Archives for category: International

Pasi Sahlberg, who is currently a visiting fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, but has previously been director general of the Finnish Ministry of Education in Helsinki, writes here about the importance of teacher autonomy.

He compares teachers in Finland to teachers in the U.S.

When visitors tour Finnish schools, they are struck by the autonomy of teachers.

After spending a day or sometimes two in Finnish schools, they were puzzled. Among other things they said was the following: the atmosphere in schools is informal and relaxed. Teachers have time in school to do other things than teach. And people trust each other. A common takeaway was that Finnish teachers seem to have much more professional autonomy than teachers in the United States to help students to learn and feel well.

Teachers in Finland spend fewer hours teaching each week than teachers in the U.S.

We do know that teachers’ workplaces provide very different conditions for teaching in different countries.

First, teachers in the US work longer hours (45 hours/week) than their peers in Finland (32 hours/week). They also teach more weekly, 27 hours compared to 21 hours in Finland.

This means that American teachers, on average, have much less time to do anything beyond their teaching duties (whether alone or with colleagues) than teachers in most other OECD countries.

Finnish teachers are more likely to teach jointly with other teachers than their peers in the U.S.

In Finland, teachers often say that they are professionals akin to doctors, architects and lawyers. This means, they explain, that teachers are expected to perform in their workplaces like pros: use professional judgment, creativity and autonomy individually and together with other teachers to find the best ways to help their students to learn.

In the absence of common teaching standards, Finnish teachers design their own school curricula steered by flexible national framework. Most importantly, while visiting schools, I have heard Finnish teachers say that due to absence of high-stakes standardized tests, they can teach and assess their students in schools as they think is most appropriate.

The keyword between teachers and authorities in Finland is trust. Indeed, professional autonomy requires trust, and trust makes teacher autonomy alive.

The “reformers” in the U.S. have acted on the assumption that school autonomy is necessary to improve education. But, says Sahlberg, there is no evidence that school autonomy improves student performance or that it increases teacher autonomy. To the contrary, school autonomy (e.g., charters) are often association with less teacher autonomy.

The OECD has concluded that greater teacher professional autonomy is associated with better outcomes.

Sahlberg concludes:

I don’t think that the primary problem in American education is the lack of teacher quality, or that part of the solution would be to find the best and the brightest to become teachers. The quality of an education system can exceed the quality of its teachers if teaching is seen as a team sport, not as an individual race.

And this is perhaps the most powerful lesson the US can learn from better-performing education systems: teachers need greater collective professional autonomy and more support to work with one another.

When I posted the other day about Malala Yousafzai, I said that she had been shot in the head, survived, became an advocate for the education of girls, and won a Nobel Peace Prize.

But there is so much more to know about this remarkable young woman.

“Her family runs a chain of schools in the region. In early 2009, when she was 11–12, Yousafzai wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban occupation, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls in the Swat Valley. The following summer, journalist Adam B. Ellick made a New York Times documentary about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region. Yousafzai rose in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television, and she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by South African activist Desmond Tutu.

On the afternoon of 9 October 2012, Yousafzai boarded her school bus in the northwest Pakistani district of Swat. A gunman asked for her by name, then pointed a pistol at her and fired three shots. One bullet hit the left side of Yousafzai’s forehead, travelled under her skin through the length of her face, and then went into her shoulder. In the days immediately following the attack, she remained unconscious and in critical condition, but later her condition improved enough for her to be sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, for intensive rehabilitation. On 12 October, a group of 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwā against those who tried to kill her, but the Taliban reiterated their intent to kill Yousafzai and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai.

The assassination attempt sparked a national and international outpouring of support for Yousafzai. Deutsche Welle wrote in January 2013 that Yousafzai may have become “the most famous teenager in the world.” United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a UN petition in Yousafzai’s name, demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015; it helped lead to the ratification of Pakistan’s first Right to Education Bill.

A 2013 issue of Time magazine featured Yousafzai as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World”. She was the winner of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize, and the recipient of the 2013 Sakharov Prize. In July that year, she spoke at the headquarters of the United Nations to call for worldwide access to education, and in October the Government of Canada announced its intention that its parliament confer Honorary Canadian citizenship upon Yousafzai. Even though she is fighting for women’s and children’s rights, she did not describe herself as feminist when asked on Forbes Under 30 Summit. In February 2014, she was nominated for the World Children’s Prize in Sweden. In May, Yousafzai was granted an honorary doctorate by the University of King’s College in Halifax. Later in 2014, Yousafzai was announced as the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. Aged 17 at the time, Yousafzai became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.”

