28 de junho de 2017

Radiografía de los universitarios argentinos: cuáles son las carreras más elegidas

LA NACION accedió a los datos oficiales de inscriptos en universidades públicas y privadas de todo el país; cuánto creció de un año al otro, las carreras clásicas que ya no son las favoritas y las que vienen creciendo
LUNES 03 DE JULIO DE 2017 

Abogadas, enfermas y psicólogas; abogados, administradores de empresas y contadores. Esas son las tres carreras que más eligieron mujeres y hombres en la Argentina para estudiar en el 2014 y en el 2015, según los datos oficiales delMinisterio de Educación de la Nación a los que accedió LA NACION y que fueron analizados junto al equipo de LA NACION Data .
En total fueron 904.328 jóvenes los que comenzaron una carrera universitaria en la Argentina entre esos dos años: 445.763, en el 2014 y 458.565 en 2015, lo que significó una suba global del 3 por ciento en la matrícula en todo el país. Sin embargo, fue mayor el crecimiento de los ingresos en las universidades públicas, que llegó al 4%, mientras que en las privadas fue sólo del 1 por ciento.
Los datos permiten realizar una "radiografía" de las personas que ingresaron a las universidades argentinas en los últimos años. Este análisis arrojó sorpresas como, por ejemplo, la desaparición en el podio de carreras tradicionales como medicina y arquitectura, el crecimiento de las nuevas disciplinas y las diferencias por sexo al momento de elegir qué estudiar.
Abogacía sigue al tope de la más elegida tanto por sexo como por universidades públicas o privadas.
Abogacía sigue al tope de la más elegida tanto por sexo como por universidades públicas o privadas.. Foto: Archivo
Consultada sobre estos resultados, Catalina Nosiglia, secretaria Académica de la Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA), dijo: "Recién en el año 1958 se autorizó la creación de las primeras universidades privadas como tales. Actualmente, la cantidad de instituciones en cada sector es prácticamente la misma y durante algunos años fueron más las universidades privadas que las estatales pero la distribución de la matrícula sigue ampliamente inclinada al sector público".

Las carreras que más eligen las mujeres

En ambos años fue mayor el número de ingreso de mujeres que de hombres tanto en las universidades públicas como en las privadas. En el primer caso fueron el 58%, mientras que en las privadas fue del 57 por ciento.
Las carreras que ocupan los primeros 5 lugares se repitieron en ambos años y fueron: Abogacía, Enfermería, Psicología , Contadora Pública Nacional y Administración de Empresas. Tres de cada diez mujeres que arrancaron sus carreras eligieron una de estas. Las restantes siete se repartieron en las 150 ofertas universitarias vigentes.
Fueron 904.328 los ingresantes a las universidades en el país entre el 2014 y el 2015.
Fueron 904.328 los ingresantes a las universidades en el país entre el 2014 y el 2015.. Foto: Archivo
Sin embargo, hubo dos carreras en las que no se inscribió ninguna mujer: Auxiliares de la Odontología e Ingeniería en Construcciones, mientras que Ingeniería en Vías de Comunicación tuvo una inscripta (y dos inscriptos) y Agrimensura e Ingeniería Básica tuvieron dos ingresantes mujeres mientras que fueron 13 y 36 respectivamente.
Si se dividen las carreras en grandes grupos, el 45% eligió el área de Ciencias Sociales y Jurídicas, seguidas por el 34% en Ciencias de la Salud, 8% en Artes y Humanidades, 7% en Computación, ingeniería y arquitectura, 4 % en Ciencias y un 1% en las restantes.

Las carreras que eligieron ellos

En el caso de los hombres, representaron el 42% del total de los ingresantes en las universidades públicas y el 43 por ciento en las universidades privadas de todo el país.
Las cinco carreras que más inscriptos tuvieron fueron Abogacía, Administración de Empresas, Contador Público Nacional, Computación, Sistemas e Informática e Ingeniería en Sistemas. El 29.15% del total de los varones que ingresaron a la universidad optaron por una de estas carreras. Tampoco tuvieron inscriptos, según el informe entregado por la Secretaría de Políticas Universitarias, Auxiliares de la Odontología e Ingeniería en Construcciones, mientras que hubo dos inscriptos en Ingeniería Textil e Ingeniería en Vías de Comunicación y 3 en Educación de Adultos.
El 25 por ciento de los jóvenes eligieron carreras como computación, ingeniería y arquitectura.
El 25 por ciento de los jóvenes eligieron carreras como computación, ingeniería y arquitectura.. Foto: Archivo
En caso de hacer una división por áreas, es donde más se nota la diferencia entre las carreras que eligen los hombres en comparación con las mujeres. Las Ciencias Sociales y Jurídicas se llevan el 41%, le siguen Computación, ingeniería y arquitectura con el 25%, luego Ciencias de la Salud con el 21%, Artes y Humanidades 7%, Ciencias el 4% y el resto el 1%.

