New report is first to compare the learning outcomes of public, private, and Bridge schools in Lagos

Research undertaken as part of the DFID-funded EDOREN project

A new report, now available on our website, is the first to compare the learning outcomes in low- and medium-cost private schools, public schools, and Bridge International Academies in Lagos, Nigeria.

Private schools are the main education providers in Lagos, where only 4% of primary school aged children are out of school. Of more than 12,000 private schools in Lagos, many are low-cost and affordable even to those on the poverty line. Other schooling options in Lagos are public schools (of which there are the lowest per capita in Nigeria), and Bridge schools (low-fee private schools aiming to offer affordable education in lower-income countries).

By researching the literacy and numeracy performance of primary school students in public, private, and Bridge schools, and exploring teaching practice, school management, and school fees alongside these results, we were able to draw conclusions about how learning outcomes relate to many different factors. Some of the key findings were:

  • pupils studying in private and Bridge schools perform better in literacy and numeracy at Primary 2 than pupils in public schools, even when factoring in background characteristics;
  • pupils’ average literacy scores are significantly higher in Bridge schools than in private schools, but this is not true of numeracy attainment;
  • while at Primary 2, private schools and Bridge schools outperform public schools in numeracy, at Primary 4 there are more top performers in public school;
  • the poorest students, and those who do not primarily speak English at home, are most likely to attend public schools; and
  • there is a very strong correlation between the strength of school management (target setting, planning and leading teaching, teacher management, and leadership) and pupils’ literacy and numeracy scores; Bridge schools have a particularly high management score.

Alina Lipcan, lead in engaging the non-state sector in our Education team and co-author of the report, commented: “We have a much better understanding of learning outcomes and management in the private education sector now, and not all of them point to the superior performance of private schools. We do need to know more about the cost-effectiveness of different types of intervention. Are market systems approaches more cost-effective than direct entry subsidies? Is subsidising school chains more cost-effective than subsidising individual school proprietors? Good policy decisions will require answers to these questions.”

This research was undertaken as part of the DFID-funded Education Data, Research, and Evaluation in Nigeria (EDOREN) programme, a five-year project to generate new evidence and understanding of how best to support equitable access and improved learning outcomes for all Nigerian children through innovation and sustainable education systems development.

A spokesperson for DFID Nigeria added, "DFID Nigeria welcomes the findings of the independent study that compares the learning outcomes in low and medium-cost private schools, public schools, and Bridge International Academies in Lagos, Nigeria. The findings show the need to build the regulatory capacity of government to support school management systems and processes that are necessary for improved learning outcomes in both public and private schools. We hope that this study will contribute to the growing body of evidence on the role of private sector provision of education in sub-Saharan Africa and similar context."  

The report is intended as a baseline, acting as a first step in helping DFID determine the best way to improve education in Lagos – and concludes that this requires engaging with both public and private schools. More specifically, we recommend direct support to, better regulation of, and better markets for services to private schools, alongside continued support for public school reform. Additional research would help strengthen our understanding of learning outcomes and how best to make an even stronger contribution, as well as looking at the crucial issue of cost-effectiveness.

You can download the full report from our page about the EDOREN project.

Image credit: Lorimer Images /

Area of expertise