Background: The last several decades have seen radical increases in the number of students attending and completing primary school in Sub-Saharan Africa. In some countries, including Kenya, there has also been rapid growth in enrollment at low-cost private schools. While many private schools are independently operated, some firms now operate multiple schools. Bridge International Academies is the largest and has generated considerable attention and debate.
Research area: Education
Evaluation Sample: Scholarship Applicants to Bridge International Academies
Intervention: Bridge International Academies
Researchers: Anthony Keats, Wesleyan University; Michael Kremer, Harvard University; Isaac Mbiti, University of Virginia; Owen Ozier, World Bank
Bridge International Academies, founded in 2009, has attracted support from Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, DFID, and the International Finance Corporation and now has tens of thousands of students enrolled in hundreds of schools in multiple countries. Proponents argue that Bridge offers an opportunity to expand access to quality education by employing technology: tablets deliver detailed lesson plans to teachers; and teachers are held highly accountable in terms of attendance. Critics argue that Bridge’s fees are a barrier to access; that its teachers are less qualified than teachers in free public schools; that it does not follow the Kenyan curriculum and use government-approved textbooks; that its facilities do not meet government standards; that its labor practices lead to high teacher turnover; that it inhibits creativity through a pedagogical approach based on scripted lessons, and that it is not cost effective. A recent evaluation by Innovations for Poverty Action and the Center for Global Development examined a program under which Liberia contracted out management of public schools to a number of operators, including Bridge, but it was not designed to examine Bridge specifically and the context was very different than that in Kenya, where the great majority of Bridge pupils are currently enrolled.