Las privadas a la cabeza

Uno de cada cuatro alumnos que se inscribieron en 2014 y 2015 lo hizo en una universidad privada.
Uno de cada cuatro alumnos que se inscribieron en 2014 y 2015 lo hizo en una universidad privada.. Foto: Archivo
A pesar de que la relación es que sólo 1 de cada 4 alumnos eligen universidades privadas en lugar de las públicas, en algunas carreras la proporción de inscriptos es muy pareja. En tanto, en 14 carreras es mayor la cantidad de alumnos en universidades privadas. Estas carreras son: Teología, Relaciones Públicas, Martillero Público, Diseño de Interiores, Relaciones Institucionales y Humanas, Contabilidad, Comercialización y Marketing, Administración y Gestión Ambiental, Relaciones Internacionales, Publicidad, Formación Docente de Nivel Superior y Universitario y Actuario.
"Los planes de estudio entre universidades privadas y públicas son marcadamente diferentes. En el primer caso se debe atender a una formación general más amplia, en tanto que las propuestas de las privadas permiten acceder a una mayor amplitud de opciones específicas, explicó a LA NACION Héctor Francisco Dama, decano de la facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales de la Universidad del Salvador .
Por su parte, la licenciada Paula Dubcovsky, del Servicio de Orientación al Estudiante de la Universidad de Belgrano (UB), dijo que, tras hacer encuestas entre sus alumnos, estos indicaron que eligen estudiar en una Universidad privada por algunos de los siguientes motivos:
Para evitar el CBC (sobre todo los que no están empezando por primera vez la Universidad o ya han terminado la escuela media hace algunos años.)
Por que las clases son menos numerosas y eso les permiten tanto consultar al docente como encontrar donde sentarse y escuchar la clase adecuadamente.
Por la atención personalizada tanto de docentes como del personal para brindar información.
Administración de Empresas es una de las que más creció y está entre las más elegidas tanto por mujeres como por hombres.
Administración de Empresas es una de las que más creció y está entre las más elegidas tanto por mujeres como por hombres.. Foto: Archivo
En contraposición, Nosiglia, dijo: "Las universidades estatales no sólo desarrollan enseñanza, sino que poseen una importante vinculación con el tejido socioproductivo a través de la extensión universitaria y especialmente a través de la investigación y producción de conocimiento. Aunque en los últimos años el sector privado está creciendo en su participación en el sistema universitario, la distribución sigue significativamente inclinada hacia el sector estatal a pesar de que el número de instituciones es similar".
Dubcovsky agregó: "Según estudios de neurociencia las mujeres tendrían más facilidad para identificar las emociones y pensamientos de las otras personas y responder a ellos con una emoción adecuada. Estarían predispuestas a entender mejor a las otras personas, predecir su comportamiento y conectarse emocionalmente con ellas. Esta capacidad de «empatía» podría explicar que las mujeres elijan mayoritariamente carreras humanísticas".
"Los hombres parecen ser más racionales y tener más facilidad para procesar información abstracta. Este podría ser uno de los motivos por los que muchos de ellos prefieren carreras vinculadas con el campo de las matemáticas y los negocios", detalló la licenciada en psicología.
Sobre el bajo crecimiento de la matrícula en las universidades privadas, Dama dijo que se debió a que "en los últimos 10 años se ha incrementado fuertemente la creación de nuevas universidades públicas en GBA y todo el país, lo que ha generado un cambio determinante sobre la base de comparación en la variación de inscripciones".
Medicina es la sexta carrera elegida entre los hombres y las mujeres.
Medicina es la sexta carrera elegida entre los hombres y las mujeres.. Foto: Archivo / Santiago Hafford

Violencia: BRUNO LANGEANI E NATALIA POLLACHI Descuido que abastece o crime


Em menos de 15 dias, o Estado de São Paulo devolveu para a mão do crime ao menos 763 armas que já haviam sido apreendidas.
No dia 17, criminosos entraram no Fórum de Diadema, na Grande São Paulo, e, na ausência de câmeras de vigilância, não tiveram trabalho para render os vigias e fugir com quase 400 armas, entre revólveres, pistolas e até um fuzil.
Dias antes, no Guarujá (SP), após uma invasão semelhante, pelo menos 372 artefatos foram levados.
Os dois episódios jogam no ralo quase dois anos de trabalho policial na retirada de circulação de armas. Quatrocentas a mais aumentarão o desafio de garantir a segurança de Diadema, que já tem a maior taxa de roubo na Grande São Paulo.
Uma pesquisa do Instituto Sou da Paz -feita, sob encomenda do Ministério da Justiça, em Campinas, Campo Grande e no Recife- mostrou que esta é uma questão sistemática em todo o país.
Armamentos apreendidos e vinculados a processos como provas deveriam, segundo a lei, ser rapidamente encaminhados, por decisão judicial, para devolução ao proprietário, se regulares, doação a forças de segurança ou destruição pelo Exército.
Apesar das diferentes dificuldades enfrentadas por cada Estado nesse processo, em todos eles a destinação pelos juízes se mostra um gargalo, em geral por esquecimento ou mesmo desconhecimento dos riscos que a guarda prolongada dos artefatos gera para a sociedade.
Estimando prazos nas três cidades estudadas, é possível ver como a lentidão é perigosa. No ritmo médio atual de apreensão e encaminhamento de armas para destruição, alguns fóruns levariam 20 anos ou mais para zerar seus estoques.
Essa questão é antiga e motivou o Conselho Nacional de Justiça a editar, em 2011, uma resolução especificando que a destinação deveria ser feita logo após o recebimento dos laudos periciais e da consulta às partes sobre a necessidade de perícias adicionais.
E a possível decisão pela guarda da arma de fogo deveria ser fundamentada, concretizando-se apenas se for imprescindível ao esclarecimento dos fatos.
A resolução determina ainda que os tribunais façam ao menos duas remessas anuais para destruição.
Desde o ano passado, o Tribunal de Justiça de São Paulo já havia tomado a importante decisão de não receber mais armas. No entanto, apenas transferir as que estão em sua guarda para outros locais com melhores condições de segurança não é suficiente. Enquanto o Estado cochila, os criminosos aproveitam.
A principal recomendação é que o fluxo de destinação da arma seja rápido. Ao receber o laudo, que o juiz dê oportunidade de contestação à promotoria e à defesa e logo determine seu encaminhamento.
É importante ter a dimensão de que, em São Paulo, apenas 3% das apreensões são de fuzis ou submetralhadoras, armas potencialmente de interesse para doação às polícias -assim, não se justifica a manutenção de volumosos estoques.
O mais importante é tornar a destinação uma prática rotineira, escoando o fluxo de apreensões e impedindo novos acúmulos.
A segurança pública brasileira tem inúmeros desafios -lidar com desvios de armas já apreendidas não deveria ser um deles. É essencial que soluções definitivas sejam dadas, sob risco de, em alguns meses, voltarmos a discutir novos roubos.
BRUNO LANGEANI, bacharel em direito e relações internacionais, é gerente do Instituto Sou da Paz
NATALIA POLLACHIMESTRE, mestre em relações internacionais, é coordenadora de projetos no Instituto Sou da Paz

