Developing countries can show England how to solve the teacher supply crisis, a Times article (7 April 2018 behind paywall) claims.
The Times cited Bridge International Academies (BIA) as an example of how England can learn from the global South. Henry Warren, former director of learning and innovation at Pearson, the international education company behind BIA, said:
‘You have to take some lessons from what Bridge do and say “Can we take lesser-trained people and use them effectively?’
And how would these ‘lesser-trained people’ teach their pupils? By reading scripted lessons from a tablet, Warren said. The teacher’s role would be more ‘emotional’ providing pastoral care. Such teachers wouldn’t require much training because ‘it’s basically good parenting’.
A good marketing ploy, then. Downgrade the role of teachers and plug the gap with scripted lessons purchased from an education company – in this case, BIA.
The plug in The Times for BIA ignored the controversy surrounding the organisation. In August last year, investors were urged to stop supporting BIA. In November, MPs on the House of Commons International Development Committee said government funding to BIA should stop.
On 29 March, Dan Carden MP (Lab) said in a debate about international development and education:
‘Let us remember that Bridge International Academies has been widely criticised, and even shut down in Uganda and Liberia. There is damning evidence about the volume of resources and investment that go into it.’
Paul Scully MP (Con) was unconvinced about the training given to BIA teachers and sceptical about scripted lessons:
‘Teachers can only have so much training, and they rely on a tablet for their work. They read out the lesson plan from the tablet, rather than having a deeper understanding of what they are trying to teach the children sitting in front of them.
It appears, then, that the BIA model focuses more on staff reading scripts rather than understanding what they're doing .
BIA is particularly sensitive to criticism. It recently accused the Kenya National Union of Teachers of defamation. The Court dismissed the claim.
The Times reminded readers that BIA met Lord Nash in February 2017 when he was schools minister. At the time, TES tried to discover details of the discussion but the Department for Education declined. The meeting was ‘private’, the DfE said. But BIA’s co-founder Shannon May was more forthcoming. She said BIA had been ‘asked by various parties’ to open schools in the UK although a BIA spokesperson said there were no plans to do so at the time.
But the recent Times article promoting the idea that ‘lesser skilled’ personnel using scripts could solve teacher supply problems suggests that for-profit education companies view the crisis as an opportunity. Why pay for expensive teacher education when all that’s needed is a tablet especially if the tablet delivers a minister-approved curriculum?