Some readers have insisted that if she doesn’t take the SAT, she should be rejected by Stanford. I think that’s ridiculous. The admissions process for an elite college always involves a mix of priorities. Frankly, she honors Stanford by expressing an interest in becoming a student there.

Our readers have debated whether Stanford should insist that she take the SAT to prove her ability to enroll there. Some say, a rule’s a rule, no exceptions. Personally, I think that Stanford’s pig-headed insistence on subjecting this brilliant young woman to a standardized test aligned to the Common Core is absurd.

Our blog poet wrote a poem about Malala and this situation:

“”One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.” — Malala Yousafzai, at her UN speech

“One student number , one ed-u-bot, one iPad, and one test can change the world. Testing is the only solution.” — Arne Duncan

Last week, Nashville school board member Amy Frogge wrote about her misgivings about Nashville Prep, a charter school with high test scores. She criticized its harsh discipline and its use of a book that contained words and situations that most people would consider inappropriate for children in seventh grade. Her article was called: WARNING! THE CONTENT OF THIS POST IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN!

Many comments responded to her article. This one came from a teacher in England:

“If a teacher did this in the UK, they would be sacked. No Union could support the use of such a book with 12 year-old children. The planning trail for the use of this book should be scrutinised and the person, or persons responsible, must be held to account – it is a form of child abuse and would be totally unacceptable throughout the United Kingdom. As a Foster Carer, I am amazed to read this. As a teacher, I am disgusted that it is a required text in a US Charter School. As an individual, it is a sign of how awful Education is becoming in the USA, the supposed leader of the free world. The Discipline strategies described here would see you charged with assault in the United Kingdom. What I have read beggars belief.

“Something is seriously wrong.”

“Oliver Kingsley,
Vice President,
Liverpool Division of the National Union of Teachers, United Kingdom”

Robin Alexander of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust reports on the results of the British national competition to find and reward the schools that are best at teaching “grit.”

He writes:

The Department for Education–DfE – England’s equivalent to the US Department of Education, but with considerably greater powers – has duly announced the 27 prizewinners in its Character Education competition.

Though the names of the schools are not likely to mean much to US readers, complaints about the award methodology may strike a chord. Schools nominated themselves and then justified their claims to a 23,000 dollar prize for building character, grit and resilience through brief answers to six questions. One of these questions asked for evidence of the impact of their character forming strategies on their students, but critics of the scheme claim that such evidence counted for less than the eloquence of schools’ answers, that these were not independently checked for accuracy, and that the provision of genuinely verifiable evidence was optional.

We have not been told how many of England’s schools entered this bizarre competition (DfE’s remit doesn’t extend to the whole of the UK, to the increasing relief of many in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), but we can safely assume that the overwhelming majority did not. Most, quite simply, will have been too busy to do so. Some will have been unwilling to have their names so publicly linked to what was essentially a pre-election political stunt. Others will have been justly offended by the suggestion that schools didn’t attend to the development of their students’ personal and interpersonal attributes until the UK government told them to, or that without a 23,000 dollar incentive they wouldn’t bother. Others again, as my blog of 30 January suggested, will have objected to being told to replace their carefully conceived and sensitively nurtured efforts in this direction by a recipe from which ethics, communality, plurality, social responsibility and global citizenship are so conspicuously excluded.

Which is not to say that the 27 winners did not deserve to be recognised for the work they do. But no less deserving of recognition are the thousands of schools whose teachers value and nurture ‘character’ but manifest it by not competing with others to advertise the fact.

The DFE announced the winners last February.

Angelo Gavrielatos of Education International insists that we must continue to fight for the right of every child to have access to a free, high-quality public education. EI represents teachers around the world. Please open his article to find the links.

He writes:

As teachers, we know that the realisation of high quality public education for every child remains a work in progress.

Our long-held commitment to achieving it is informed by the fact that a public school, in every community, is a precondition to fulfilling our responsibility as members of an international community to ensure that every child gains access to education.

We also know that if we are serious about achieving excellence and equity for all, public schools must set the standard for high quality education as equity in the provision of education can only be realised if public schools, free and universally accessible, set that standard.