27 de junho de 2017

How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms

At a White House gathering of tech titans last week, Timothy D. Cook, the chief executive of Apple, delivered a blunt message to President Trump on how public schools could better serve the nation’s needs. To help solve a “huge deficit in the skills that we need today,” Mr. Cook said, the government should do its part to make sure students learn computer programming.
“Coding,” Mr. Cook told the president, “should be a requirement in every public school.”
The Apple chief’s education mandate was just the latest tech company push for coding courses in schools. But even without Mr. Trump’s support, Silicon Valley is already advancing that agenda — thanks largely to the marketing prowess of Code.org, an industry-backed nonprofit group.
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Timothy D. Cook, chief executive of Apple, at an Apple store in New York where third graders participated in one of Code.org’s introductory coding lessons.CreditAndrew Burton/Getty Images
Code.org was founded in 2012 by Hadi Partovi, an early investor in Facebook and Airbnb, and his twin brother, Ali Partovi, himself an early investor in Zappos and Dropbox. The group first gained renown by using a viral video to stir up mass demand for coding lessons. Now Code.org’s goal is to get every public school in the United States to teach computer science.
In our tech-driven world, Hadi Partovi argues, computer science has become as essential for students as reading, writing and math. “Encryption is at least as foundational as photosynthesis,” he said.
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Computer science is also essential to American tech companies, which have become heavily reliant on foreign engineers. Mr. Trump’s efforts to limit immigration make Code.org’s teach-Americans-to-code agenda even more attractive to the industry.
In a few short years, Code.org has raised more than $60 million from Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Salesforce, along with individual tech executives and foundations. It has helped to persuade two dozen states to change their education policies and laws, Mr. Partovi said, while creating free introductory coding lessons, called Hour of Code, which more than 100 million students worldwide have tried.
Along the way, Code.org has emerged as a new prototype for Silicon Valley education reform: a social-media-savvy entity that pushes for education policy changes, develops curriculums, offers online coding lessons and trains teachers — touching nearly every facet of the education supply chain.
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Mr. Partovi standing behind President Barack Obama and a group of middle school students at an Hour of Code event marking Computer Science Education Week in 2014.CreditJabin Botsford/The New York Times
“They have got this multipronged approach,” said Amy Klement, a partner at Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment organization started by the eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam, which has given $5.5 million to Code.org. “It’s unique and a model I would love to see replicated.”
But Code.org’s multilevel influence machine also raises the question of whether Silicon Valley is swaying public schools to serve its own interests — in this case, its need for software engineers — with little scrutiny. “If I were a state legislator, I would certainly be wondering about motives,” said Sarah Reckhow, an assistant professor of political science at Michigan State University. “You want to see public investment in a skill set that is the skill set you need for your business?”
Mr. Partovi, 44, said he simply wanted to give students the opportunity to develop the same skills that helped him and his backers succeed. He immigrated as a child to the United States from Iran with his family, went on to study computer science at Harvard, and later sold a voice-recognition start-up he had co-founded to Microsoft for a reported $800 million.
“That dream is much less accessible if you are in one of America’s schools where they don’t even tell you you could go into that field,” Mr. Partovi said.
Even so, he acknowledged some industry self-interest. “If you are running a tech company,” he said, “it’s extremely hard to hire and retain engineers.”
Code.org is now one of the largest providers of free online coding lessons and more comprehensive computer science curriculums. It has also provided training workshops to more than 57,000 teachers, Mr. Partovi said.
The rise of Code.org coincides with a larger tech-industry push to remake American primary and secondary schools with computers and learning apps, a market estimated to reach $21 billion by 2020.
Last year, Apple rolled out a free app, called Swift Playgrounds, to teach basic coding in Swift, a programming language the company unveiled in 2014.
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Swift Playgrounds, an educational app that Apple created to teach young people how to code. CreditApple
Last month, Apple introduced a yearlong curriculum for high schools and community colleges to teach app design in Swift. Apple has also supported Code.org by hosting the group’s popular Hour of Code events in its stores.
Before Code.org emerged, the National Science Foundation, industry, and education experts worked for years to develop and spread computer science instruction in schools. In 2009, for instance, an engineer at Microsoft started a program called Teals (for Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) that places tech company volunteers in schools to help teach the subject.
Then Mr. Partovi came along with the idea of using a viral video to spark mass demand for the courses.

Mr. Partovi compared Code.org’s approach to those of start-ups like Airbnb and Uber. “Airbnb is disrupting the travel space, but they don’t own the hotels,” he said, adding: “We are in a similar model, disrupting education. But we are not running the school and we don’t hire the teachers.”
He began by persuading Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, and Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, to appear in a short film promoting coding to students. In its first week on YouTube, the video, called “What Most Schools Don’t Teach,” racked up roughly nine million views. Within two weeks, Mr. Partovi said, about 20,000 teachers contacted him.
Mr. Partovi’s elite connections didn’t hurt.
One day in early 2013, he bumped into his neighbor, Bradford L. Smith, then a senior Microsoft executive, in a driveway outside their homes in Bellevue, Wash. Mr. Smith had recently published a Microsoft report calling for a federal plan to better prepare students for careers in computer science and engineering.
Mr. Partovi, for his part, was hoping to go viral with a message that coding could improve students’ job prospects. Teaching skills that may lead to higher-paying jobs “seems like the kind of idea that everyone in the country can get behind,” he said.
Mr. Partovi promptly invited Mr. Smith over to preview his celebrity coders video.
What Most Schools Don't Teach Video by Code.org
Microsoft soon became Code.org’s largest donor. Mr. Smith, now the president of Microsoft, compared their efforts to an educational initiative in the late 1950s. Back then, the Soviet Union had just won the space race by launching Sputnik, and the United States, in an effort to catch up, passed a law to finance physics and other science courses.
“We think computer science is to the 21st century what physics was to the 20th century,” Mr. Smith said.
Together with local groups, Mr. Partovi said, Code.org and Microsoft have helped persuade 24 states to allow computer science to count toward math or science credits required for high school graduation. Along with groups like Black Girls CodeGirls Who Code and Latina Girls Code, Code.org has worked to make the subject accessible to a diverse group of students.
But the movement has also supported legislation that could give companies enormous sway in public schools, starting with kindergarten, with little public awareness.
Last year, Microsoft and Code.org helped push for a career-education bill in Idaho that, education researchers warned, could prioritize industry demands over students’ interests. Among other things, they said, it could sway schools to teach specific computer programming languages that certain companies needed, rather than broader problem-solving approaches that students might use throughout their lives.
“It gets very problematic when industry is deciding the content and direction of public education,” said Jane Margolis, a senior researcher at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The Idaho bill read, in part, “It is essential that efforts to increase computer science instruction, kindergarten through career, be driven by the needs of industry and be developed in partnership with industry.”
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“We think computer science is to the 21st century what physics was to the 20th century,” said Bradford L. Smith, president of Microsoft. The company is among Code.org’s largest donors. CreditEvan McGlinn for The New York Times
When a reporter apprised him of the bill’s language, Mr. Smith of Microsoft seemed taken aback, saying he had not endorsed it. “Broad public education should not be grounded first and foremost in the needs of any particular industry — or in the needs of industry as a whole,” he said.
Mr. Partovi noted that Code.org had opposed a “more extreme” coding bill in Florida that would have required students to obtain industry certification. It has also opposed bills that would allow coding courses to count toward foreign-language credits in high schools, he said. Still, Mr. Partovi added, “We do think that tech companies have a role to play.”
The Idaho law took effect last year. One of its first results was a new program, developed with Oracle, to train public-school teachers how to teach students Java, Oracle’s popular coding language. Other companies, including the chip maker Micron Technology, were invited to help develop computer science standards for Idaho schools.
“Some people will believe that industry is going to be driving our education system forward, and that is absolutely not the case,” said Angela Hemingway, executive director of the Idaho STEM Action Center, which oversees the state’s computer science education initiative. “They are collaborative partners.”
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More than 100 million students around the world have tried Code.org’s Hour of Code lessons. CreditJason Henry for The New York Times
Certainly, many students across the country, and their parents, are clamoring for computer science. But what if some other subject — say, data science (which involves computing) — turns out to be more important and broadly applicable for students’ lives, careers and communities?
The clout behind computer science has all but obviated a wider debate about whether, to better prepare students, schools might introduce an array of new subjects. It has also overshadowed discussion about whether students would be better off if schools modified traditional math classes to increase the emphasis on fields like statistics.
Mr. Smith of Microsoft said that tech companies and philanthropists were simply trying to give voice to an overlooked subject. “What we really need is a national conversation about the broad array of intellectual disciplines that will be fundamental to the future of American students,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s a broad array, not a single subject.”
Mr. Partovi concurred. “We have a lot of debate in this country about how to teach,” he said, “and not enough debate about what to teach.”

