The role of Public-Private Partnerships in Universal Secondary Education in Uganda: an expanded Theory of Change approach.
University of Cambridge
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Ellison, C. (2021). The role of Public-Private Partnerships in Universal Secondary Education in Uganda: an expanded Theory of Change approach. (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.78082
The role of Public-Private Partnerships in delivering Universal Secondary Education in Uganda: an expanded Theory of Change approach The Sustainable Development Goals commit signatories to ensure that ‘all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education’ by 2030. The ambitious goal is much more comprehensive than the previous targets, emphasising the need to ‘leave no one behind’ not only at primary but also the secondary level. Low and middle-income countries have made important progress toward reaching the 2015 targets, which focused on access and completion. This has largely been attributed to the widespread removal of school fees at the primary level. Meeting the expanded goals of secondary completion will require building on the lessons learned from prior policies, especially the elimination of school fees not only at primary levels but also among earlier adopters at secondary level. Uganda’s decision to eliminate school fees in secondary schools in 2007, the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to do so, presents an opportunity to learn from their approach to expanding access to secondary school. A key aspect of the Ugandan approach was the decision to partner with low-fee private schools in the provision of Universal Secondary Education. The number of these schools increased quickly and by 2018 provided education to nearly one third of all secondary students in Uganda. It was also in 2018 when President Museveni announced that funding to these public-private partnership (PPPs) schools was to stop. Given the recent nature of the policy and its reversal, there has been limited research into the impact of PPPs in reaching the central goal of USE to increase equitable access to secondary education. During the decade when PPPs in secondary education were promoted, Uganda only registered an increase in net enrolment rate of 6%, an increase from 18% in 2007 to 24% in 2018. As well as continued overall low enrolment, prior research also identifies gaps in provision for marginalised groups. However, to-date the literature has not examined the role of PPPs in contributing to these outcomes. Just as we do not know how the policy led to these outcomes, we also know very little about why. While the literature delineates the role of democratic processes in the adoption of Universal Primary Education in Uganda, the literature on Universal Secondary Education remains largely apolitical. There is thus a need to unpack the political and economic relationships that underpin and intersect with the policy and the decision to partner with non-state actors in its delivery. We also need to understand how these interests shaped the implementation and eventual reversal of the policy. This is an important contribution in a context where countries in Africa and beyond increasingly face similar internal and external pressures to extend fee free policies to the lower secondary level. The thesis uses a theory of change framework to understand the way in which the delivery of Universal Secondary Education through PPPs sought to increase access for all. The framework is useful, enabling us to drill into the mechanisms of the policy and the changes in supply and demand that the policy aimed to affect. Its limitation is a lack of guidance on how to analyse the role of the ‘enabling environment’, the way in which political and economic factors influenced both the uptake of the policy and the form it took. I therefore expand the theory of change approach, drawing on a ‘domains of power’ framework, situated in the wider political economic conditions, in order to understand both the policy’s outcomes and the processes that shaped them. Guided by this framework, I adopted a mixed methods design in order to understand both the technical and political aspects of the issue. Using content analysis of policy documents, I identified a policy theory of change. This outlined 3 ways in which the policy sought to impact access to secondary education by: 1. Increasing the number of schools by partnering with non-state providers 2. Removing the financial barrier by paying tuition fees for eligible students. 3. Improving the quality of secondary education by fostering school choice I then tested these pathways using empirical data. This involved secondary analysis of quantitative and qualitative data to test the ‘success’ of these pathways, and what this meant for students experience of accessing secondary education. In examining the first pathway I undertook regression analysis to determine the extent to which PPP schools were located in relation to policy objectives. I further undertook spatial analysis using ArcGIS to explore the factors driving their location choices. In examining the following two pathways I used descriptive statistics of the Ark Secondary Schools Survey data to determine the extent to which the full costs of secondary education as well as the selection criteria needed to gain access differed across the two school types. Content analysis of Focus Group Discussions with parents of secondary school aged students allowed me to gain understanding of the way these factors impacted the inclusion and exclusion of students. A key finding from this analysis is that, in all three areas of focus, PPP and government schools were relatively similar. In examining their location, PPPs tended to follow existing patterns of supply. Likewise, the costs of attending a PPP school are similar to those charged by government schools. Further, schools of both types use academic selection and fee levels to influence the composition of the student body. While the quantitative analysis highlights the similarities between the schools, the qualitative data reveals that it is these similarities, and the failure to redress systemic inequity, that are reinforcing patterns of inclusion and exclusion. In order to understand the political and economic factors that influenced the policy design and implementation, I undertook key informant interviews with government officials and development partners directly involved in the policy. These discussions underscored the importance of financial considerations in driving the decision to partner with non-state organisations. Put simply, it was a practical solution to the desire to implement a mass secondary education programme, but an inability to afford it. These same financial constraints drove the policy to be implemented with certain restrictions including academic eligibility criteria, limiting the ability of the policy to reach those who needed it most. Furthermore, the decision to deliver the policy in such a way meant it failed to return political capital to President Museveni and the ruling party. Ultimately, the context of constrained resources meant the policy failed to deliver in terms of equitable outcomes and political returns. The findings of this thesis challenge the view that education PPPs are a neutral tool to assist countries to expand access to education in the context of stagnating public and donor funds. While previous studies have quantified the marginalisation of certain populations in accessing secondary education, this thesis provides an understanding of the role that PPPs played in creating these outcomes. It also makes an important contribution in redressing the apolitical approach to understanding the policy and its implementation. In advancing the theory of change framework to directly address the political and economic processes that shaped these outcomes, we gain a comprehensive understanding of both how PPPs contributed to Universal Secondary Education in Uganda and why.
Public-Private Parnerships, Political economy, Uganda, Secondary education
Is supplemented by: https://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-8324-1
The research was supported by funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
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This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.78082
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