World Bank to exit investment in for-profit school chain Bridge International Academies

published 16 March 2022 updated 21 March 2022

Education International (EI) welcomes the decision from the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), to stop investing in the for-profit chain of schools, Bridge International Academies. The IFC had invested more than US$ 10 million in Bridge International Academies operations in Africa and supported the company's expansion elsewhere.

The IFC Project Information & Data Portal recently disclosed that the IFC “has exited its investment in NewGlobe Schools, Inc. (the parent company of Bridge International Academies), effective on March 3, 2022.”

This announcement comes after years of advocacy from Education International and member organisations, who have campaigned to block profit focused institutions which exploit low-income communities around the world. EI campaigns in favor of quality public education as a basic right and a public good, which is not for sale to corporate interests.

“The World Bank is the largest funder of education in the developing world. Investing in private for-profit operators, such as Bridge International Academies, clearly contravenes the global commitment to inclusive and equitable quality free education for all consistent with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4. In a world where so many children are denied access to education, allocating scarce funding to anything but public education is totally unacceptable,” stated EI’s General Secretary, David Edwards.

“We welcome this decision, which has been a core demand from teachers in Africa, and call on other Bridge International Academies investors to follow the IFC’s lead. This is a major victory for Education International and its member organisations. It is a result of years of union and civil society campaigning against the World Bank’s sponsorship of Bridge International Academies and its illegal operations in Africa and Asia.”

The President of EI’s African Regional Committee, Christian Addai-Poku, stated: “Across our continent, we have witnessed the rapid growth of so called ‘low-cost’ private schools. These schools are notorious for employing unqualified teachers with low salaries and few labour rights. They operate with inadequate, if any, monitoring or accountability. Bridge International Academies (BIA) stands out as an example – it is the largest ‘low-cost’, for-profit school chain in the world. In Africa, it exhibits both disregard for national sovereignty and the rule of law.”

“The expansion of BIA, and other such operators, is undermining efforts to address de-professionalisation and improve teacher qualifications and standards in Africa, as well as trying to legitimise profit making in the provision of education. Evidence shows that privatisation, in all its various manifestations, undermines the right of all students to free, quality education and entrenches inequalities, particularly for girls and the socially disadvantaged. Research and experience are unequivocal in showing that it is only through a strong, inclusive, quality public education system that societies can be cohesive, just and prosperous.”

Education International calls on governments and intergovernmental agencies to prioritise the realisation of the right to education through the allocation of adequate funding to public education. This can be achieved by the mobilisation of sustainable domestic resources, particularly, through strengthened and progressive tax regimes and closing loopholes that facilitate illicit financial outflows.

To find out more about Bridge International Academies operations in Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, and Nigeria please see: What do we really know about Bridge International Academies? a summary of research findings (Riep, C., 2019)

Education International’s letters to the World Bank, urging the organisation to stop their sponsorship of Bridge International Academies, can be found here