Can a Tech Start-Up Successfully Educate Children in the Developing World?

Bridge International Academies — a chain of inexpensive private schools — has ambitious plans to revolutionize
education for poor children. But can its for-profit model work in some of the most impoverished places on Earth?

Bridge International Academies — a chain of inexpensive private schools — has ambitious plans to revolutionize
education for poor children. But can its for-profit model work in some of the most impoverished places on Earth?
By 2016, in addition to the hundreds of Bridge schools open in Kenya, 63 were up and running in Uganda and 23 in Nigeria. (They would later open four schools in India.) In March of that year, the Liberian government decided that Bridge might be the key to overhauling the nation’s barely functioning education system, and officials there struck a deal with the company that handed over the operation of 50 primary schools, with the potential for letting them run many more in the future.
At the same time, Bridge was facing difficulties in the countries where it had been teaching the longest. In Kenya, enrollment was growing more slowly than the founders anticipated. A teachers’ union was mounting a vocal opposition. Some parts of the Kenyan government were cracking down, too. While Uber and Airbnb exploded in the gray areas in regulations that governed taxis and hotels, Bridge had trouble operating within the thicket of complicated, restrictive Kenyan education regulations. ‘‘Technically, we’re breaking the law,’’ May said in a 2013 article in TES, an education publication, ‘‘but so are thousands of other schools who are operating like this.’’ In February 2017, a high court in the Kenyan county Busia upheld a decision to close 10 of 12 Bridge schools; Bridge appealed, and the schools remained open. In Uganda, a similar dynamic was at play. A few months earlier, the high court issued an order for Bridge schools to be closed because government inspectors said that children were being taught in substandard facilities and unsanitary conditions. Bridge successfully appealed, and the schools remain open.
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A Bridge school in Monrovia, Liberia. CreditDiana Zeyneb Alhindawi for The New York Times
Rather than approaching profitability, the company was operating at a loss of $1 million a month. In March of this year, May went to London to provide testimony to Parliament as part of a series of hearings about the British government’s international-development efforts in education, including $4.4 million of British government funding for Bridge that had allowed them to expand to Nigeria. In April, the committee chairman issued an open letter to Britain’s secretary of state for international development saying no further investments should be made until there has been ‘‘clear, independent evidence that the schools produce positive learning outcomes for pupils’’ and that there were ‘‘serious questions about Bridge’s relationships with governments, transparency and sustainability.’’ Those questions were echoes, perhaps, of the same question that Bridge skeptics had asked from the beginning: Even if its big dream made sense in theory, could it actually work amid the complicated political forces and brutal poverty of the nations whose children were most in need?
The first inklings of the idea behind Bridge came to May and Kimmelman in 2005. They were in their late 20s and living in Huangbaiyu, a village in northeast China where May was doing her doctoral work in anthropology, and they began to do research on the profound effects of educational failure in poor communities. ‘‘Heads of households who didn’t graduate from primary school literally had houses made of shoddier materials than those who did,’’ Kimmelman recalled in a phone interview late last fall about one example that struck him, a hint of his Long Island childhood in his accent. ‘‘You could see the effect that education has on human potential in front of your eyes.’’ May, who is an Arizona native, and Kimmelman graduated from Harvard and met at their five-year reunion in 2004. By then, Kimmelman, who favors open-collared shirts and thick black glasses, had founded a software company that he said generated revenue of $20 million the year he sold it to the educational publisher Houghton Mifflin. At the time, there was increasing interest in investments in educational technology, and he soon began to wonder if he might figure out a start-up idea that could provide an educational solution that could transform lives, not just in the village of Huangbaiyu but for a generation of poor children all over the world.
May and Kimmelman married, and in 2007 they went on an extended honeymoon in Africa, where they met up with Frei, Kimmelman’s former roommate, who previously worked at the Bay Area design and consulting firm IDEO and was working for an agricultural nonprofit in Malawi. Together the three of them came up with a plan, which eventually evolved into an idea for a vast chain of replicable schools, their growth powered by small tuition payments from working parents — fruit sellers, night watchmen and washerwomen. They’d keep costs affordable by training instructors (many of them uncertified) to deliver a scripted curriculum and by using inexpensive building materials in the construction of their schools.
The upfront costs of developing Bridge’s software and data-collection system were daunting. Acquiring land was costly, too. Raising enough money early on was vital. ‘‘Jay’s success as an ed-tech entrepreneur opened doors’’ in Silicon Valley, says Frei, who left the company in 2013. According to an unpublished 2014 Stanford Graduate School of Business case study that Bridge provided, profitability would depend on achieving scale very quickly. By 2016, they planned to enroll more than 750,000 students, at which point they would be breaking even. By 2022, they estimated that they would educate 4.1 million students and generate $470 million in revenue.
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Shannon May, a Bridge founder, at one of its Liberian schools. The company has been hired by the Liberian government to run schools in its struggling public-education system. CreditDiana Zeyneb Alhindawi for The New York Times
The company’s pitch was tailor-made for the new generation of tech-industry philanthropists, who are impatient to solve the world’s problems and who see unleashing the free market as the best way to create enduring social change. Investors were impressed by Kimmelman and the audacity of their plan. The idea of doing ‘‘high quality at low cost was really interesting,’’ says Kevin Starr, managing director of the Mulago Foundation, which eventually provided Bridge with $1 million in grant money and introduced a handful of tech moguls to Bridge. ‘‘We knew he had a track record as an entrepreneur. He could execute.’’
The founders decided to build their headquarters in Nairobi, and they opened their first school there in 2009. Long known as the Green City in the Sun, Kenya’s capital had begun to reimagine itself as the tech capital of East Africa; newly formed telecommunications companies were placing cheap mobile phones in the hands of millions of farmers, merchants and low-wage workers, and mobile banking quickly followed. The public-education system, though, was not keeping pace. In 2003, the Kenyan government officially abolished fees for public primary education but afterward found itself unable to construct enough schools for the poor children who tried to enroll. Public schools, which receive money from the government for teachers’ salaries and building maintenance, still charge parents small amounts to cover costs like classroom supplies and firewood. The schools’ quality varies, but in some, reading materials, textbooks and even chalk can be in short supply. All public-school teachers are certified. Teacher absenteeism is widespread. According to a 2007 World Bank report, 30 percent of teachers in one region in Kenya fail to show up on any given school day. Learning levels for children are low: 70 percent of third graders cannot do second-grade work. And while some catch up, many don’t.
