Bridge fi­nan­cial back­ers in­clude World Bank Group

East African Business Week - - SPECIAL REPORT -

BIA is backed by Bill Gates, Mark Zucker­berg, Pierre Omidiya, and multi­na­tional pub­lish­ing com­pany Pearson, among oth­ers.

Mid last year, over 100 in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions signed a state­ment crit­i­cal of pri­va­ti­za­tion of ed­u­ca­tion in Kenya and Uganda.

They specif­i­cally crit­i­cized the World Bank for en­dors­ing BIA.

This was af­ter Jim Kim, the World Bank Pres­i­dent said in April 2015, “Bridge In­ter­na­tional Acad­e­mies uses soft­ware and tablets in schools that teach over 100,000 stu­dents in Kenya and Uganda.

“Af­ter about two years, stu­dents’ av­er­age scores for read­ing and math have risen high above their pub­lic school peers. The cost per stu­dent at Bridge Acad­e­mies is just $6 dol­lars a month,” he said.

The or­gan­i­sa­tions dis­puted this fig­ure, in­sist­ing that schools fees at BIA range from about $6.5 to $9, de­pend­ing on the grade.

By their own ad­mis­sion BIA say they strive to pro­vide the high­est qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion prod­uct to the more than 100,000 stu­dents who at­tend Bridge’s more than 400 nurs­ery and pri­mary schools across emerg­ing mar­kets in Africa and (soon to open) in Asia.

Ac­cord­ing to their web­site, ‘We are datadriven and tech­nol­ogy-en­abled. Us­ing smart- phones and tablets, our “closed loop” Learn­ing Lab en­ables us to mon­i­tor teacher and stu­dent per­for­mance in real time, con­stantly re­view­ing and re­vis­ing to en­sure that we are of­fer­ing a world class ed­u­ca­tion that will pre­pare our stu­dents for the 21st cen­tury.

Out­side of the class­room, we work with gov­ern­ments and civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions to cre­ate cus­tom­ized teacher train­ing mod­ules, English Lan­guage Learn­ing cur­ric­ula, and “pop up” schools for refugees and other vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions.

Crit­ics say BIA uses highly stan­dard­ised teach­ing meth­ods, un­trained low-paid teach­ers, and ag­gres­sive mar­ket­ing strate­gies to tar­get poor house­holds, build­ing on their as­pi­ra­tion to a bet­ter life to sell them its ser­vices.

Nev­er­the­less, the World Bank has in­vested 10 mil­lion dol­lars in BIA, while on the other hand it has no ac­tive or planned in­vest­ments in ei­ther Kenya or Uganda’s pub­lic ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems.

In their state­ment the or­gan­i­sa­tions said, ‘If the World Bank is se­ri­ous about im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion in Kenya and Uganda, it should sup­port our gov­ern­ments to ex­pand and im­prove our pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems, pro­vide qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion to all chil­dren free-of-charge, and ad­dress other fi­nan­cial bar­ri­ers to ac­cess’.

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