It is not only disappointing, but it is also disturbing that the ideal of quality public education for all is under greater threat today than it has ever been.
This threat has been on public display in recently in the form of articles, or in some cases advertorials by anonymous writers, in publications such as the Economist, which support and promote the emergence and expansion of low fee for-profit private schools in developing countries as the means of providing access to schooling for the children of the poorest of the poor referred to as “clients”. They may as well just refer to children as economic units.

So biased and unsubstantiated was the “journalism” that it provoked an immediate response from highly recognised and respected international agencies like OXFAM and Action Aid to name two, who along with others wrote letters to the editor. Similarly, leading academics also responded condemning the bias.

Dr. Prachi Srivastava, a tenured Associate Professor at the School of International Development and Global Studies specialising in the area of education and international development at the University of Ottawa, who was so “dismayed and surprised” by her name being used to legitimise and endorse low fee for-profit private schools, in addition to a letter to the editor, produced an opinion piece in The Guardian based on her detailed academic research demolishing the claims made in one of the articles.

Whilst not entirely surprised by these advertorials in the Economist – after all , at the time of its publication, the Economist was still 50 percent owned by the world’s largest education corporation, Pearson, which has interests in low fee for-profit private school chains such as Bridge international Academies and Omega in Kenya, Ghana and a number of other countries – as a teacher I was deeply offended by the unwarranted gratuitous attack on teachers and our unions in campaigning for the very best opportunities for every child in every classroom.

As teachers we take our responsibility to our students very seriously. All we ask for, indeed we demand, is that governments fulfil their obligation to their most vulnerable citizens, namely children.

Beyond a legislative guarantee to fulfil their primary obligation to adequately fund and resource public schools, governments must legislate against non-state actors operating schools for profit, particularly when they are in receipt, directly or indirectly, domestically or extraterritorially, of any tax payers dollars intended for the educational well-being of students.(Surely, taxpayers dollars intended for the educational well-being of students shouldn’t be siphoned away to line the pockets of billionaires and global corporations.)

Furthermore, governments must introduce, where non-existent, and enforce legislated regulatory frameworks to ensure high standards in teacher qualifications, curriculum and teaching environments. A social contract, if you like, providing guarantees for students.
In attacking regulation of facilities and teacher qualifications, the Economist makes the outrageous statement, contrary to reams of research and evidence, that: “the quality of facilities, or teachers’ qualifications and pay, have been shown by research in several countries to have no bearing on a school’s effectiveness.”

This astonishing attack on teacher qualifications bells the cat for the prophets of profit. Employing unqualified “teachers” is driven by their business plan to maximise profit. It is no wonder that in a recent article in the Independent that Pearson-supported low fee for-profit chain, Bridge International academies, operating in Kenya and elsewhere, protested a possible government requirement that half, not all, “half of all teachers in any one school should have a recognised teaching qualification and be paid accordingly.”

In all of my professional life, I’ve yet to meet a parent who would prefer their child to be taught by an unqualified teacher. I very much doubt whether the anonymous author of the advertorial or senior figures at Pearson would volunteer their own children to be taught by unqualified ‘teachers’ reading from a script.

If standing up for the right of every child to have access to a rigorous, rich curriculum, taught by well supported qualified teachers in safe environments conducive to good teaching and learning is a crime, we are guilty as charged.

Written by Angelo Gavrielatos
Project Director, The Global Response to
Privatisation and Commercialisation in and of Education

Marc Tucker’s blog reports how top-performing nations select school principals. Most require several years of teaching experience and a long and in-depth course in leadership skills. The report, by Jennifer Craw and Jackie Kraemer, describes the high professionalism required in top-performing nations.

By contrast, some states in the U.S. allow non-educators to become principals.

The U.S. is definitely an outlier.

Joanne Yatvin, veteran educator, now retired after a long career as teacher, principal, superintendent, and president of the National Council of Teachers of English, offers the following observations:

I recently read two articles about education in the New York Times. One recounted the shortage of teachers in many U.S states, while the other was about the shortage of students in rural areas of South Korea. Each article was fascinating in its own way; the first one for its lack of candor about why teachers are in such short supply, and the second for its many details about the range of services still offered in a public school that has only one student left. Let me explain.