Wealthy Kenyans and foreigners send their children to private schools, which are taught in English and enjoy lavish resources. The working poor often opt to send their children to parochial or local private schools, known as informal schools, that take no money from the government but charge fees that are slightly higher than public schools’. Some provide a basic education, but many do not. Sixteen percent of Kenya’s poor school-age children do not attend any school because their parents can’t afford even the smallest school payments. All Kenyan schools are required to teach the precisely prescribed national curriculum, which is taught in Kiswahili and English and mastery of which is measured by an eighth-grade test called the K.C.P.E. Obtaining a high grade on the K.C.P.E., which is seen as a sign of a child’s industriousness, intelligence and moral rectitude, means a student may continue on to high school.
At the start, the Bridge founders quickly learned that Kenyan parents did not necessarily see Bridge schools as a better option. ‘‘When the first academies opened, our mentality was a bit like, ‘If we build it, they will come,’ ’’ said Marie Leznicki, then Bridge’s vice president of brand strategy, in the Stanford case study. The case study authors explain that one challenge for the company was that parents were largely illiterate and therefore saw little difference among schools. But some academics who have studied the for-profit, low-fee chain say that some poor Kenyan parents were wary of the model. Sending a child to Bridge was more expensive than the village public school, though less expensive than some informal schools. The poorest families simply couldn’t afford the tuition and additional payments that Bridge required. ‘‘They have to pay enrollment fees, they have to pay for uniforms, they have to pay for lunch,’’ says Christopher Kirchgasler, a former charter-school teacher in the United States who spent 10 months studying Bridge schools in Nairobi and Nyeri County, north of Nairobi, for his doctoral dissertation. ‘‘For us, a matter of a few dollars is nothing, but for these very poor families, it can be a monumental obstacle.’’
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A teacher uses flashcards in a Bridge school in Monrovia, Liberia.CreditDiana Zeyneb Alhindawi for The New York Times
For many who did enroll, Bridge’s strict payment system quickly became onerous. Bridge’s business in Kenya depends on most parents making routine electronic payments by mobile phone. But slum-dwelling parents in Kenya are mostly occasional workers who rarely have a predictable income. In informal settlements around Nairobi, I visited 10 or so parents in their homes who explained the fragile finances of their lives. A sick child, an uptick in the price of corn meal or even a prolonged rainstorm can throw a family on the margins into an economic crisis. In most informal and public schools, payment terms are flexible, and the subject of protracted negotiation. Bridge says that it works with families to meet their needs. But many people told me that the school sends children home if fees are not paid.
‘‘They tell you, ‘Sit at home with your child until you get the money,’ ’’ says one parent, a vegetable seller married to an unemployed welder who has two children enrolled at a Bridge school in Nairobi’s Mathare slum. Another mother with a 9-year-old child says she found it difficult to make Bridge payments: ‘‘At times I’ve gone without eating so I can pay school fees.’’
Bridge executives say their schools depend on paying customers. ‘‘We get criticized for being bloodless capitalists,’’ Michael Conway, Bridge’s East Africa director of operations, told me when I met him in Nairobi last September, ‘‘but we know families make choices about who gets paid first. We don’t want to be the last vendor paid. If we become that, then our financial model would be difficult to sustain.’’
Bridge does not comment on the details of its financial performance, so neither May nor Kimmelman would say how many of Bridge’s Kenyan schools maintain enough enrollment to sustain their model. May says that Bridge currently has 80,000 students enrolled, down 10,000 from last year. ‘‘Before the campaign to attack Bridge began, the academies across Kenya were financially sustainable,’’ she says. Conway acknowledged that the situation on the ground made things complicated. ‘‘It is difficult to keep up enrollment and make the schools break even,’’ Conway said, ‘‘because the churn is so high.’’ He explained that in 2017, thousands of enrolled children were not paid up.
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Bridge teachers at a school in Kiserian, Kenya, receiving their lesson plans via e-readers. CreditDiana Zeyneb Alhindawi for The New York Times
Some education experts say that Bridge’s plans for an international chain of low-fee, for-profit private schools rests on a flawed assumption. While such schools can work well for the relatively small number of families in poor communities who have salaries, says Keith Lewin, a professor emeritus of development and international education at the University of Sussex in Britain who has opposed the model, it is unrealistic to expect the most impoverished families to be able to pay. ‘‘People who engage in a discourse around making a vast number of the poorest people in Africa pay $6 every month for school tuition are people who have no idea what the lives of people living at or below the poverty line are actually like.’’
Inside the Bridge school in Kiserian, an hour’s drive from central Nairobi, students wore the same green uniforms and sat at attention behind the same rough wooden desks I saw in Kawan­gware. In front of a blackboard, a preschool teacher, Gladys Ngugi Nyambara, a thin woman also dressed in bright green, held a Bridge ‘‘teacher computer’’ that contained a recently downloaded lesson script on recognizing the ‘‘F’’ sound in common English words. Nyambara held up a picture of a fish and saw these words on the e-reader’s screen: What is this? (signal) Fish.
She gestured toward the class with the picture and delivered the line as precisely as she could. ‘‘What is this?’’ She snapped her fingers. ‘‘FEESSH.’’ She surveyed the 26 expectant faces in front of her. Her eyes went back to the script on the gray rectangular tablet. Listen. Say it the slow way. FISH. She followed the prompt. ‘‘Listen, class. This is a FEESSH.’’
There was a pause, and the teacher leaned over the e-reader. Our turn. Pupils say it the slow way. (signal) Fish. ‘‘Class, your turn.’’ She snapped her fingers again. ‘‘What is this? ’’
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The Bridge school in Kiserian, one of hundreds that the company operates in Kenya.CreditDiana Zeyneb Alhindawi for The New York Times
After some uncertainty over whether to use ‘‘this’’ or ‘‘that,’’ the children began to dutifully respond. ‘‘This is a FEEEESH.’’
Nyambara pressed on, repeating the call-and-response five more times. ‘‘This is a FEESH. Now class?’’ Snap. ‘‘This is a FEESH,’’ responded the children, their voices moving from uncertainty to singsong, pleased to be catching on.
The curriculum transmitted into classrooms is one of the company’s main selling points to investors, many of whom see the establishment of a standard curriculum delivered through technology as a solution to struggling schools. In 2013 the company began hiring United States charter-school teachers in Cambridge, Mass., to write Bridge lessons that were then loaded onto the e-reader in East African classrooms each day.
The challenge for the American writers was to meet the curriculum set by the Kenyan government while also trying to improve the outcomes. ‘‘We found that teachers in Kenya were used to lecturing at the front of the classroom, and children were passive — they weren’t asking or even formulating questions,’’ says Michael Goldstein, a charter-school founder who worked as chief academic officer at Bridge from 2013 to 2016. ‘‘So in our lesson scripts, we tried to get away from long periods of teachers talking. In a typical Bridge lesson, the teacher reads the explanation for about 10 minutes, he cold-calls a student to check for understanding, he gets students to talk among themselves or work in groups for 20 minutes as the teacher moved between desks. What we are going for is active classrooms — and this is something really different for the children we serve.’’ During 2016, Bridge’s curriculum team pushed to learn from their results so far, poring over 10,000 photographs of lesson books in Kenya to see evidence of what teaching techniques are working best.


