Unions ask World Bank to turn its back to edubusinesses

published 21 April 2017 updated 15 May 2017

Trade unions from all over the world are protesting against the support the World Bank is offering to for-profit education providers like Bridge International Academies.

On the occasion of the Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, education trade unions are highlighting the support these international financial institutions offer to for-profit education corporations like Bridge International Academies (BiA). The unions’ protests consist of an on-site demonstration in Washington DC, USA, social media actions, and an official institutional letter.

Letter to the Bank

Twenty-four trade unions have jointly signed a letter addressed to Jim Yong King, President of the World Bank, asking him to discontinue the Bank’s support of BiA. The signatories, including affiliates to Education International (EI) in the USA, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, Uganda, Argentina, Kenya, New Zealand and Portugal, claim that, with its support, the Bank “is undermining the foundation of public education and democracy in many African countries”.

The letter underlines that “the World Bank’s continued support for BiA is impossible to understand in light of recent court decisions confirming Bridge’s poor track record”. It asks that the Bank’s education promotion strategy be revised to “bring all stakeholders together—including teachers and their unions, support staff, administrators, parents, local governments and the community—in a renewed effort to remove the financial and social barriers keeping the world’s children from reaching their full potential”.

The protest is also being supported on social media under the hashtag #StudentsBeforeProfit

Support and protest actions

EI has also raised its concerns about the over the Bank’s ties with BiA. The Executive Board recent special resolution, Bridge International Academies adds intimidation to its business plans, describes BiA's business plan as “predicated on the employment of unqualified staff delivering a highly scripted standardised curriculum in substandard facilities”. And it reiterates that the provision of quality education is a responsibility of governments.

The resolution was also sent to Yong King in a letter in which Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary, said the Bank’s ongoing support for BiA was “beyond justification”.