Archives for category: International

The new Minister of Education in Liberia made a deal with the for-profit Bridge International Academies to supply elementary education. The company’s investors include Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. (NEA is an investment company, not the teachers’ union.)



“The Minister who has been serving the position for less than a year instead of helping to fix has turned to outsourcing reform in the sector to a private institution with negotiations ongoing for the private entity to manage the primary and early childhood education for a period of five years. Bridge Academies which runs education projects in Kenya and Uganda has record of using android mobile phones in providing classroom lessons to pupils.


“Under the Bridge Academies project, the notes and other lectures materials are stored on an android mobile phone and the teachers use the phones to teach, a method where the teacher does not have to be sophisticated to teach. The institution charges US$6 per student per month in Uganda and Kenya as part of its project and also charges other fees for feeding and others. Some in Kenya and Uganda believe that $6 plus other charges by Bridge Academies is a lot of money for the millions in the two countries. In Uganda, many say the amount requires poor Ugandan families with many children to borrow in order to keep all their children in school or to choose which child goes to school.


“Despite charging fees, the World Bank through its sector investment arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) invested US$10 million in Bridge Academies in 2014 in order to increase the number of Bridge schools in the country and expand to three countries including Uganda. The IFC also approved a loan of US$4.1 million to Merryland High School, a private, fee-charging secondary school in Entebbe, Uganda in December 2014.


“Bridge continues to get criticisms from the Governments of both Kenya and Uganda for its method of using Android mobile phones to teach students where most of the teachers used only use what is placed on the phone as Bridge resulted to using teachers who are not qualified to teach since the teaching materials are placed on a phone and the teacher only needs to teach what is available. The entity teaching method is seen in the two countries as discouraging the employment of qualified teachers who will interact with the students while teaching instead of using fixed materials downloaded on a mobile phone.


“Current Education Minister Werner whom many described as reformer, instead of working to revamp the education sector, took off time visiting East Africa mainly Kenya and Uganda where he started negotiations for Bridge to come to Liberia and manage the primary education sector on a private-public partnership program. FrontPageAfrica has gathered that Bridge officials are in Liberia to conclude arrangement for a pilot project of the first 50 schools to begin using the Bridge project beginning school year 2016-17.


“As part of the project the PPP providers will design their programmes (curriculum materials, etc., from April to September 2017 while phase two will rollout contracting out the remaining schools over 5 years, with government exit possible each year dependent on provided performance- September 2017 onwards. Eventually the Ministry of Education is aiming to contract out all primary and early childhood education schools to private providers who meet the required standards over 5 year period. According to the tentative timeline the by February/March 2016 the memorandum of Understanding for the pilot 50 schools will be signed and by September 2016, the first 50 schools launch, with baselines and performance measures.”




The following statement was written and released by a group of non-governmental organizations concerned about the growing movement to privatize education in Kenya. They call here for resistance to the introduction of for-profit organizations and for the building of a genuine free public education for all children. Pearson is one of the prime movers behind for-profit Bridge International Academy and Omega.




Screen shot 2016-01-29 at 7.46.00 PM

Joint Statement


Students before profit: Teacher unions and civil society unite to condemn the commercialisation of education in Kenya


Tuesday 26th January, 2016 (Nairobi)


According to Article 53 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 every child has the immediate right to free and compulsory basic education. This is emphasised in Section 28 of the Basic Education Act 2013 and Section 7 of the Children’s Act 200.


The 2009 Policy for Alternative Provision of Basic Education and Training (APBET), recognises alternative or ‘non formal’ schools. Under this policy, non-formal schools have fewer requirements in terms of curriculum, infrastructure and teacher qualification.


The original intention of APBET recognition and support for non-formal schools was to provide access to education to children who would have otherwise been unable to attend the formal education system do to the unavailability of an adequate number of public schools. However, this policy has allowed big corporations and edu-businesses to benefit from these lower legal requirements and profit from the delivery of non-formal education in areas of the country that remain largely under-served by public schools.


