Archives for category: International

Jonathan Pelto writes about a report on Bill Gates’ underwriting of “journalism” touting privatization of public schools in Liberia, gates is an investor in Bridge International Academies, a for-profit business that offers scripted schooling by uncertified teachers in poor nations in Africa. Some have called it the new colonialism masquerading as philanthropy.

Gates has invested in BIA. it is not philanthropy.

“In a stunning expose written by Adam Johnson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), it becomes undeniably clear that Bill Gates has reached the point where his billions not only fund the myriad of corporate education reform initiatives that are sweeping the country and the world, but his investment in the media taints much of the coverage of these developments.

In an article entitled, “This Guardian Piece Touting Bill Gates’ Education Investment Brought to You by Bill Gates,” FAIR’s Adam Johnson explains:

“The Guardian (8/31/16) published a broadly positive report on Liberian education, which is handing over the reins of 120 primary schools to a consortium of private education companies and NGOs in a pilot program exploring privatization of the West African nation’s schools. One passage in particular was especially glowing:

“The deputy minister [of Education], Aagon Tingba, is reading The Bee Eater, a biography of Michele Rhee, a polarizing educational reformist and former chancellor of Washington, DC, public schools.

“She changed the lives of children in Washington, but people complained her methods were controversial. But she made a difference. So why can’t we do that here?”

“What the piece failed to note—other than the fact that Rhee’s tenure left DC’s schools “worse by almost every conceivable measure” (Truthout, 10/23/13)—is that multi-billionaire Bill Gates is both the major investor of the company administering the Liberian education overhaul and the principal of the Gates Foundation, sponsor of the Guardian’s Global Development vertical, where the story appeared.

“The story clearly labels the Gates Foundation as its sponsor. What it never mentioned is that Bill Gates is a major investor of the firm at the heart of the story, Bridge Academies International, having pitched in, along with Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar, $100 million for the “education startup.”

“Making the conflict more glaring is the fact that this is a personal, for-profit investment for Gates, not a charitable donation.

“The Guardian claims its Global Development vertical, launched in 2011, is “editorially independent of any sponsorship.” According to its most recent tax filings in 2014, the Gates Foundation has an on-going $5.69 million grant to Guardian News Media Limited.”

Leonie Haimson has written a stunning article about stories in the New York Times that promote investments of Bill Gates without acknowledging that the writer’s outside organization is funded by the Gates Foundation.

She refers in amazing detail to two laudatory articles about Bridge International Academies, the corporation that is providing for-profit schools in poor countries in Africa and elsewhere. Gates is an investor in BIA. The Gates Foundation supports the organization that supports the journalist. BIA is encouraging countries like Kenya and Liberia to outsource their responsibility for primary school education to the corporation, which charges the families about $6 a month. Haimson points out that when the cost of uniforms and supplies and food are included, the total is far higher, and represents about a quarter of the family income. If there is more than one child, the cost may be 2/3 of the family income. You can be sure that the business is highly profitable, and it relieves the country of the necessity of building universal free public education.

The article goes into detail about the research on both sides of the issue, which is not reflected in the Times’ coverage.

Other articles in the New York Times have praised the “flipped classroom,” a favorite of Bill Gates, and edTech schools that Gates endorses.

I hope the Public Editor of the New York Times reads this timely and important critique of their coverage.

Bill Phillis, onetime state deputy superintendent of instruction in Ohio, now director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy, raises an important question: What becomes of the Gulen charter chain of about 150 charters if the U.S. State Department decides to extradite Imam Fethullah Gulen? The Turkish government blames Gulen’s followers for the coup that sought to overturn the government. The Turkish government now blames the U.S. for sheltering Gulen. Turkey has resumed an alliance with Russia because of our refusal to turn Gulen over.

The decision the White House makes on the request of the Turkish government to extradite Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen (the U.S. charter school magnate) will likely affect the future of the 150 Gulen, tax-funded charter schools, 19 of which are in Ohio
The August 3 New York Times article-Turks can agree on one thing: U. S. was behind failed coup- indicates that pressure is mounting for the U.S. to send Gulen home to Turkey. Since the U.S. government has denied the extradition request multiple times, the Turks opine that the U.S. is supporting the coup attempt by the Gulenists in Turkey.

Disentanglement of the international politics associated with the recent coup attempt is beyond the scope of this post. But it is appropriate to ask a fundamental question to state officials and the sponsors of Gulen charters: Should a chain of charters, spawned and operated by members of the Gulen movement, continue to be supported by tax funds?

