Among the different type of private actors, commercial schools raise specific challenges. Commercial schools have been defined as schools with an objective to develop commercial activities out of education services.
The role of private actors in education is complex and takes many forms. These can be understood by classifying education according to financing and provision.
In partnership with local, national and international organisations, we actively monitor and critically reflect on the development of different classifications of commercial schools in light of international human rights standards.
Bridge International Academies
Bridge International Academies Ltd (Bridge) is a registered company in Kenya, and is a subsidiary of NewGlobe Schools, which is registered in Delaware, USA. Operating for-profit, the company runs a private commercial chain of nursery and primary schools. With over 500 institutions and 100,000 children enrolled, Bridge is the largest chain of commercial private schools worldwide.
The company receives funding from private investors, such as the Omidyar Network, Pearson, Novastar Ventures, Kholsa Ventures, Bill Gates, and Zuckerberg Education Ventures. It also received public funding from the International Finance Corporation (a branch of the World Bank Group), the United Kingdom’s Commonwealth Development Corporation (with funds from the Department for International Development – DFID), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and indirectly from the European Investment Bank, FMO – Entrepreneurial Development Bank, Norfund and Proparco.
BIA uses what it calls a “school in a box” model, employing a highly-standardised approach to education. Every school looks the same, the material used is the same in each classroom, and most importantly, the lessons are the same across all the academies of the same country. BIA uses a system of scripted lessons, and its teachers – who were mostly secondary school leavers without formal teaching qualifications – receive lesson plans on an e-tablet, which they have to follow word by word.
The company opened its first school in Mukuru kwa Njenga slum in Kenya in 2009. By 2015 the company had 405 schools in Kenya. It expanded further with 63 schools in Uganda by 2016 and now also has schools in Nigeria (Lagos, Osun, Edo, and Borno States) and is working in partnership with the Government of Andhra Pradesh in India.
In 2016, Bridge entered a pilot public-private partnership with the government of Liberia. Through the program “Partnership Schools for Liberia” (now known as Liberia Education Advancement Program – LEAP) the government outsourced selected public pre-primary and primary schools. During the first phase of the PSL pilot program, Bridge received the largest number of schools – 25 out of 93 schools. In the second phase, the Liberian Government allocated Bridge a further 43 schools. The company seeks to grow further with the aim of reaching 10 million students by 2025.
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