The union ‘sees Bridge as a threat,’ a company founder says. ‘They want to maintain the status quo.’

The e-reader all but guarantees that every instructor, despite his or her education or preparation level, has a lesson script ready for every class — an important tool in regions where teachers have few resources. But scripts can be confining, some teachers told me. And in some of the 20 or so Bridge classrooms I observed, pupils occasionally asked questions, but Bridge instructors ignored them. Teachers say that they are required to read the day’s script as written or risk a reprimand or eventual termination, and they do not have time to entertain questions. Bridge says that ‘‘teachers are required to reference the day’s teachers’ guide and to diligently work to ensure all material is covered in each lesson.’’ Still, an alert teacher at the head of a class is its own victory. Although I saw a range of public-school classrooms, in one, the teacher was sound asleep, head on desk, in front of a classroom of 60 fidgeting fourth graders.
Bridge has writers in Nairobi who create the lessons that are in Kiswahili, but many lessons, to be delivered in English, are written in America. And it is challenging to develop lesson plans for teachers and children from a different culture. Misunderstandings can occur. Geordie Brackin, the company’s energetic director of innovation, guided me to a Bridge classroom where students were using flashcards and told me that when he goes to government schools he ‘‘doesn’t see flashcards, and our teachers don’t report using flashcards.’’
Brackin’s observation, though, was greeted with embarrassed smiles at local public and private schools a short walk away. ‘‘Of course, people who are trained teachers, we know about flashcards,’’ said Lilian Odhiambo, who runs a small private school in the Mathare slum. She steered me by the elbow into a classroom where a string hung with paper rectangles bisected the room. I watched as students reviewed English vocabulary words by looking up at one side of the rectangles, responding to them aloud, then stepping under the string to check their answer on the other side of the card. ‘‘We are a poor school, and paper is expensive,’’ Odhiambo explained. ‘‘In this way, we make flashcards work for all the children, not just one.’’
After eight years of operation, the impact of the Bridge curriculum on learning is uncertain. In 2015, Bridge publicly issued a working paper titled ‘‘The Bridge Effect,’’ its most recent evaluation. The study tracked 2,737 kindergarten, first- and second-grade students for the 2013-14 school year: one set enrolled in Bridge, and another, similar set of students enrolled at local public schools. The students were assessed at the beginning and end of the school year. There was a 43 percent increase in the number of Bridge kindergarten students who reached the ‘‘emergent’’ benchmark in English and a 40 percent increase in learning subtraction in math, compared with 22 percent and 15 percent increases for their public-school counterparts. The percentage increase of Bridge students who reached the ‘‘fluent’’ benchmark in English was high — among Bridge first graders it was 40 percent, compared with a 17 percent increase among first graders in public schools. Increases in the percentage of students who reached the ‘‘fluent’’ benchmark in addition and subtraction were smaller. The percentage increase of second graders who scored ‘‘fluent’’ in math skills was actually the same or higher in public schools than at Bridge.