In dealing with this sensitive issue, the White House could send a clear message to Turkey by forbidding public funding of Gulen charters. Inasmuch as it has been substantiated that some of the funds paid to Gulen charters gravitates to the Gulen movement, state and federal officials should arrange for a complete investigation of the connection between the Gulen movement and the Gulen charters.

The question remains: Why are taxpayers allowing foreign nationals to take control of their neighborhood public schools?

The Ugandan Parliament ordered the for-profit corporation Bridge International Academies to close its schools for failing to meet the nation’s standards. The linked report comes from Education International, which represents teachers’ unions around the world. Teachers’ unions think that children should be instructed by qualified teachers. Most children in Uganda cannot afford to enroll in a fee-paying school.

The Ugandan teachers’ union elected a member to Parliament, who championed their case against the for-profit schools.

In the latest turn in the saga between the Ugandan government and Bridge International Academies the country’s parliament has instructed management to close the schools until further notice. Bridge currently has 80 pre-primary and primary schools in Uganda run by American founders Jay Kimmelman and Shannon May.

According to Uganda’s Minister of Education, Janet Museveni, Bridge has the opportunity to reopen should they meet necessary standards. However, despite the order to cease operations, Bridge says it is business as usual.

Bridge, operating what are known as ‘low-fee,’ for profit schools in Uganda, Kenya, and most recently Liberia, is financially supported by the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and education conglomerate Pearson Ltd. It is also receives funding from the World Bank and DfID-UK. Bridge’s business model, which depends on public money to operate fee charging schools run by unqualified teachers, faces a continuous barrage of criticism.

Although the company promotes ‘affordable’ education to some of the world’s poorest children, Bridge forces families to pay for inadequate scripted lessons read from tablets. Many children are left to learn in questionable environments, such as classrooms lacking proper materials, including desks, chairs and in some cases, toilets.

This is the response from Bridge:


Bridge International Academies statement on comments in Ugandan Parliament

Kampala, 9 August 2016: Bridge International Academies has expressed sincere concern over statements made in the Ugandan parliament this afternoon threatening to force 12,000 Bridge children out of school and 800 Ugandans out of work, by seeking the closure of Bridge International Academies. Bridge has been working in partnership with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all Ugandan children have access to a high quality education.

“We are waiting to receive the report referred to in Parliament and a copy of the Parliamentary Hansard to review the Ministry’s concerns”, says Michael Kaddu, Head of Corporate and Public Affairs for Bridge International Academies in Uganda. “We have been working closely with the Ministry to put the needs of the children first and come to a speedy resolution of any issues made known to us.”

“In the meantime, our academies are running as usual as we continue to work with the relevant educational authorities to uphold our commitment to our parents and communities to provide a world-class education to their children.”

“Bridge has been a great blessing to our community,” says Mrs Gertrude Kizza from the Nsumbi area of Nansana, the grandmother of two Bridge children and the LC1 of the Nsumbi community. “Prior to Bridge opening in Nsumbi, our children either had to travel a long distance to get to school or pay high fees for the local private schools. As a result, many children did not go to school. Since Bridge opened in February of this year, I have seen great changes in my grandchildren, who are now leaders in English and confidence.”
“As a Ugandan citizen I should have the right to give my grand-children a better future, which is why I sent them to Bridge”, says Mrs Kizza. “Now the government is taking away that right.”

Bridge now operates 63 nursery and primary schools across Uganda. Bridge teaches the Ugandan curriculum, using technology to prepare and support teachers, streamline administrative processes and monitor attendance and academic progress.

“I joined Bridge after teacher training college because I was excited by the idea of a school system were I would be prepared and supported to ensure children are learning”, says Patrick Mutegeki a teacher at Bridge International Academy in Nsumbi. “Working at Bridge has made me a better educator and has made me excited for the future of Ugandan children. Bridge pupils in Kenya had a 40% higher chance of passing the national primary exit exams than the national average, and have gone on to the best secondary schools in Kenya and the United States. I want those same opportunities for Ugandan children.”

Bridge International Academies is the 21st largest employer in Uganda, with close to 800 Ugandan employees and has already invested over UGX10bn in the Ugandan economy, with plans to invest another UGX25bn in the coming years.

The Harvard Business School reports a study from Britain that claims to explain how to turnaround a failing school.

Americans, especially experienced educators, are likely to find their recommendations controversial.

The researchers say that reducing class size is not necessary. They say a class of 30 will do as well as a class of 15.

