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The Controversial Silicon Valley-Funded Quest To Educate The World’s Poorest Kids (Quartz)
January 22, 2018
From the article:
The Liberia experiment
When George Werner, Liberia’s education minister, asked Bridge to come help run some schools, Bridge leapt at the chance. After 14 years of civil war and a devastating outbreak of Ebola, Liberia had one of the worst education systems in the world. Only 38% of kids are enrolled in primary school (pdf); of the adult women who have finished primary school, only one-quarter can actually read a sentence.
“The status quo has failed,” Werner told Nick Kristof in the New York Times in 2017. “Teachers don’t show up, even though they’re paid by the government. There are no books. Training is very weak. School infrastructure is not safe. We have to do something radical.”
In 2016, the government did just that, launching a program called Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL). It invited eight NGOs and for-profit companies, including Bridge, to run 93 government schools with 27,000 students. Under the partnership, all of the organizations would have to use Liberian government teachers. Students would pay nothing to attend the schools; only the management of the selected schools would be turned over to the operators. Meanwhile, the remaining government-run public schools would continue to operate as usual.
Results after the first year suggest that the partnership schools are doing something right. The Center for Global Development’s recently released report showed that learning gains through the PSL program were significant. Students in partnership schools learned 60% more than kids in a control group of standard public schools. At Bridge, that figure was 100%: in other words, Bridge kids learned twice as much as those at public schools.