment of their education systems either, making it challenging to assess the quality of education delivered. Local surveys in some of these countries (e.g., the ASER2 survey by Pratham in India) clearly indicate that huge gaps exist in terms of quality outcomes.
About 55 per cent of the estimated 350 million “out of school” children globally are in Asia, and a staggering 136 million children are in the South Asia region.3 Despite increased spending on education,4 the majority of developing Asian countries struggle with enrolment and retention as well as declining education outcomes. Well over a third of the 550 million “failing children” are in the Asia region (Exhibit 1). This suggests that countries may not be allocating their budgets to the most appropriate drivers of learning outcomes that are relevant for delivering improvements in the performance journey of their education systems (e.g., teacher training on instructional delivery).
At the same time, many of these countries also have pockets of higher quality education, in some cases managed by the private sector. Mostly, though, this higher quality capacity is not accessible to low-income children.
Updated: June 22, 2022