We are honoured that Martin Finnigan is a member of the team appointed to carry out a quasi-experimental Sustainability Assessment of the Education and Child Nutrition Programme in Kyrgyzstan. The project is being carried out on behalf of the United States Department of Agriculture McGovern-Dole International Food Programme and Mercy Corps. Our particular area of interest is the potential to strengthen local value chains and private sector engagement to improve the sustainability of school feeding initiatives.
We’re very happy to be working in Azerbaijan again, providing support to the government as it seeks to identify opportunities for public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the education sector.
Our responsibilities include identifying potential pilot projects and carrying out initial viability assessments. The current focus is on the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.
We are working in Uzbekistan again, this time working as part of a team developing a support package that will significantly strengthen STEM education in the country. The package will cover curriculum development, teacher training, infrastructure improvements and a network of STEM specialist schools in every district.
Our role is to explore the potential for strategic partnerships and PPPs in the STEM education sector, and we have developed several concepts including bilateral partnership arrangements and a multilateral PPP to develop a STEM visitor centre and educational hub.
Compared to other infrastructure sectors, education needs a different approach to identifying projects for public–private partnerships.
In this blog for Development Asia, an initiative of Asian Development Bank, we draw on experience from around the world to demonstrate that the education sector needs a different approach to PPP project identification and selection compared to the classic infrastructure sectors (such as transport, energy, municipal services), and propose a viable methodology.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the opening ceremony of Oban High School, a PPP school on the west coast of Scotland. The building is a superb example of a modern learning environment, but the stars of the day were the pupils whose excitement and enthusiasm was a joy.
My team at Caledonian Economics were financial transaction advisers on the project, which reached financial close in 2016. The new building opened for pupils in 2018, with demolition of the old school buildings and sports pitches completed this year.
Reflecting on this in the light of my recent projects in #Azerbaijan, #Uzbekistan and #Kosovo, I wondered what lessons we can apply, as we tackle the challenges of crumbling buildings and dynamic populations in these former Soviet countries.
Lesson 1) – school estate regeneration is a long term business. My involvement with redevelopment of schools in the region goes back to the feasibility study we wrote in 2000. This led to a series of developments using both direct capital investment and PPP modalities. The approach I recommend in developing countries is to:
- start by making the most efficient use of the classroom space that already exists;
- next, tackle areas of greatest need – buildings in bad condition, or mismatch between forecast population and classroom spaces;
- then, choose the procurement method that is best suited to the task at hand. Our large new high schools are #DBFM -type #PPPs, small primary schools are financed using government capital, and refurbishments use budgeted revenues.
Lesson 2) – listen to the pupils. The range of facilities in the new school are striking: gymnasium, dance and music studios, workshops for vocational skills, and all weather sport pitches. Yet, when I asked pupils what they would recommend for as priorities to maximise the impact on pupils of new school buildings in developing countries, they told me about the simple things, such as:
- bright, airy, uncluttered classrooms and informal ‘break-out’ spaces;
- avoid projectors and screens – large bright backlit monitors are much easier to read;
- plenty of whiteboard space, to capture important points;
- good school meals.
Lesson 3) – create networks of institutions. Oban High School works closely with the small (30 pupils) High School on the remote island of Tiree. Video links and screen sharing, backed up with in-person visits, tackle the curriculum constraints and provide developmental experiences for staff and pupils.
The Oban-Tiree link generally involves connecting classes, as compared to the one-to-one approach being followed by e-sgoil in the Western Isles. These techniques are relevant for remote, rural and mobile communities in developing countries. Reliability, I have been told, is more important than bandwidth: good audio matters more than high resolution video.
The network also includes the local further education (#VET) college who deliver training on construction, marine and mechanic skills.
Lesson 4) – In Oban I saw how extra-curricular after-school arts, sport and music activities build social and team-working skills, and strengthen the core curriculum.
Many schools in developing countries operate with two or three shifts of pupils – sometimes a response to population growth, but sometimes also a consequence of demand for popular schools while nearby schools have spare capacity. Multiple shifts make extra curricular activities virtually impossible, depriving pupils of opportunities to increase the quality and value of their school days. This is a primary determinant of ‘need’ described in Lesson 1).
Finally I would like to thank the Head Teacher Mr Bain, the staff at the school, the team at Argyll & Bute Council, and especially the pupils of Oban High School for a memorable, instructive and very enjoyable day.
Report on the DIT Latin American and Caribbean Roadshow 2019
Glasgow, 25 March 2019
The Roadshow (one of five being held in locations around mainland Britain) was organised by the Department for International Trade (DIT) to provide businesses with an insight into the markets of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Joanna Crellin, HM Trade Commissioner for Latin America and the Caribbean, led the event, accompanied by senior trade experts located in Embassies and Consulates throughout this vast region, and senior officials from the Embassies in the UK.
