Creating Globally Competitive Public Schools

28th January 2019

Education is the among the best ways to bring people, communities and countries out of poverty.

While there is a lot of focus on economic development models at the World Economic Forum in Davos, far less attention is paid to the World Education Forum in London this week. Ironic, considering that economic prosperity begins in the classroom, not the boardroom. Over the next few days, Ministers and leaders from across the world, who hold the future of hundreds of millions of children in their hands, will be gathering under one roof. We will be challenging traditional ways of thinking about education and looking at innovations to give a new generation of children the ability to fulfil their dreams and aspirations.

Academic research, by professors like Dr Eric Hanushek, clearly illustrates how investment in education that delivers on learning gains for the majority of the country is what leads to dramatic GDP growth, and raises prosperity for everyone. Better education today means more money in domestic budgets tomorrow and subsequently less need for aid. If we keep attempting to deliver education programmes in the ways they have traditionally been delivered, then we will keep funneling aid and inevitably keep the current status quo. The status quo which is more aid, little real learning and a cycle of dependency. This is why the economics of education are so important.

Despite decades of investment in education around the world, today there are around 263 million children and young people not in school. For those children who are in school, many are not actually learning. In fact, the majority of children in the world have not reached minimum levels of reading and maths. This challenge is so enormous that no single organization or government can overcome it alone.

Partnerships are the best way forward. There is a strong evidence base to show that partnerships between governments and those who can bring innovation into education have proven to be the most effective way of breaking the cycle of aid dependency and enabling governments to establish long term change.

By partnerships, I do not mean the endless short-term aid funding models that are not tied to results, but projects and initiatives which deliver long-term sustainable change and are not afraid to be measured by successful outcomes.

I lead one organization embracing this new approach to improve young people’s lives through quality education. By working alongside local governments we are currently educating over 270,000 children. And the results for children have been fantastic. Young people in government schools supported by Bridge consistently outperform their peers.

We are supporting government public schools to help teachers be more effective and motivated. Thankfully, many government leaders have already embraced the partnership model and high quality education is flourishing in those pioneering environments. It’s happening in places like Liberia and Nigeria. In Liberia the government has created powerful public schools in partnership with others like Bridge International Academies. These schools have improved learning 60%. In Nigeria our experience is being brought to the fore as a technical partner in the delivery of improved government teachers, part of a project led by the local government called EdoBEST.

A government classroom in Edo state Nigeria supported by Bridge.

Education leaders are increasingly being compelled to explore what more can be done. The success of innovative partnerships such as these proves that we must not be afraid to challenge the education status quo. We must discuss how can we better deliver on our responsibilities as a global community to ensure that the millions of children who deserve to dream of a fulfilling future, can realistically do so because they can count, read and write.

I believe that children are born with a right to a future, a future full of aspiration and opportunity, the kind of future that those of us lucky enough to be born in the developing world often take for granted.

A Bridge classroom in India.

As political leaders gather on the world stage, we need to insist that innovative solutions to education in the developing world are discussed and promoted. We need to ensure that they are not stifled by those with vested interests or by those who think these questions are too big to be asked. There are things that can be done; huge changes that can be wrought. We must remember that a school is not just a building, it’s a social justice movement.

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