The writer of the first article attributes the teacher shortage solely to economics, claiming that the massive teacher layoffs of the past few years were the natural result of the recession and that today’s lack of teacher applicants is due only to “fewer people training to be teachers.” At the same time she says nothing about the number of teachers who have left their jobs voluntarily. Thus she can also avoid mentioning the issues that have rocked the teaching profession and our public schools for the past several years, such as rating teachers by student test scores, the bad-mouthing of public schools in the media, and many governors’ preference for charter schools. She also fails to mention that the states hurting most for teachers offer low salaries and suppress teachers unions.

Admittedly, the second article is of a different genre altogether; it describes the culture in South Korea and explains the economic changes that have sent almost all young families and their children to the industrialized cities. But most interesting to me were the writer’s emphasis on the positive attitudes of local people toward education and his detailed description of the last student’s schooling. He shows readers the student’s positive attitude toward learning and the teacher’s close attention to both the academic and social growth of his student.

As evidence of the community’s continuing dedication to education the writer describes the almost empty school where there are still big screen TVs, computers, table tennis tables, telescopes, book-filled shelves, and musical instruments all the classrooms. In addition, he tells us that a painting teacher and a guitar teacher still come to the school twice a week to give lessons to the lone student. The local educational office delivers two lunches to the school every day.
In recounting all of this, my purpose was not to criticize one writer and praise the other, but to give you just a taste of the differences between the two countries in their treatment of public education. With all our wealth, power, and sense of “American Exceptionalism” we can surely give our schools, our teachers, and our children a better deal than what they have now.

Prachi Srivastava, a professor in the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa, is an expert on the subject of low-fee private schooling. She writes here on the Oxfam blog in response to The Economist’s paean of praise to for-profit private schooling in poor countries. She reviews the research and says that The Economist oversimplified the subject. The research does not support the simplistic view that the private sector is invariably better than the public sector as a provider of education in poor countries. The findings are in fact nuanced.

And this problem remains, after all the research is reviewed:

The growth of the low-fee private sector has been widely attributed to dysfunctional state schools. But state failure should not be tacitly accepted, certainly in light of the evidence. The fact remains that the majority of the poorest, most disadvantaged children in poor countries continue to access dysfunctional state schools. And all of us, including the private sector, have a role to play in making sure they get better.

The following comment was posted in response to Laura Chapman’s comment and critique of for-profit schools in Africa (see below):

My name is Josh Weinstein and another commenter, Laura Chapman, referenced a post that I wrote about my time working at Bridge International Academies. I am including the original post below, but I want to clarify some depictions of my views about for-profit education in developing countries and Bridge International Academies in particular.

For some background, I spent three years working in microfinance, agriculture, and education in Southeast Asia and East and West Africa. I came to Bridge in 2011 when it had 15 schools, and left in 2012 when it had 75 schools. Today it has over 400 schools and has grown considerably. I will address some of Ms. Chapman’s mischaracterizations of my views, and explain why I believe for-profit schools are, on balance, a positive trend to children born into extreme poverty.

First, Ms. Chapman says: “[Josh Weinstein says that] local people saw a contradiction between the Western idea of a liberal education with its emphasis on critical thinking versus the BIA practice of hiring high school graduates to teach from a prepared script. For this reason they automatically assumed that the quality of a Bridge education was poor, and “far below that of more expensive schools.” I did not say that, nor do I believe it. For people living on less than $2 a day, which is the target customer for Bridge schools, the concept of a liberal education is not a consideration. Rather, they evaluate BIA schools relative to public schools, which are underfunded, overcrowded, and serve a fraction of the eligible primary school population at a cost to parents, despite FPE (free primary education) in Kenya. The choice for parents is not between an education emphasizing critical thinking and one offering rote memorization, but fundamentally one that offers higher time-on-task and direct instruction of evidence-based teaching methodologies backed by rigorous testing.

Ms. Chapman quotes an organization called “Global Justice Now” in saying that BIA schools actually cost between $9 and $20 a month, or 68% of the income of someone in Uganda. That is also false – I’ve included the article she references below and the figure is unsourced. I performed the cost- and affordability analysis for BIA schools in 2012, which included detailed data gathering from teams of researchers in slums around Nairobi. In fact, BIA schools, at a cost of 400 Kenyan shillings (~$5) were considerably cheaper than the alternatives. Her statement about the cost of BIA schools is patently false.

