Education International, along with nearly 110 international and national organisations, has commented on a speech made by the World Bank president praising the results of a multinational chain of low-fee profit-making private primary schools.
The recent speech by Kim expressed support for corporate-backed, fee-charging, for-profit private schools in Kenya and Uganda, and promoted this model as an affordable means of ending poverty. Kim highlighted the results of Bridge International Academies (Bridge), which started in Kenya, expanded to Uganda, and plans to move to Nigeria, India and elsewhere in order to enrol 10 million children by 2020.
In reaction to the speech, Education International (EI) has endorsed a statement and letter sent on 14 May to Kim by almost 110 concerned international and national organisations.
EI condemns the fact that this private school-managing multinational company uses highly standardised teaching methods, untrained low-paid teachers, and aggressive marketing strategies to sell their “product” to poor people who aspire to a better life.
According to Kim, Bridge provided such education for “just” $6. However, this does not take into account that $6 represents a large amount for many people in these countries, and is enough to discriminate many of the poorest. Instead of supporting quality free education for all, the World Bank appears to support fee-paying, profit-making, multinational corporations, EI said.
Along with the statement’s signatory organisations, EI finds it unacceptable that poor families and communities are expected to pay for basic education. The signatories are also concerned that education models such as this essentially (further) entrench inequalities in education. This support from the World Bank, they say, appears to be based on biased data produced by Bridge itself.
The statement sent to the World Bank’s President makes the following points:
• President Kim and the World Bank are disconnected from the realities of poverty with the comment that per student cost at Bridge is “just $6 a month”. The statement illustrates how it would take about 25 per cent of a poor family’s income to send three children to a Bridge-run school.
• The World Bank is investing in private basic education in Kenya and Uganda, but not in public basic education. There is no active World Bank commitment to basic education in these countries, but the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, has invested $10 million in Bridge.
• Combined investments in Bridge are greater than the Global Partnership for Education’s current grant in Kenya, a worrying indication of a focus on building a private education system instead of a free, public education system.
• The World Bank is not listening to civil society, as its President’s comments came only a month after a civil society meeting with senior World Bank education officials to specifically discuss fee-charging, private primary schools, the World Bank’s support to them, and Bridge in particular.
EI and concerned organisations call on the World Bank Group to:
• Stop promoting the model used by Bridge and other fee-charging, private schools, and publicly re-commit the World Bank to universal, free and compulsory basic education.
• Cease investments in Bridge and other fee-charging, private providers of basic education.
• Re-establish World Bank investments in Kenya’s and Uganda’s public basic education systems.
• Refrain from basing its views on self-produced evidence from corporate providers of education, and instead base its policies on independent, rigorous studies assessing the impact of education models on the totality of the right to education, including on discrimination and segregation.
• Listen to and respond to the concerns of civil society, and seriously consider their views when assessing and considering models such as that of Bridge and other fee-charging, private providers of basic education.
You can read the full joint statement here
The letter sent to the World Bank’s President is available here