Key points were:
- the region is home to 650 million people with a growing middle class. Collectively, the region’s 48 countries and territories constitute world’s third largest economy after China and the USA;
- key growth sectors being targeted by DIT include the extractive industries, life sciences, security and defence, infrastructure, education and financial services;
- the UK seriously underperforms in terms of trade in the region, with only remnants the once-strong relationships remaining. However there is a positive legacy with a respect for British quality and values;
- the area is far from homogenous, a point stressed by the DIT regional representatives, but many common traits are shared, especially the importance of personal relationships and trust: “it is a face-to-face place” as one person put it;
When asked what to bear in mind when trying to enter this market, DIT officers highlighted the following:
- use the DIT offices, chambers of commerce and business associations as multipliers, to help make contact with more of the right people;
- be aware of politics and the potential implications of changing government, for example in Brazil and Mexico recently;
- go native – spend time in country and meeting potential trading partners;
- differentiate on the basis of quality and innovation.
Thank you to the team at DIT and the various speakers for organising a useful and informative event.
We are very pleased to be working in an international team to support the Ministry of Education in #Azerbaijan on a long term donor-funded assignment to explore opportunities to expand the use of public-private partnerships (#PPP) in the Education sector.
This country of around 10 million people is a place of great contrasts. In the capital Baku, a glitzy modern centre sits alongside ancient Silk Road caravanserais, while an easy drive on good roads crosses the arid coastal desert before rising into the Caucasus – a mountain range as high as the alps.
Azerbaijani, a language closely related to Turkish, is the main language, with most people also speaking Russian. English is not widely spoken, although this is changing rapidly as international links grow. Most of the country was part of the Russian empire in the 19th century then the USSR until independence in the early 1990s.
Education is secular and compulsory from years 1 to 9 plus a pre-school year, and a high proportion of pupils do an additional two years in school. Most then go on to college or university.
We are looking forward to identifying the most suitable PPP modalities for addressing challenges within the education system here, testing their feasibility, and helping develop capacity and capability within the country.
The new £32 million education campus will replace three existing schools in the town and will include #nursery, #primary, #secondary, and further educational facilities.
The project is being delivered in partnership with hub South East Scotland using the standard Scottish PPP/DBFM structure, and achieved financial close 13 months after the business case (known as the New Project Request) was approved.
This successful project continues our relationship with the Council, having previously advised them on the development of the new Kelso High School which achieved Financial Close in February 2016 and which opened on time and budget in November 2017.
We have been appointed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to support them and the Municipality of Prishtina with the preparation and implementation of the first Education PPP project in Kosovo. The project will see two schools rehabilitated and four new ones built. Our role will be to help address various technical and commercial issues as part of IFC’s due diligence and transaction structuring.
This will be the first Education PPP in Kosovo, and continues our leading role in structuring Education PPPs worldwide. It adds IFC (part of the World Bank Group) to the list of Multilateral Development Bank partners with whom we have worked on Education PPP assignments, a list that also includes the Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Development Bank of Latin America and the European Investment Bank.
This week, on 21 and 22 May 2018, we attended the first Colombia Investment Roadshow in London, a joint event whose organisers included British & Colombian Chamber of Commerce; the British Embassy in Bogotá; the Department of International Trade teams in Colombia and London; The Foreign and Commonwealth Office Andean Desk and the Prosperity Fund Colombia; The Colombian Embassy in London and Procolombia.
The purposes of the event were to present the key infrastructure projects in Colombia, to explain the investment environment and to support joint initiatives to address some of the challenges that are still experienced in the sector and in the country.
A series of speakers explained the economic backdrop and investment outlook in the country, and provided personal perspectives on experiences of developing projects there. Key projects in rail, rolling stock, Smart Cities, schools, healthcare, waterways, airports and water treatment were described in detail, including explanations of the procurement process and the roles of the main protagonists.
The main points we took from the event were:
- the prospect of imminent accession to the OECD provides evidence of the rigorous process of reforms, policy and regulatory improvements that have been implemented. Between 2010 and 2017 the economy grew an average of 3.8% a year and it has one of the highest levels of foreign direct investment in the region;
- the final peace agreement concluded with FARC in December 2016 brought to an end half a century of armed conflict, and saw the start of a 15 year implementation period;
- improved connectivity and the development of Smart Cities are key to the successful implementation of the peace agreement. A large transport infrastructure initiative has been launched to tackle infrastructure bottlenecks that are holding back development, especially in rural, conflict-affected areas;
- in 2017 the Economist Intelligence Unit singled out Colombia as being well-prepared for infrastructure PPPs in the region. Forms of PPP are being used for the Bogotá Metro, renewal/operation of the Transmilenio BRT system, Cauca road network, El Dorado II Airport and to restore navigability of the Magdalena River. Pilot PPPs are being developed for schools and hospitals in Medellín, Barranquilla and Bogotá.
At Caledonian Economics we look forward to building on existing relationships in Colombia and developing new ones, so that we can play our part in the continuing success of this remarkable country and helping create, as one speaker put it, “a piece of the peace”.