BRIEF

Kenya: Evaluation of Bridge Schools

November 14, 2017


Background: The last several decades have seen large 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 in private schools. While many private schools are independently operated, some firms now operate multiple schools. As the number of these schools increase, it is important to evaluate their impact on children’s learning.  

 

Research area: Education
Country: Kenya
Evaluation Sample:  Scholarship applicants to Bridge International Academies
Timeline:  2015-2019
Intervention:  Bridge International Academies
Researchers: Anthony Keats, Wesleyan University; Michael Kremer, Harvard University; Isaac Mbiti, University of Virginia; Owen Ozier, World Bank

 

Context

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, including Kenya.  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 accountable for their 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; and that it is not cost-effective, among other things. 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 several operators, including Bridge, but it was not designed to examine Bridge specifically and the context was very different than that in Kenya, where most of Bridge pupils are currently enrolled.


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Intervention/Evaluation

In October 2015, United We Reach, a non-governmental organization working on education, announced that they would fund 12,000 scholarships for pupils to attend Bridge International Academies schools in Kenya. SIEF-supported researchers designed an evaluation around this scholarship program.

Families were able to apply for a scholarship between November and December of 2015 and a total of 29,150 students applied to the program. The scholarship would cover tuition costs for the 2016 and 2017 school years at any of the 405 Bridge schools in Kenya. During the application process, data was collected on where applicants were planning to study to ensure that researchers would be comparing students who likely would go to Bridge because they received the scholarship with students who likely would go to a government school if they did not receive the scholarship. Applicants were then randomly assigned to either receive a scholarship or not. Baseline data collected when students applied includes, among other things, household information about income, assets, and literacy of the caregiver, as well as English and math test scores for primary school students. Impact evaluation results are expected in 2019.

  • The impact evaluation will survey these children after their two years at Bridge schools to measure their learning in English, Swahili, and mathematics. The research team also will give the same assessment tests to children who applied for but did not receive the scholarship and who are now largely enrolled in government schools.
  • The study will provide evidence on whether the impact of attending a Bridge school varies for different groups, such as girls and boys, rural and urban households, and richer and poorer families.
  • This evaluation will not be able to make any conclusions about private schools in general as compared with government schools. The results will relate only to the Bridge private schools in Kenya. At the same time, the evaluation may not be able to isolate exactly which aspect of Bridge’s model – for example, the curriculum, the facilities, the teacher accountability, among other things – is responsible for any effects on student achievement.