These unintended consequences have drawn the attention of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights all of which have expressed concern over the growing privatisation of education and fee charging for-profit schools in Kenya such as Bridge International Academies.


Most recently, on 21st January 2016, the 71st session of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child asked the Kenyan government to respond to the growing privatisation of education, specifically the impact of Bridge on the quality of education in Kenya. Olga Khazova, UN Committee member and Rapporteur for Kenya stated: “There are regulations on the quality of education children should receive but when it comes to Bridge, these regulations seem not to be enforced. What is the government doing about this?”


This follows from concerns expressed in November 2015 by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UNCESCR). Specifically, it asked “how the State party has regulated and monitored informal private schools, or low-cost private schools, to ensure quality education.”


Similarly, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights questioned the definition of “non-formal schools” by the Kenyan Government. It asked: “Why are private school chains, such as Bridge International Academies, registered as non-formal schools, whereas they appear to offer formal education?”


In May 2015, 116 organisations across the world expressed their deep concerns about the World Bank’s support for Bridge International Academies.


Bridge is a multinational chain of low-fee profit-making private primary schools targeting poor families in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria. It has over 400 schools in Kenya. In Kenya, it is exploiting a loophole in regulations allowing it to register as ‘non formal’ schools instead of private schools.


The school chain has recently come under scrutiny over its opposition to new guidelines by the Kenya Cabinet Secretary for Education aimed at ensuring basic standards in non-formal schools such as the recruitment of qualified teachers.


The expansion of Bridge is a manifestation of the growing commercialisation and privatisation of education in Kenya. This commercialisation and privatisation of education represents one of the greatest threats to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September 2015.


This threat has also been recognised by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to Education, Kishore Singh, who warned that “soon, it may not be an exaggeration to say that privatization is supplanting public education instead of supplementing it”, where “inequalities in opportunities for education will be exacerbated by the growth of unregulated private providers of education, with economic condition, wealth or property becoming the most important criterion for gaining access to education”.



Teacher unions and civil society therefore, call on the government to


  • close existing legislative and regulatory loopholes and ensure compliance in relation to minimum national standards with respect to the provision of education. Registration of schools must be conditional on full compliance with minimum standards.


  • fulfil its obligations consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4. By adopting the Sustainable Development Goals governments have committed to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Target 4.1 requires governments to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.


  • fulfil its primary obligation to properly and adequately fund free quality education for all children regardless of the background. This is crucial to Kenya’s future prosperity.






Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT)

East African Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights)

Economic and Social Rights Centre – (Hakijamii)

Action Aid-Kenya

Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers (KUPPET)

Universities Academic Staff Union

International Commission of Jurists – Kenya Chapter

Katiba Institute

The Cradle

Transparency International – Kenya

Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Education International


Now that the titans of the tech industry, in alliance with the U.S. Department of Education, are committed to increasing the use of technology and ignoring the loss and shortage of teachers, they would be well-advised to read this OECD study.


It found that students who use computers in school moderately perform better than those who use computers rarely. Those who use computers heavily perform worse than both of the other groups, even after demographics and social background are taken into account. A heavy investment in technology has no appreciable effect on academic performance.

Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates should read this study. They both promote “personalized education,” which means every child using a computer with his/her own adaptive testing. This is machine-testing, not personalized education.


At the very least, this study should give pause as entrepreneurs push harder to invest in technology and discount the importance of teachers and human interaction between students and teachers.

Personalized education should involve interactions between two persons,not interaction between a student and a computer. That’s impersonated education.






There will be a press conference today at the National Press Club to announce that the Republic of Turkey has hired an American law firm “to conduct a global investigation” of the organization led by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in seclusion in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. The Gulen organization has a charter network of nearly 150 schools in the United States. The F.B.I. is investigating some of them now, but no reports have been released.



