Teachers and civil society are teaming up in an effort to stop Bridge International, the transnational private education provider, which has set its sights on profiting off Liberia’s fragile public education system.
In a letter to Liberian education Minister George K. Werner, a coalition of civil society organisations has expressed its concerns with the government’s plans to establish a public-private partnership with Bridge International Academies and with the overall process of privatisation and commercialisation of education services in Liberia. One of Education International’s (EI) affiliates in the country, the National Teachers' Association of Liberia, is member of the signatory coalition.
Serious concerns with Bridge’s modus operandi
The letter states that Bridge International Academies’ (BIA) record in other countries such as Kenya and Uganda shows that the company hampers the access to free quality education by enforcing the standardisation of learning through a system that is not in touch with the local culture, implemented by untrained and underpaid teachers. This, the signatories say, “reinforces rote learning, undermines efforts to make learning relevant or adapted and leaves no space for interaction, as the teachers are not trained to deviate from the script”.
In case of an agreement between the Liberian government and BIA, the consequences would reach far beyond the school realm into society at large, the letter states. It will not reduce gender inequalities or improve learning outcomes at country level, nor help towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal on Education, which aims to bring quality education to every child, including the 58 million out-of-school children throughout the world.
Liberian civil society reminds its government that the provision of free public education is a state obligation reflected in the Liberian constitution, by which “the State [has to] provide equal access to educational opportunities and facilities for all citizens”. The letter goes on to question how the Liberian government could possibly ensure equal access and sustainability on the basis of a for-profit paying education system.
The signatories conclude with an urge to the government of Liberia to consult with civil society before entering into a commitment with BIA or other providers of for-profit education, reminding it of the concerns raised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Education in his latest report on public-private partnerships.