Education International
Education International

New study dismantles mirage of ‘low-fee’ private schools

published 5 December 2016 updated 16 December 2016

A new report looks into the operations of Bridge International Academies in Kenya and uncovers the reality behind the private for-profit provider’s claims to offer ‘affordable’ quality education.

Bridge vs Reality: a study of Bridge International Academies’  for-profit schooling in Kenya is Education International’s (EI) latest report on the commercialisation and privatisation of education. The study looks at the claims of quality, accessibility and affordability of BIA’s educational provision.

Bridge International Academies (BIA) is a large and expanding business that provides for-profit private education in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and India. With funding and support coming from global edu-business Pearson, the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development (DFID),  and high profile investors such as Mark Zuckerberg and the Gates Foundation,  BIA’s claims regarding its services generally portray the company as providing the solution to educational access for the poor.

Poor quality and unaffordable education

The study finds that far from providing high quality education at a low cost to the most disadvantaged in Kenya, BIA education is of poor quality, inaccessible for the very poor and disadvantaged and is ultimately unaffordable for most families in the communities in which it operates.

More specifically, it reveals that in Kenya the majority of BIA students are taught by unqualified, overworked,  teaching. BIA teachers are forced to use a scripted curriculum-developed in the US. Lessons are read from tablets, leaving little, if any, room for adaptation to meet the learning needs of students Thecurriculum used is not approved by Kenyan authorities. In fact, the Kenyan curriculum authority has concluded that “most of the content taught [by BIA] is not relevant to the Kenyan curriculum objectives.”

In terms of ‘affordability’ the total fees and charges paid by parents are much higher than those stated by the company in its marketing of the schools. Parents of BIA students have given testimony describing school fees pushing them into debt or causing them to struggle to pay for food and healthcare. With a strict enforcement of regular payments, students who are behind with the payment of fees are excluded from their classrooms and school. Impact on the country’s development

The presence of so-called low fee for profit schools has severe consequences on the right to quality free education for all children, the study concludes.

Target 4.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals, ratified by Kenya, specifically requires the government to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes. As such, the report recommends that the Kenyan government both fulfils its obligation to provide free quality public education and that it strengthens the regulations on alternative education provision to ensure that all providers adhere to minimum standards insofar as the employment of qualified teachers and the adherence to national standards with respect to curriculum and school facilities is concerned.

You can access the report by clicking here.