In the past couple of years, we have followed the fortunes of Bridge International Academies, the for-profit organization that is trying to make money by providing low-cost schools in Africa. It’s investors include Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and the World Bank. Why billionaires need to make money by collecting a few dollars a month from struggling families is unclear. The New York Times published a superb article by Peg Tyre about BIA, which continues to lose money.
Laura Chapman has compiled an excellent research summary of the marketing of BIA:
Long post. The American Enterprise Institute is using c-span to help market Bridge International in Liberia. http://ift.tt/2uV0AYo
For Liberia, the marketing centers on “partnership schools” not really different from charter schoools here. If you don’t want to see and listen to the whole video, notice who participated.
George K. Werner, minister of education of the Republic of Liberia. Helped launch the for-profit “Partnership Schools.” Co-chair of Liberia’s Health Workforce Development Taskforce. Master’s in social work, University of Pennsylvania; B.A. Marist College, now the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi, Kenya.
Seth Andrew, founder of Democracy Builders NYC (enlists parents to promote educational choice) and Democracy charter schools. Helping Bridge International Academies launch charter-like schools in Liberia, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and India. Former senior adviser on technology for Arne Duncan. Began as a special educator in South Korea and Massachusetts. Ed.M. from Harvard University, B.A. from Brown University.
Amy Black, executive vice president of global education at Results for Development (R4D). Helped launch Teach For All, the international version of Teach for America. Former Washington, DC manager for Teach For America. Former State Department fellow for two years, including a six-month assignment in South Africa.
Alejandro Caballero, evaluates investments in private education companies for the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-sector arm of the World Bank. A former vice president with Deutsche Bank AG (worked in Singapore, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka). Previous positions with Booz Allen Hamilton, and Goldman Sachs. M.B.A. Stanford, master’s Stanford Graduate School of Education. Add B.A. degrees in law and in economic science/management from ICADE, Madrid.
Nat Malkus, research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Specializes in school finance, charter schools, school choice, and the future of standardized testing. Former senior researcher at the American Institutes for Research. Ph.D. in education policy and leadership, University of Maryland; B.A. in historical studies, Covenant College, four years middle school teaching in Maryland
I downloaded and edited the text. I was struck by several claims about the costs, profitability, and virtues of Bridge International and the reasoning of the Liberian minister of education, George K. Werner. In the 2016-17 school year, 28,000 Liberian students attended 93 “partnership” schools run by international providers.
Seth Andrew: “I just left the Obama administration where we really spent a lot of time, chief technology officer and others, thinking about technology in government. I can tell you we’re still way behind where the private sector was in thinking about technology. Most of us don’t use government tech in our daily lives. We use private tech in our lives.”
“Bridge has taken best practices from the developed world, American charter schools and delivered it through a very low-tech solution, very cheap e-reader, black and white tablet (costs $50 to manufacture in China). You get content that is the same content as kids might be getting in Washington, D.C., Boston or Cambridge, Massachusetts. You’re getting it on a 2-g signal in black and white in a rural Liberian classroom. That is not a thing the government of Liberia figured out to do….That is one of the reasons Bridge has potential not to be just an incremental change but a leapfrogging change.”
Seth Andrew. “I will say quickly about Bridge, the bulk of their schools, 500 across the world, are low fee private schools, $7 a month. They’re getting a world-class education.”
George Werner: “Let me just … add to what Seth said. With the exception of maybe of Singapore and Vietnam, I don’t know any country that educates poor children with perfection. Not the United States, not the UK. In the U.S., if government would deliver perfect public schools you would have no need for charter schools. If the UK government could do similarly, there would no need for the academies in the UK.”
“What that tells me is that governments are failing to educate poor children. There is a need for the private sector. …We’re educating a majority of our children for the private sector, for the jobs of today, and the jobs of tomorrow. All the more reason why the private sector needs to get involved in how we educate our children. “
“We chose the word ‘partnership.’ There are things government does really well, policy platform, regulation, and education as a public good. Those things government can do well. But day-to-day management—assessments, planning outcomes, systems of accountabilities—government doesn’t do as well as the private sector does. We partnered with private providers to strengthening government where it is weakest if you like. That is the essence of the partnership with us.”
Seth Andrew: (On the need for profits in the private sector). Take $50, per student for a year, $2,000 a classroom of 40 kids for a classroom a year. Wage bill, $140 a month. $1500 a year, $500 total for materials, textbooks, technology, everything else. … the tablet (for the teacher) is $50. This is doable. This is absolutely possible. We’ve shown it at scale in Kenya. Starting to get there in Liberia. But it requires a lot more students to be in systems like this…before you get to the scale point where it is actually sustainable (and profitable).
…Let me give you one more example…In Liberia, they don’t have resources for science labs….In the developed world you can see a virtual reality science lab for the cost of a $50 head-set. In the developing world we can’t imagine that, because that math doesn’t add up. But you can get a cardboard version of the same thing for $3…bringing quality down a little bit; but the content being delivered to my students in Washington, D.C. is actually the same exact content delivered to kids in Liberia and for a $3 cardboard head-set and a phone, the principal gets to download lessons plans. It is a matter of thinking how we spend money and what we spend money on.”
Here are some visual examples of the Bridge curriculum resources. (The exact same content as in the US?). This website also lists 16 key investors in Bridge International including Bill Gates Investments, the Chan/Zuckerberg Initative, International Finance Corporation of the World Bank http://ift.tt/2vdKpR3
Liberia will still have teachers to deliver the curriculum, but in the US professional credentials are being diminished in importance, especially by cuts in funding for public schools and the promotion of low-cost online, computer-based and teacher-proof programs, “brought to scale” for profitability.
Consider ABCmouse.com Early Learning Academy for children ages 2–8. For a subscription fee of $7.99 per month or $79.99/year you receive an app (for ipad or iphone) that can be used by up to three children. The app offers “a standards-aligned curriculum (reading, math, social studies, art, music, more) intended to build “a strong foundation for academic success.”
The curriculum is being expanded to higher ages/grades levels and for use internationally through a program that teaches English as a second language. This is a patented delivery system build on a legacy of programming from the creators of the NeoPets online, sold in 2005 to Viacom’s MTV Networks Groups. Patents are noted at http://ift.tt/2a7PNgd
In effect, the US could well be the next big market for Bridge International, with some clever up-scaling in stylistics of the “same exact content” they are delivering in Africa and elsewhere.
from sarah http://ift.tt/2uUO1MD