Investigation into Gülen Movement
December 9, 2015 10:00 AM
Location: National Press Club Zenger Room

Press Conference to Announce New Legal Action, Widening Investigation into Gülen Movement and Its Nationwide Charter School Network



WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — The Republic of Turkey has retained international law firm Amsterdam & Partners LLP to conduct a global investigation into the activities of the organization led by the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.


“We have been retained by the Republic to expose allegedly unlawful conduct by the Gulen network worldwide,” said Robert Amsterdam, founding partner of Amsterdam & Partners LLP, during a press conference held today at the National Press Club in Washington DC. “The activities of the Gulen network, including its penetration of the Turkish judiciary and police, as well as its political lobbying abroad, should concern everyone who cares about the future of democracy in Turkey.”
The Gulen network, which operates more than 100 charter schools in the U.S., has become the subject of federal and local law enforcement and regulatory investigation in the United States, said Amsterdam. According to separate cases filed against Gulen affiliated schools, the group has allegedly engaged in systemic abuse of the American visa system, Amsterdam says.



Because the government of the Phillipines has not invested in public education, multinational corporations are moving in to supply private education for the poor. Pearson and another corporation called the Ayala Group have moved in to fill the vacuum.


Curtis Riep, a doctoral student at the University of Alberta in Canada writes:


Corporate-led privatisations in Philippine education are taking shape in the form of a for-profit chain of low-cost private schools – known as APEC (Affordable Private Education Centers). APEC is a new corporate entity established through a joint venture between two major multinational corporations: Pearson Plc and the Ayala Group. APEC, and its corporate shareholders, intend to capitalise on an overburdened and under-resourced system by selling for-profit education services at nominally low-fees -more than $500 per year- on a massive scale. The vast number of ‘economically disadvantaged’ Filipino youth underserved by public and other private schools represents the target market for APEC.
Low-cost, low quality
Profits accumulated by APEC are the difference in price paid by consumers in the form of user fees and the cost to produce those services, or the cost to educate each student. In an effort to minimise production costs, while increasing profit margins, APEC has implemented a number of cost-cutting techniques. These include a low-cost rent model that involves short-term leases in unused commercial buildings that lack adequate space for libraries, gymnasiums, science and/or computer laboratories.
Although this low-cost rent scheme is drastically cheaper than purchasing land and constructing proper school facilities, quality learning environments are sacrificed. Teachers hired by APEC are also typically unlicensed and, therefore, paid severely low wages. These cost-cutting techniques are intended to minimise operational costs so the corporation can remain financially sustainable and profitable. Therefore, in the business of low-cost private schooling, as one APEC school manger remarked: “sometimes quality is compromised because of the companies’ concern for making a profit.”
Further problematic is the Department of Education’s complicity in this for-profit arrangement, since it has relaxed a number of regulations that govern the provision of basic education so that APEC can implement its low-cost, for-profit schooling experiment with limited governmental restriction.
Students: cogs in the corporate machine
APEC also represents a corporate strategy designed to manufacture cheap and flexible labour required by Ayala and other multinational companies through its provision of privatised basic education that aligns with the labour needs of industry. By reverse-engineering its curriculum, APEC intends to produce graduates of a particular disposition with specific skills, values, and knowledge that can be employed in the global labour market.


In particular, APEC aims to address the skill shortage in the business process outsourcing and call center industry in the Philippines by focusing on English communication skills. In turn, APEC schools involve two forms of privatisation: de facto privatisation, in the form of user fees paid for by students in exchange for basic education, and privatisation that exists because of the increasing private control and influence in the social relations of production. This is demonstrated by the joint venture between Ayala and Pearson that aims to produce a repository of labour with the skills, knowledge and values in demand by industry.
Education corporations increasingly participate in various aspects of educational governance and provision, including the sale and provision of for-profit education services, which undermines the right to free quality education, (re)produces social inequalities, undercuts the working conditions of teachers, and erodes democratic decision-making and public accountability in education.

I knew Mike Petrilli well, back when I was a trustee of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Institute in D.C. But after I became disillusioned with testing and school choice, I didn’t see much of him anymore. We occasionally trade emails. I have a certain residual fondness for him. But I nonetheless think he is wrong and hold out hope that he will one day realize it.

