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.
|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, 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.