Learning governance for public-private cooperation

From: Public-Private partnerships, by Jonathan Zeitlin and Eelke Heemskerk.

“First, there is the challenging issue of how to combine the emergence of new forms of public-private partnership with a system of governance that safeguards the quality of education and ensures accountability for the use of public money. Most fundamentally, the problem lies in the innovative character of the centers. Their goal is to devise new forms of public-private cooperation, and to develop new organizational forms for vocational education and training. This implies that the day-to-day practices of these centers will be different from the established routines of the HBO and MB0s. The Centres need room to experiment. But the current system of accountability for Dutch educational institutions is based on a combination of ex ante rules and ex post controls, derived from established routines and practices. It has been recognized that there is a mismatch between the current forms of governance and accountability on the one hand and the innovative ambitions of the Centres on the other (Commissie Van der Touw, 2013). In order to make the national system of Centres successful, it is necessary to solve this conundrum and introduce a system of external governance that allows both for innovation and for ongoing monitoring and accountability.

Second, the success of PPPs in VET is dependent on the capacity for learning and cross- fertilization across different initiatives. In searching for effective and innovative forms of PPPs, it is inevitable that there will be (partial) failures as well as successes. We have seen from the Midterm Review that none of the pilot Centres have fully succeeded thus far in achieving all their goals, while within each category some Centres have been more effective than others in discovering innovative ways of engaging business partners and enhancing the quality and quantity of their educational programs. Where the system of monitoring and accountability allows for cross-institutional learning, such good and bad practices can be used to identify opportunities for creative problem-solving and continuous improvement of PPPs at both an individual and a systemic level. The Van der Touw Committee underscored this point as well when it stressed that for an innovative scheme such as the Centres it is crucial that learning takes place (Commissie Van der Touw 2013, second recommendation). Such learning enhances the quality of PPPs, speeds up the diffusion of innovation, and allows for an efficient use of public and private investments. The current system of accountability and governance is not specifically geared to support cross-institutional learning and continuous improvement.”