Schooling the Poor Profitably - the Innovations and Deprivations of BIA in Uganda

published 27 October 2016 updated 24 April 2018

This study investigates the operations of Bridge International Academies in Uganda where it has established 63 private for-profit schools, since February 2015, with an estimated 12,000 fee-paying customers.

It has found that the company’s profit-driven, cost-cutting, standardised, and internet-based approach to education delivery involves a number of critical shortcomings. These include the (1) neglect of legal and educational standards established by the Government of Uganda regarding the use of certified teachers, accredited curriculum, appropriate teaching methods, adequate school facilities, and proper authorisation of schools, essentially infringing upon the integrity and sovereignty of the education system in Uganda; (2) strict automation and mechanisation of all curriculum and pedagogy, involving scripted instructions readout from tablet computers (or ‘teacher-computers’) by predominantly unlicensed and underpaid teachers, which obstruct the very teacher-pupil relations that are conducive to learning and child development; and (3) failure to bring affordable, quality education for all as the company claims. Hence, this research provides a cautionary case study for policy makers, administrators, investors, teachers, parents, civil society, and the international community at large, for understanding what is at stake when new global corporate actors aim at schooling the world’s poor, profitably.

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