Finally, I will make two points. First, BIA did not create the concept of a low-cost private school. It merely focused on streamlining operations to enable economies of scale that would allow it to focus on teacher training and curriculum development – the most important elements of an education. Many, if not most, of BIA students came from other private schools, run by churches, non-profits, or entrepreneurs. Students who could not get into public schools or whose parents did not feel the education was good enough also sent their kids to BIA schools. These parents are discerning consumers of education, and wanted the best for their children. They evaluated schools based on what skills students learn and how they perform on homework and how quickly they learn English and other skills. To assume that they do not what is best for them is paternalistic at best, and harmful at worst.

Second, criticisms in this and other articles ignore fundamental realities about life for the poorest of the poor. The conditions for people living in slums is dire, and the education systems of the countries mentioned in the article are rife with corruption (which is well-detailed). To make a blanket assumption that education is a public good and should be government-run refuses to acknowledges the harsh realities of life in the slums. If BIA succeeds, it will provide parents an alternative to education their children. Or, it will force governments to reconsider their own approach to public education. Either way, it is a good thing for children with few opportunities to escape the unfortunate circumstances into which they were born.

If you have any questions, please email me at

My article:

Further Reading:

“The Beautiful Tree” by James Tooley –

Randomized controlled trials of private education from Jameel Poverty Action Lab:

Josh Weinstein was responding to this comment by Laura Chapman:

I have been looking into Pearson’s second quarter 2015 report and the international marketplace for education.

Pearson has announced that it is in the process of selling many of its publications in order to concentrate on the education market. Although Pearson has lost big testing contracts in the United States it still has monopolies such as edTAP for teacher education and North America is still Pearson’s largest market.

In higher education, Pearson expects fairly stable college enrollments, less yearly churn in courseware, and growth in its online services and VUE (a platform for tests and 450 certifications).

For the pre-K-12 market, Pearson says “the possibility of further policy related disruption remains” but that they “expect greater stability in courseware and assessments with growth in virtual schools.”

Pearson has offices in more than 55 countries. It sees Growth markets in Brazil, China, and India, especially in English language learning and test preparation, almost all of this on-line. Overall, the company is “investing in courseware, assessment and qualifications (certifications), managed services, and schools and colleges. Pearson is planning for “a smaller number of global products and platforms for delivering infrastructure and “common systems and processes.”

Pearson is not the only international player and there are back-scratching relationships in reving up for international projects. For example, Pearson is one of the investors in Bridge International Academies (BIA) offering “Academy-in-a-Box programs from nursery school to grade 6 in over 400 schools. These schools are in Nigeria (world headquarters), Uganda, Kenya, and they are expanding to India. The World Bank has given $10 million to BIA in Africa. At least $30 million more has come from U.S. venture capitalists— Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Pierre Omidyar (founder of EBay) and also from Pearson.

Profits are made by offering a fully scripted curriculum in small schools. These schools are staffed by local instructors who are high school graduates, along with an Academy Manager who oversees and audits classroom instruction, recruits students, and communicates with parents and the local community.

According to BIA’s website, “Teacher scripts are delivered through data-enabled tablets, which seamlessly sync with our headquarters, giving us the ability to monitor lesson pacing in addition to providing the scripts themselves, recording attendance, and tracking assessments in real-time. We also create our own books, manipulatives, instructional songs, symbols for enforcing positive behavioral management, and more, which we are able to produce locally at an extremely low cost.”

Billing, payments, expense and payroll processing, prospective admissions, and the like are taken care of by “smartphone apps” tailored for the Academy Manager and for the Teachers’ tablet. The assessment platform in Kenya is called Tangerine:Class™ a mobile system for doing continuous, formative assessments with tracking of individual students.

Professional educators in each nation “managed by TFA alumni with master’s degrees” build the curriculum to meet national requirements. A video team films lessons for a version of field-testing the curriculum. Curriculum writers review the videos, looking for evidence of student engagement, comprehension, and retention of content. Student exams are used to identify weaknesses in the curriculum and review teacher performance.”

The curriculum explains what teachers should do and say during any given moment of a class, step-by-step. The marketing pitch is: “This allows us to bring best-in-class instruction, international and local research, and curriculum specialists into every one of our classrooms” and …”standardize our high-quality instruction across all of our academies.” …Because of our highly efficient delivery mechanism (marrying talented individuals from each community with technology, scripted instruction, rigorous training, and data-driven oversight), Bridge is able to bring some of the world’s greatest instruction and pedagogical thinking into every classroom in every village and slum in the world.”

