Public-private partnerships in early childhood development: The role of publicly funded private provision

Editor's note:

This paper was updated in December 2017 with two case studies on Mozambique and South Africa.

Collaboration between the public and private sector in development is growing and public-private partnerships (PPPs) are increasingly being utilized as a way to address challenges and gaps in traditional education and health delivery, with the potential to accelerate progress toward the global aims of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With the aim of improving access to and the quality of services, PPPs have the potential to effectively target poor and marginalized populations. However, the structure, mechanisms, and form of the people and organizations­—otherwise called actors—that engage in PPPs can vary widely, resulting in a diverse array of definitions, conceptualization, and models. Common elements of PPPs frequently include some type of formalized partnership between public and private actors, clearly defined outcome or performance metrics, payments tied to the delivery of services, agreed-upon quality and quantity levels, defined prices, a set long-term operation period, and shared risk across partners. A range of mechanisms for harnessing private-sector expertise and capacity have been applied within the education and early childhood development sphere, including for the management and operation of schools, the provision of education to a specific population through a voucher or subsidy, the training of teachers and other staff, and the development of textbooks or curricula.

This study seeks to provide clarity on the different forms and classification of PPPs and concentrates on a subset of PPP models that are publicly-financed and privately-delivered early childhood development (ECD) services. Namely, this subset is inclusive of vouchers and voucher-like programs, education service delivery initiatives, and the private management of public institutions. Specifically, the study explores the application of PPPs for pre-primary education and parent education about early stimulation, in particular, analyzing the potential to address capacity constraints as well as the potential challenges in their use. In addition, case studies of two specific examples of PPPs for ECD in Mozambique and South Africa can be found in Appendix A and B, respectively. This is a research area that deserves greater attention given the limited robust analysis to date.

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