What do we really know about Bridge International Academies?

published 11 February 2019 updated 12 January 2022
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Bridge International Academies (BIA) is the fastest-growing chain of ‘low-fee’ schools in the world, having ‘reached 500,000 children through hundreds of schools across Africa and India’ (BIA, 2018) and planning ‘to be the global leader in providing education to families who live on US$2 a day per person or less’ (BIA, 2016a).

The aim of this essay is to summarise what is known about this company based on research studies conducted in local communities where it operates; informed by BIA staff, customers, and ministry officials acquainted with the business and its activities. It reviews seven research studies on BIA, as well as supplementary and relevant literature such as company webpages and materials, which includes three studies on the operations of BIA in Liberia (Hook, 2017; Klees, 2017; Romero, Sandefur & Sandholtz, 2017), two studies in Nigeria (Härmä, 2017; Unterhalter, Robinson & Ibrahim, 2018) as well as research studies in Kenya (EI/KNUT, 2016) and Uganda (Riep & Machachek, 2016). The research findings from this body of work reveal much about the nature, quality, and impact of BIA.

For this essay, the research findings are organised and discussed in relation to (1) market opportunities and state-level strategies, (2) the academy-in-a-box model, (3) affordability and accessibility concerns, (4) teacher qualifications (or lack thereof) and teaching methods, (5) misleading claims of ‘world-class education’, (6) legal contraventions, and (7) issues of sustainability, accountability, and transparency.