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Elizabeth Mumo prepares her sons — Samuel, center, and Joshua — for school at the Kiserian Bridge school. She says she has high hopes for Joshua: ‘‘I can see Oxford.’’CreditDiana Zeyneb Alhindawi for The New York Times

I asked two experts in statistics — Nat Malkus, from the American Enterprise Institute, and Bryan Graham, from the University of California, Berkeley — to help me evaluate the findings. “This is good evidence of positive effects,” says Maikus. Both pointed out that the study’s results are complicated by Bridge’s high dropout rate: While a third of public-school students dropped out, nearly half of Bridge students left during the study and were unable to take the final assessment. ‘‘The high attrition rate should give one pause,’’ Malkus says, ‘‘when considering the full effect of the program.’’ Graham, co-editor of The Review of Economics and Statistics, says that ‘‘organizations are under a lot of pressure to do these studies and ‘prove’ their program works. Reasonable and informed people could look at the information in that report and come to widely different conclusions about the effect of Bridge on academic achievement as they measure it. It’s information, just not especially actionable information.”
Another area of achievement that Bridge trumpets is the success of its students on the eighth-grade K.C.P.E. test. In 2015, according to Bridge, 63 percent of Bridge students who had been there for at least two years passed, compared with 49 percent of Kenyan students nationwide. But it’s unclear whether Bridge’s approach will be sustainable as the company grows. Former Bridge employees told me that in preparation for the 2015 exam, those on track to get a lower score were asked to repeat a year. The rest were taken to a residential cram school and prepped for the test by teachers who flew in from the United States.
To keep their classrooms filled, Bridge has always relied heavily on marketing. Bridge has advertised its bright green logo with its ‘‘Knowledge for All’’ tag line on posters, fliers, billboards and branded vests worn by motorcycle-taxi drivers. Confronted with lagging enrollment, Kimmelman and May brought on a data-analytics researcher, Josh Weinstein, who worked on an experiment in 2011 to find out how to attract more families to the schools. For one set of schools, Bridge did the usual marketing before opening. For the second set of school openings, Bridge did the marketing but also added an elaborate opening ceremony, complete with bouncy castle. The third set had the marketing and waived a month of school fees for every family. The fourth had the marketing, the opening ceremony and the waived fees. The impact of the bouncy castle and the waived fees, Weinstein wrote on his blog, was ‘‘amazing. Not only was initial enrollment nearly three times what we had experienced in the past,’’ but once the free month was over, ‘‘the conversion rate — the most important factor in measuring the efficacy of a marketing promotion in retail — was 85 percent. This is practically unheard-of in retail.’’ (Bridge says initial enrollment was two times what they had experienced with similar schools, and the conversion rate was 75 percent.)
The Bridge founders, Weinstein wrote, decided that every school opening thereafter would as soon as possible feature a ceremony and that every new student would be given a free month of school. Kirchgasler, who studied Bridge for his dissertation, pointed out that this often ended up putting parents in what could become a difficult situation. If a family found that they couldn’t make payments, say, in the middle of the term, it was often difficult to transfer a child to a new school. ‘‘Among the families I studied, moving a child to a new school was a gamble,’’ he said. ‘‘Public and informal schools were reluctant to take students back if their new school didn’t work out’’ — potentially leaving a child out of school and making it difficult for a parent to work.
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The Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya. CreditDiana Zeyneb Alhindawi for The New York Times
A former Bridge employee told me that the company’s own marketing could sometimes create bad feelings among the people they wanted to serve. ‘‘Many times, they would open a school and invite a local official to a grand-opening ceremony, and the local official took offense,’’ the former employee, who asked that her name not be used, says. The local officials ‘‘wanted to be engaged.’’ Another former employee told me that the free tuition was confusing to many of the poorest parents. ‘‘I believe the word ‘international,’ combined with foreign founders, led parents to expect higher quality than in other schools,’’ she says. ‘‘I believe they did become disillusioned. I believe many of them became disempowered when they wanted changes in their schools — like electricity, permanent structures — but that didn’t happen. They definitely missed the connectedness and mutually beneficial relationships that they would find in other schools.’’
Similar concerns were voiced by Salima Namusobya, executive director of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, a civil rights group in Kampala, Uganda, that, along with the union there, has campaigned against Bridge and other private-school operators. Far from educating poor children, she says, Bridge uses aggressive marketing to enroll children who are already in public schools. ‘‘The fact that they have the word ‘international’ in the school name, they think they’re getting an international curriculum.’’
May flatly rejects the notion that Bridge’s marketing could be misunderstood. ‘‘We try very hard to communicate clearly and transparently and if we knew about anything that led to confusion, we’d want to correct that,’’ she says.
In 2015, teachers’ unions stepped up their agitation against Bridge. The company, May says, was the victim of a smear campaign mounted by the union, and the company has faced hurdles because some government officials run their own schools. ‘‘They see Bridge as a threat,’’ she says. ‘‘They want to maintain the status quo.’’
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Students play with rocks outside Bridge Diamond in the Mukuru slum in Nairobi, Kenya. CreditDiana Zeyneb Alhindawi for The New York Times
While I was in Kenya, May introduced me to a group of parents who told me that they thought the school was providing their children with the best start in life. Livingston Kagasi, a lanky day laborer who donned a suit, a pressed shirt and a tie for the group interview, said that the local public school was an unappealing option for his son Rivival. Kagasi said that leaving a child in a dirty classroom with 80 others and a teacher who may show up late, or not at all, feels like ‘‘dumping your child’’ and ‘‘not preparing them for life.’’ Not long before, Kagasi’s wife got a job as a clerk in the government that came with a steady salary and transferred their son to Bridge. Elizabeth Mumo, another parent, told me she had high hopes for her two sons, Joshua and Samuel, who attend the Bridge school. In her tidy two-room cinder-block home, Mumo explained to me that when she wakes up in the morning, she offers a prayer of thanksgiving that God has allowed her husband, a livery-car conductor, to make enough money to pay for the cooking gas she needs to make the morning tea. She told me that sometimes money is tight but that she wants her children to go to Bridge. She likes the fact that the teachers and students speak in English. She pointed out that a handful of Bridge students have gone to private schools in the United States — an almost-unimaginable break for a slum-dweller, and a success story that Bridge markets to Kenyan parents. Mumo imagines her oldest son going to a university: ‘‘I can see Oxford.’’
