174 civil society organisations from across the world have called on investors to stop supporting Bridge International Academies (BIA), the low-cost schools operating in the Global South.
Concerns about BIA, which is backed by international edu-business Pearson, were highlighted when Uganda closed all BIA schools. But concerns predate the closure.
Claims about the affordability of BIA schools have been contested. In 2016, our Department for International Development (DFID) published a report focussed on Nigeria. It found the alleged affordability of BIA schools was misleading.
Later, in April 2017, the chair of the Commons International Development Committee (IDC) wrote to the Secretary of State for International Development saying:
‘The evidence received during this inquiry raises serious questions about Bridge’s relationships with governments, transparency and sustainability.’
More generally, the IDC said:
‘The evidence presented to us during this inquiry certainly suggests that the majority of low-fee private schools are not serving the poorest and most marginalised children.’
The IDC had visited BIA schools in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya. It recognised BIA’s model was ‘innovative’ and ‘some of the schools – particularly those in Kenya – appeared to be providing a decent education to children who otherwise may not otherwise be in school.’ But the IDC had reservations:
The IDC recommended that DFID make no further investments in BIA until there was ‘clear, independent evidence’ of positive learning outcomes and evidence to show BIA was educating the ‘very poorest and most marginalised children which was not being provided elsewhere’.
The government of one of the countries visited by the IDC, Kenya, was concerned about BIA methodology whereby unqualified personnel deliver highly-scripted lessons. These lessons, written in the United States, were mostly irrelevant to Kenyan curriculum objectives and allowed no flexibility.