They say not to worry about teacher quality until you have the right leader and governance structure.

They say that the key to success is to exclude students with behavior problems. Pay another school to take them. Now there is a clever idea.

Their study was conducted using academies as their models. Academies are similar to our charter schools.

Imagine: as schools follow their advice, there will be a market for students who are behavior problems. Who will buy them?

Take it another step, and the school could sell students who don’t speak English and students with disabilities.

Now, that’s corporate reform using business thinking!

I was recently invited to write an article for U.S. News & World Report. I decided to write about the current trend in many nations to turn public schools over to the private sector. Readers of this blog may be familiar with the content and my concerns. But I wasn’t writing for those who are well-versed in these issues. I was writing for the public, which is unaware of the advances of privatization into the heart of public education.

The editors called it “Public education is up for sale.”

Michael Barber and Joel Klein have written a report for the World Economic Forum about how to achieve greatness in education. Their report is titled “Unleashing Greatness: Nine Plays to Spark Innovation in Education.”

Michael Barber is the chief education advisor for Pearson. Joel Klein is the ex-chancellor of the New York City public schools, former CEO of Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify (which lost $500 million and was sold off by Murdoch), and current chief policy and strategy officer to Oscar Health Insurance, which recently announced a radical downsizing.

The old ways no longer work, they say. What is needed for the future is “whole system reform,” which has happened or is happening (they say) in Madrid, Punjab, London, and New York City. Presumably, Barber takes credit for London and Klein takes credit for New York City. (I note, however, as a resident of New York City, that the schools continue to struggle with many problems, and no one refers to the “New York a City miracle” these days.)

Fortunately, Professor Stephen Dinham of the University of Melbourne in Australia took on the job of analyzing the Barber-Klein formula for greatness.

He sees the report as an illustration of what Pasi Sahlberg called the “Global Education Reform Movement” or GERM.

He writes:

“The terms ‘playbook’ and ‘unleash’ are loaded and instructive. A playbook, in sports, provides a list of strategies or moves for players and teams to follow. These are essentially step-by-step formulae intended to achieve success. In the case of this report, there are nine. Oh that education – and interrelated services such as health, employment and public infrastructure – could be reduced to such a simplistic list. The term unleash implies releasing from restriction and confinement, in this case, opening up education to ‘choice’ and the ‘free’ market. As I have noted, typically, ‘Choice, competition, privatization and the free market are [seen as] the answers to almost any question about education. (Dinham, 2015a: 3).

“Let’s now consider the latest simplistic recipe designed to address the ‘manufactured crisis’ in education (Berliner & Biddle, 1995; Berliner & Glass, 2015), a crisis that is in danger of becoming reality if we ignore the evidence and follow such ideologically and financially underpinned and driven prescriptions (Dinham, 2016).

“The authors’ ‘plays’ are:

“Provide a compelling vision for the future

Set ambitious goals to force innovation

Create choice and competition

Pick many winners

Benchmark and track progress

Evaluate and share the success of new innovations

Combine greater accountability and autonomy

Invest in and empower agents of change

Reward successes (and productive failures).

“Detail on ‘how’ to achieve the above is lacking, although brief case studies where these have purportedly been successful are provided (e.g, New York, Chile). A common theme is the belief mentioned previously that deregulation, competition and choice will deliver an overall lift in educational performance. The evidence is however, either weak (e.g., on greater school autonomy) or contradictory (e.g., vouchers, charter schools, free schools, chains or academies) (Dinham, 2015a).”

Read both the report and the critique. Funny the authors don’t look at Chile and Sweden, two nations that took the path they recommend, with disastrous results.

William Doyle describes an emerging international consensus about the appropriate and limited use of technology in the classroom.

Doyle starts from the proposition that “Technology in the classroom has so far had little positive effect on childhood learning.”

That’s the stunning finding of the OECDs September 2015 report “Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection.” The report found that despite billions of dollars of frantic government spending, where ICTs [information and communications technologies] are used, their impact on student performance has been “mixed, at best,” in the words of the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher. “In most countries, the current use of technology is already past the point of optimal use in schools,” said Schleicher. “We’re at a point where computers are actually hurting learning.”

This supports a growing body of other research indicating that, with some exceptions like distance and special needs learning, there is little evidence that digital tools are inherently superior to analog tools in the hands of qualified teachers in teaching children the fundamentals of learning, especially in the early years.