Kenya has many high-school-educated, unskilled workers who are looking for jobs, and initially, Bridge’s low-cost model depended on that labor pool for staffing schools. Instructors receive three to six weeks of training on pedagogy, classroom management and education technology. They are paid between $95 and $116 a month, less than what public-school teachers make in Kenya but more than what teachers can often make in informal schools. Under pressure from the Kenyan government, Bridge began to employ more certified teachers, and the company now says that more than 50 percent of its instructors are certified. All instructors work from 7:10 a.m. to 5:20 p.m., with a shorter day on Saturday — longer hours than most Kenyan public-school teachers. Bridge teachers are encouraged to market Bridge to parents in the community.
Early on, the company found it difficult to retain instructors. The Stanford case study cited high teacher turnover in 2010. Bridge began requiring instructors to sign a two-year contract; if they broke it, they had to pay back the cost of their training. Teacher turnover slowed.
Bridge teachers are discouraged from talking to the press, and their contracts remind them that they may not speak on behalf of Bridge, but some agreed to talk to me provided they were not identified. A few said they were grateful for the job and happy to have a lesson script. Others expressed frustration about hoped-for bonuses that they never were able to achieve. Teachers can receive extra money if they maintain enrollment of at least 25 pupils per class. A middle-aged teacher who provides science instruction at a Bridge school told me she was encouraged to go to the market and try to enroll the children of the fruit sellers when her teaching day was done. But it was hard to recruit new students.
All the teachers I spoke to appreciated the regular paycheck. But they chafed at how they were managed, often by unseen bosses communicating with them via text or robocall. Some Bridge staff members described what they saw as a stark contrast between their hopes for Bridge and a grittier reality. One school administrator, an academy manager, described how the pressure to ensure that parents made their payments on time was disheartening. ‘‘I didn’t realize how hard it would be to talk to parents,’’ he said. ‘‘They’re ill, they’re out of work, they had a fire. No one is in the house who’s making any money. How can they pay when they have no money for food?’’ And working at Bridge, teachers said, can disrupt a career: Instructors are required to sign an employment agreement that includes a noncompete clause that prevents them from working at other nearby schools for a year after they leave.
In the public and informal Kenyan schools I visited, school administrators welcomed my impromptu drop-ins warmly, showed me their classrooms and introduced me to their teachers, who spoke frankly about their challenges. Bridge teachers and managers say that sort of openness is not allowed. At some Bridge schools I visited unescorted, staff members said that they would need to contact superiors if I didn’t leave.
One of these schools was Bridge Diamond in Mukuru, a slum of 600,000, just east of central Nairobi. The schoolyard fence was made of patched, bent gray metal and barbed wire. The school building itself was shabby and neglected. In the schoolyard, about 30 feet away from where children enter their classrooms, was a deep trench of fetid garbage and rotting bags of feces; when residents can’t use the communal latrines they use ‘‘flying toilets’’ — defecating in a plastic bag and throwing it as far as they can. The chicken-wire windows were rusted and ripped. Some classrooms were empty. One had 15 students sitting at desks but no teacher.
Staff members at Diamond were eager to show the poor conditions in their school but also urged me to leave quickly. Last summer, a University of Alberta doctoral candidate, Curtis Riep, was gathering enrollment information in Uganda for an international organization of teachers’ unions, which later put out a report on the number of children enrolled in Bridge in that country and the number of untrained teachers at the head of Bridge’s classrooms. He made unescorted visits to three of its schools near Kampala. The acad­emy managers contacted company executives, and Riep was arrested by the Ugandan police, though the charges, criminal trespass and falsely identifying himself, were quickly dropped. Riep calls it ‘‘pure intimidation.’’ May says she simply acted responsibly because a stranger was at the school.
Last year, when the Liberian government began working with Bridge to operate 50 of its schools, it represented a new model for the company — running government-funded schools instead of competing with them. Under the plan, Liberian parents would not have to pay tuition to attend Bridge-run schools. Instead, the Liberian government would pay the salaries of Liberian-certified teachers, one of the biggest expenses associated with schooling, and provide Bridge with schoolhouses in which to hold classes. Bridge would use money raised for the project to pay the cost of running those schools. ‘‘Because parents don’t have to pay, it removes the morally troubling’’ process of removing children from class when their parents can’t come up with the money, says Tilson, the Bridge board observer, who acknowledges that he has never been in a Bridge school while it was in session.
Liberia’s education system, ravaged by civil war and then Ebola, was crumbling. Nevertheless, the government’s move faced resistance from those who bridled at the idea of a foreign company running Liberia’s schools. ‘‘An Africa First!’’ read one headline from Mail & Guardian Africa, a pan-African digital publication headquartered in Johannesburg. ‘‘Liberia Outsources Entire Education System to a Private American Firm. Why All Should Pay Attention.’’ After the outcry, the minister of education, George Werner, allowed seven other school operators to run schools in Liberia as well and reduced the number that Bridge managed to 25. A team of independent economists was hired to study the different models and advise Werner. Theoretically, the operators that showed solid teacher and pupil attendance and learning gains would be given contracts for more schools. But Bridge was impatient with that plan. Earlier this year, during heated meetings with Bridge investors and Werner, the funders asked the education minister to allow the company to run up to 250 more schools the following year. ‘‘We built a machine for scale,’’ says Kevin Starr, a Bridge investor who sat in on some of those meetings. ‘‘It’s going to have to operate at idle.’’
Since entering into the agreement, Bridge has moved formidable resources into Liberia. Justin Sandefur, an economist at the Center for Global Development in Washington and principal investigator in the Liberian schools study, told me recently that he worried that ‘‘there was no longer a governance firewall between the interests of a commercial company and the Ministry of Education, which is supposed to be advocating on what is best for Liberian children.’’ In April, Sandefur, along with seven others, published an open letter cautioning the Liberian government against rapid scaling and to consider a financially sustainable model. In June, Werner gave Bridge the go-ahead to operate dozens of new schools.
The new model of working with governments may allow the company to continue to expand, but it’s still an open question whether it can realize its dream of Silicon Valley-style growth, given the messy realities that are part of life in the poorest parts of the world. Greg Mauro, the Bridge board member, says that an I.P.O. is still two to four years away. May says the company may consider selling learning materials. They’ve been collecting data on schoolchildren and their families and might partner with microfinancing institutions to help Bridge parents get loans, as well as working as an intermediary for health-insurance plans. ‘‘While we are very focused on education, it’s hard to say where it might go,’’ she says. ‘‘We are looking for opportunities to help our families.’’