Bridge financial backers include World Bank Group
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’.