The Pearson Affordable Learning Fund (PALF) was launched in July 2012 with a mandate to invest in market based solutions that will improve access to high quality education for poor families across the world. Almost four years later, PALF manages ten investments across Africa and Asia. These investments support low-cost school chains and affordable education companies, serving over 100,000 children.


Many of the most prominent investments within the fund are in affordable private school chains. PALF currently manages investments in four low-cost school chains in diverse geographies and with different models: Omega Schools in Ghana, APEC Schools in the Philippines, Spark Schools in South Africa, and Lekki Peninsula Schools in Nigeria.

Pearson defines efficacy as a measurable impact on improving someone’s life through learning .PALF seeks to be the world’s leading education investor for efficacy by working with our investments to measure, analyze and improve student outcomes. While PALF investments may differ in their operational and academic approaches, the underlying goal is consistent across all our investments in school chains: each chain should be a world-class professional company with efficacy as the ‘engine’ driving their work and scalability ‘steering’ their decision-making.


With these guiding principles, we can demonstrate the viability of high-quality, affordable, and scalable school chains in our effort to improve the quality of education for lower-income students. Over the last four years, we have learned a great deal about the challenges facing affordable private school chains and some of the successful strategies employed to overcome them. While each of our school chains still has a long road to success ahead of them, their experiences can prove invaluable for entrepreneurs, school operators, and investors choosing to target the affordable education space.



This paper reflects our experiences and offers practical lessons with regards to the workings of affordable private schools. PALF is in continuous dialogue with other educators and, in producing this report, we sought support from BBD Education who is working with school chains in Egypt, Turkey, the Gulf and the Far East. It was valuable to validate our views on the educational, financial and operational issues on the ground with their perspectives and deep experiences in the sector. We hope this will move the affordable private school (APS) sector forward in a few concrete ways:


  1. Helping affordable private school operators identify upcoming challenges ahead of time and to mitigate risks
  2. Helping prospective investors evaluate investment opportunities in school chains by using the framework and questions as a guide
  3. Serve as a conduit for spurring further dialogue on effectively operating low-cost school chains


This paper aims to bring to life the difficulties in running an effective affordable private school chain. At the same time, we hope that the lessons also provide comfort that despite the difficulties, there is reason for optimism. Our vision at PALF is for every child to have access to an affordable, high-quality education. We hope this paper will aid the growth of effective affordable private school chains on the path to achieving that vision.


To download the full paper, click here.