For policy-makers, educators and parents, the implications of this research are enormous, and critical. The OECD report suggested that teachers need to be better trained in ICT. But it also found that children may learn best with analog tools first before later adding digital platforms, and that a few hours a week of classroom screen time may be optimal for children, beyond which learning benefits drop off to diminishing, or even negative, returns.

This argues not for the 100% screen-based classroom proposed by some enthusiasts, but for a far more strategic and cost-and-learning-effective model. In this vision of the “school of tomorrow,” teachers will use the analog and digital methods of their choice, including a few hours of student screen time per week – with a significant portion of school time being a “digital oasis,” where students learn through proven analog methods like paper, pencil, manipulatives and physical objects, crayons and paint, physical books, play, physical activity, nature, and face-to-face and over-the-shoulder interactions – not with digital simulations, but with the ultimate “personalized learning platform” – highly-qualified, flesh-and-blood teachers.

This kind of approach is already blossoming in many classrooms around the world, as teachers and students harness and control the power of technology, properly applied and integrated.

Hands-on learning and learning by play are staging a comeback:

In the global headquarters city of LEGO itself, inside the three-year-old International School of Billund in western Denmark, the concept of learning through play is being taken to the ultimate extreme. The LEGO Foundation-supported school offers children aged 3 to 16 an International Baccalaureate program through a curriculum based on creative play, delivered through a rich variety of analog and digital tools, including, naturally, LEGO education kits and programs.

“We want pupils to use their hands,” said the ISB’s head of school Camilla Uhre Fog to a journalist from the Times Educational Supplement. “We’re very hands-on. When hands are involved in learning, children really remember. If you’re in the middle of the creative process there is nothing worse than clearing up – if you cease the flow then you lose the dream, you lose everything.”

Last night we were treated to a diatribe about how awful American public schools are by a young man who never attended a public school: Donald Trump, Jr.

These days, those who know the least are likely to spout off the most.

Mr. Trump Jr. went to a fancy private school with a tuition that is about equal to the median American annual salary.

William Doyle watched the speech and dashed off a comment:

In his speech at the Republican convention last night, Donald J. Trump
Jr. managed to mix up the subject of education so badly that he stated
it completely backwards from the truth.

Trump said, “You know why other countries do better in K-through-12?
They let parents choose where to send their own children to school.
That’s called competition. It’s called the free market.”

In fact, the nations that have introduced measures of so-called
“free-market choice” in their education systems — notably Sweden,
Chile, and most recently the UK — have experienced no improvement in
overall results, and have instead seen quality and equity decline.

By contrast, the superstars of global education, including Finland,
Canada, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, have largely single-model
national delivery systems of education that stress teacher
professionalism and autonomy, equity for all students, and the regular
testing and assessment of students by experienced teachers, not by bad
data created by wasteful and low-quality standardized tests.

If we want to Make America Great Again in education, we should be
inspired by their example.

—William Doyle is a Fulbright Scholar who lectures on global education
at the University of Eastern Finland, and spends several months a year
as a public school father of an 8-year old in Finland.

This reader is living in Germany, where his son is in elementary school. He made a surprising discovery: the German system emphasizes hand mastery. This reminds me slightly of the “maker movement” in our country, which is trying to revive the practices of making, tinkering, and doing. Some maker activities rely on technology in in genius ways. The common thread is to allow students to use their hands and brains at the same time to create.


“I am a public education administrator in the United States – New Jersey – and the father of an 8 year old. Presently I am in Germany and my son attends a German elementary school. I see great merit in using fountain pens for students. In my opinion, one of the reasons Germany produces some of the greatest products in the world is the emphasis the German school system places on “Basteln” or tinkering and other traditional activities that require care, like the use of a fountain pen. To many Americans this may seem quaint – but there is a rock solid place for “the quaint” in the earliest grades – again, in my opinion. Forming letters with a traditional tool like a fountain pen will give the young individual an intimate experience with reality – one which requires precision and care – much more than with a swipe or a push of a button.

“I strongly feel that this (and other “quaint” experiences had by students in German elementary schools translates into a more thoroughly educated student – one that will be much more creative as technology is introduced. I think American education needs to re-evaluate how we educate our youngest and see the merit in what many Americans and American educators may perceive as impractical. In Germany, I once thought it totally impractical to take 7 minutes to draw a “Pils” beer – until I tasted how delicious it was From then on I saw the wisdom in what may be seen as impractical or quaint – and saw how rich with tradition and innovation German society is – and American educators would be well advised to take a good look.”

David Di Gregorio, Father of an 8 year old

Supervisor of Library Media Services