But he is not ready.

He sent me this note recently:

Joanne gets it exactly right. Ready to concede a few points?

Mediocre U.S. scores: Don’t blame poverty
// Joanne Jacobs — Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs

When U.S. students post mediocre scores on international tests, poverty is “the elephant in the room,” says American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. Others point to a “poverty crisis” rather than an “education crisis.”

The elephant is not in the room, write Michael Petrilli and Brandon Wright in Education Next. U.S. schools do as well — or poorly — educating low-income students as other countries. Furthermore, U.S. children aren’t more likely to be poor: Those sky-high child poverty rates really are measuring inequality rather than absolute poverty.

Overall, the U.S. rates 28th in math proficiency for advantaged students among the 34 countries in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Disadvantaged U.S. students rank 20th compared to similar students in other PISA countries.

Our advantaged students may do better than poor kids here, but they don’t outperform similar students in developed countries.

While income inequality is high in the U.S., absolute poverty is not especially high, Petrilli and Wright argue. Including all forms of income, including welfare benefits, the U.S. poverty rate is lower than Britain’s, the same as Germany’s and “barely higher than Finland’s.”

Poverty drags down performance here — and everywhere, they conclude. The U.S. is not an outlier.

My response:

Except that the international scores predict nothing about the future. We were dead last in 1964. By now, we should be a Third World country. Except we are the biggest economy in the world with the most powerful military. How did all those dumb 15-year-olds manage that?

This is something I find hard to understand about the “reformers.” Why do they want the world to believe that we have the worst education system in the developed world? Why are they always eager to discredit our country? Who do they think created the goods and services, the technology and culture that has changed the world? It wasn’t just graduates of Andover, Exeter, and Deerfield Academy, or Lakeside and Sidwell Friends. It wasn’t graduates of charter schools. I remember the disgusting commercials that StudentsFirst produced and ran during the 2012 Olympics, portraying an American athlete as an overweight man in a tutu falling down; this was supposed to represent our flabby, effete, faltering education system. It struck me as crass anti-Americanism, as well as a few other ugly attributes.

The worst thing about our country is our tolerance for poverty, extreme income inequality, extreme wealth inequality, and segregation. The reformers scoff at such concerns and twist into pretzels trying to deny what is obvious. They are right that our education system must change, but not in the direction they seek. Our education system needs drastic change to get away from the soul-deadening conformity imposed by corporate reform. The status quo is stultifying, boring, and harmful to children and teachers.

How can I say more clearly that I don’t think the international test scores mean anything about the future? If destroying the joy of learning and the passion of discovery is the price of raising test scores, it is too high a price to pay.

Mike, please read Yong Zhao’s “Why China Has the Best and the Worst School System in the World?” Please watch the spectacular speech that he gave to the annual meeting of the Network for Public Education last April in Chicago. Please read Ted Dintersmith and Tony Wagner’s new book, “Most Likely to Succeed.” Open your mind. Create the world you want your children to live in, not a world where parents like you have to find private alternatives to escape what you and your rightwing friends are doing to our public schools.

Mercedes Schneider reviewed Mike Petrilli and Brandon Wright’s article asserting that poverty does not explain the poor performance of American students on international tests. Although she teaches high school English in Louisiana, Schneider has a Ph.D. in research methods and statistics, and she brings her understanding to bear here.

She faults the authors for failing to cite sources for some of their claims. She disputes their findings.

She writes:

In the closing of their article, Petrilli and Wright state that poverty cannot be used as an “excuse” to “explain away America’s lackluster academic performance.” They call it “a crutch unfounded in evidence”– as though their porous offering is solid evidence refuting the role of poverty upon standardized test scores.

Not so.

Too many holes.


Martin Carnoy of Stanford is one of the nation’s leading authorities on international assessments. In this publication, he explains how complicated it is to draw meaningful conclusions from them.

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


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