Education World Forum showcases Bridge

20 January 2020

The Education World Forum (EWF) is currently being hosted in London. It’s an annual opportunity for education ministers across the globe to come together and discuss how their education systems are working and debate strategies for improving outcomes in their respective countries. 

For many ministers—limited budgets, challenging infrastructure and a legacy of public system failure is the mountain that confronts them on entering office. There are few opportunities to look at global best practice or space to consider new initiatives that aim to improve systems amid the day-to-day struggles of running the existing systems. As the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) deadline draws ever closer the sense of positivity that initially encompassed them is diminishing.

In many countries, a lack of oversight and transparency largely compounded by remote isolated communities, means that most ministries are unaware of what is taking place in their schools; whether teachers are present, the curriculum is being taught or children are in school. The annual event gives those involved in education transformation the opportunity to learn from initiatives that have had success in similar environments and gain insight from others on shared challenges. 

In recent years some countries have taken a bold approach to tackling these endemic issues through public private partnerships. Notably, Liberia and Nigeria are at the forefront with Sierra Leone announcing a similar model at the end of 2019. The Chair of the Edo State Universal Basic Education Board, Dr. Joan Oviawe, took to the EWF stage last year to present EdoBESTa programme that aims to transform the state’s public school system through a revised teacher training programme and the use of technology.  

In Liberia, a three year study of the government’s public private partnership—LEAP—has just been released indicating an improvement in learning outcomes of 0.26 standard deviations (SD’s) in English and 0.35 SD’s in maths. Combined, this equates to more than a year of additional learning.

The international development community are increasingly vocal in their support for this approach. Both USAID and DFID have released strategies targeted at private sector collaboration. The public is behind them with three-quarters of Europeans, and recently surveyed members of the US public, saying that the private sector should be utilised to deliver education goals. As we enter 2020, minds are focused on the SDGs which need to be delivered by the end of the decade.

2020 marks the third year that Bridge has taken to the EWF platform, highlighting the support it can offer in turning government schools into globally competitive public schools.

The approach is backed by an increasing litany of academic evidence from multiple countries where we work. In the Kenya Primary Certificate of Education (KCPE) pupils have surpassed their peers in other schools for five consecutive years. In the Ugandan Primary Leaving Exam children have outperformed the national average for three consecutive years. An independent study in Liberia, showed students in Bridge-supported schools gaining the equivalent of 2.5 years of additional learning. In Nigeria, a DFID report showed equity of high attainment at Bridge schools for children from all types of socio-economic backgrounds. And, those who sat the country’s federal common entrance exam, excelled, getting access to top secondary schools. These results are being used as a template to show what can be achieved in well supported and managed schools, both within the government system and beyond.

As education ministers gather this week, it’s important that a sense of optimism about SDG4 is conveyed. Many worry that the 2030 development goals are now unobtainable without some bold steps. This can be tackled. System wide transformation has been shown to be possible in swift timeframes—EWF will be an opportunity to highlight those programmes, and that possibility, to a wide ministerial audience.

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