Education Experts Square Off on the Public Versus Private School Debate in Africa
Although it may seem counterintuitive, nearly three times as many primary school children are enrolled in private schools in developing countries than in developed ones, according to United Nations figures.
Across Africa, an average of 16 percent of young people in education attend private schools and in some countries the figure is much higher. In Liberia, for example, 60 percent of secondary school enrollments are private, while the figure is 50 percent in Sierra Leone and 40 percent in Burkina Faso, according to World Bank data.
However, these are not the kind of private schools with smart uniforms and expensive trips. Many are set up in remote, rural locations not served by government schools, and they include both fee-paying and donor funded non-state options. Evidence shows their numbers have been growing dramatically in some countries in recent years.
This trend is central to the hotly contested debate on the role of private schools in delivering education in developing countries — where, according to the U.N., 263 million children, adolescents and youth were out of school as of 2014. While some argue that private schools will be crucial to meeting the sustainable development agenda, which calls for inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030, others argue that government schools are the only scalable and inclusive option for ensuring quality education for all.