Liberia’s education system has been decimated by a brutal civil war involving child soldiers, the recent Ebola outbreak, empty classrooms, teachers not showing up for work, and neglected children, which has paved the way for a private sector solution.
Bridge International Academies, a private education company, hopes to counteract this trend created by a failing public school system by expanding the amount of private schools around the country. Their commitment is to education for everyone.
Their mission statement reads: “We support teachers, tailor lessons and leverage cutting edge innovation and technology to provide families with great schools and high-quality education. Our work is defined by a commitment to provide ‘knowledge for all.'”
The company’s classrooms in their Liberia schools are completely filled, and those relegated to public schools are falling behind. However, the government is looking to expand the program.
Outside of Liberia, the private school program has been a success for students in Kenya. The literacy rates for students in these schools has increased by 37% and arithmetic by 24%. The national average for students passing their year-end exams in the public school system is 44%, but after four years with private schools this jumped to 74%, and in many towns it was as high as 100%.
In spite of the success regarding one of the most important moral issues of our day — education for third world children — not everyone is enthusiastic about the concept.
“Provision of public education of good quality is a core function of the state,” claims Kishore Singh, a UN specialist in public education. “Abandoning this to the commercial benefit of a private company constitutes a gross violation of the right to education.”
Despite the controversy, Liberia’s education minister George Werner is looking to terminate the employment of public sector teachers and turn the responsibility of education over to private organizations like BIA.
“Governments are incompetent at educating poor kids. Unless we partner conscientiously with the private sector, the public sector will increasingly get stressed at accomplishing what it was elected to do,” he said in an interview with Al Jazeera.
Charging an average of $6 per month per student, Bridge International Academies is one of the most cost-effective ways of delivering education. They also have investment partners in Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
Photo Credit: Bridge International Academies