Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are increasingly perceived as an innovative approach to provide education for all. Nonetheless, PPP arrangements cover a broad range of policy options and follow diverse rationales, some of which are not necessarily novel within education reform agendas. In education, there are open disputes about the key principles and arrangements that PPPs should have. Overall, PPPs are an ambiguous policy category that allows for a flexible and, sometimes, over-simplified use of the concept. In fact, some important stakeholders narrowly associate PPPs in education to long-known market (or quasi-market) policy solutions. This paper seeks to unpack PPPs both as an analytical category and as a policy generation tool in the education sector, and to reflect on its different translations and implications in key areas such as quality, equity and accountability in education. This paper reviews the origins, core principles and different rationales of PPPs, as well as examines the main challenges and difficulties stemming from the transposition of such arrangements to the field of education policy.