BIA outcomes are currently tracked through products from RIT International, a US-based think tank in the process of commercializing some services and products. Bridge is using the Early Grade Reading Assessment (adapted for 40 countries in 60 languages) and the Early Grade Math Assessment (adapted for 10 countries and languages). Some school operations are monitored through Snapshop of School Management Effectiveness (adapted for 16 countries and 12 languages). RIT is a major contractor for almost every branch of the US government, foreign governments, foundations, and other groups.

According to Josh Weinstein who worked on data analytics for BIA in Nairobi, local people saw a contradiction between the Western idea of a liberal education with its emphasis on critical thinking versus the BIA practice of hiring high school graduates to teach from a prepared script. For this reason they automatically assumed that the quality of a Bridge education was poor, and “far below that of more expensive schools.”

Even so, Josh thought that Bridge was a fairly low-cost improvement over non-formal schools and government schools with little in-house teacher training. Josh was in charge of routine testing of 3,000 Bridge students matched with peers at government and other non-formal schools. So far, Josh says there are strong gains in basic reading relative to peers, and less strong, but still measurable, gains in math.

Josh (a global entrepeneur) was impressed that data is being used to improve the business model–profits, educational outcomes, efficiencies in ancillary services, the location of schools, and web-site performance. He said that policies can be examined on short notice and “changes can easily be rolled out across every single school.” He said that each school is profitable at a relatively small size, so more schools means revenue for scaling up.”

A group called “Global Justice Now” claimed that the real total cost of sending one child to a Bridge school is not the advertised $5 to $6 a month. It is $9 to $13 a month, and up to $20 a month with school meals. In Kenya, sending three children to BIA would represent 68% of the monthly income of half the population. In Uganda, sending three children to BIA would represent 75% of the monthly income of half the population.”

Anyone reasonably attuned to developments in American education will not find it difficult to see the scale of infiltration of TFA viewpoints and practices into the international marketplace. Moreover the same billionaires, corporate and international players are dominating the landscape.

Anyone with an eye to developments in American education can also see the pretense of representing ‘the world’s greatest instruction and pedagogical thinking” as scripted instruction, with data-driven oversight, apps for everything, and unacknowledged colonial values.

Several notable civil society groups have spoken out against the World Bank’s support for privatization of education in Africa, specifically Kenya and Uganda. The privatization movement gains in strength to the extent that governments fail to provide adequate funding for public education.

Private, for-profit schools in Africa funded by the World Bank and U.S. venture capitalists have been criticized by more than 100 organizations who’ve signed a petition opposing the controversial educational venture.

A May statement addressed to Jim Kim, president of the World Bank, expressed deep concern over the global financial institution’s investment in a chain of private primary schools targeting poor families in Kenya and Uganda and called on the institution to support free universal education instead.

The schools project is called Bridge International Academies and 100,000 pupils have enrolled in 412 schools across the two nations. BIA is supported by the World Bank, which has given $10 million to the project, and a number of investors, including U.S. venture capitalists NEA and Learn Capital. Other notable investors include Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Pierre Omidyar and Pearson, a multinational publishing company.

In a speech delivered in April, Kim praised BIA as a means to alleviate poverty in Kenya and Uganda. Critics responded that many Kenyans and Ugandans cannot afford private education, further arguing that this type of investment merely supports Western businesses at the expense of local public services.

A section of the letter addressed to Kim asserts:

“We, civil society organisations and citizens of Kenya and Uganda, are appalled that an organisation whose mandate is supposed to be to lift people out of poverty shows such a profound misunderstanding and disconnect from the lives and rights of poor people in Kenya and Uganda. If the World Bank is serious about improving education in Kenya and Uganda, it should support our governments to expand and improve our public education systems, provide quality education to all children free of charge, and address other financial barriers to access.”

Opposition to educational neocolonialism

The statement reflects a growing global movement questioning Western policies pushing private education in developing countries. It was written and signed by 30 organizations in Uganda and Kenya and supported by 116 organizations around the world, including Global Justice Now and ActionAid. They claim BIA uses highly standardized teaching methods, untrained low-paid teachers, and aggressive marketing strategies targeted at poor households.


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