Public-Partnerships in Asian-Pacific Education: Education Service Contracting

Esther Lee, COL & WH ’23, Milford, PA

This past summer, I had the opportunity to work as a research intern at the Asian Development Bank Institute, a development think tank based in Tokyo, Japan. Though my experience was remote, I was very well supported by my advisor Dr. Daniel Suryadarma, a research economist working on areas of education, labor, poverty, and social policy. With the help of Career Services funding, I was able to live in Philadelphia while working on my own independent paper concerning education service contracting, a type of public-private partnership, in Asian-Pacific developing member countries.

Many governments in developing member countries around the world recognize the importance of delivering a sound K-12 education for its citizens. They face immense pressure under ever-tighter budgets to deliver education in a more equitable and efficient manner. Since a crucial limiting factor is the lack of financial resources at their disposal, governments have been engaging the non-state sector to deliver education that may have previously been delivered by the public sector. The resultant public-private partnerships (PPPs) are cooperative ventures that are built on the expertise of both state and non-state sectors with the purpose to best meet clearly defined public needs through the appropriate allocation of resources, risks, and rewards. I focused on education service contracting (ESCs), which is when the public sector contracts a particular service to a private operator in the hopes for a more efficient and effective service.

My first task was to compile existing literature on ESCs in the world, which included recent projects in developing member countries like Philippines, Liberia, and Colombia. Then, I wrote a comprehensive report on the purpose of ESCs, the ideal design for ESCs, alternatives to ESCs, and considerations before implementing ESC projects. I also conducted interviews with scholars and members of the supply chain in the field. This report will be a working paper published towards the end of 2022.

As a senior in Wharton studying Finance and Statistics and in the College studying East Asian Area Studies with a minor in mathematics, I sought to combine my interests and skills into public policy and international development research. Though this work might not closely align with my undergraduate studies, I will be pursuing graduate studies and a career in education policy. It is my hope that through a career in policy research, I can leverage insights I have gained through my research experiences and personal struggles to advance the rights to an education among marginalized and vulnerable children in developing member countries.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here

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