The integrated methods used by Bridge Liberia have been proven by Nobel-Laureate Michael Kremer to have resulted in among the largest learning gains ever measured where applied in Kenya. The finding could inform the future of education in Liberia, but the social enterprise offering the program needs additional grant support.
In 2019, a friend of RTNF told us they were supporting a social enterprise that was poised to change primary education in the country of Liberia. It seemed like a lofty aspiration, but our peer seemed as though she couldn’t contain her enthusiasm for their work. The name of that social enterprise is NewGlobe, which runs the philanthropically-funded Bridge Liberia.
We got to know NewGlobe and found that they had plans to significantly improve education for 25% of the childrenin Liberia in the next few years (most low-income), while moving steadfastly toward a cost per pupil that the Government of Liberia set as a target for affordability: $60/pupil/year.
And NewGlobe’s program was making a difference. Their tech enabled education program combined with teacher training and performance management was resulting in large student learning gains compared to control groups. But in those days, the cost/pupil was still too high for the Ministry of Education to take the program on wholesale.
Three years later, Bridge Liberia has nearly reached its lofty, audacious goal of 2019. They are operating in hundreds of government schools and have driven their cost/pupil from $337/pupil in their first year of operating in Liberia to $84/pupil expected in year 6 (the 2021-2022 school year), and are tracking toward the $60/pupil/year target in the next two years. Even more astonishing, this week, the Nobel prize winning economist Michael Kremer published a new study showing that primary students in NewGlobe schools in Kenya learned in two years what their peers learn in nearly three; while Early Child Development gains were even bigger, with students gaining almost an additional year and half of learning. He stated that these were 'among the largest learning gains ever measured in international education'. These were students living in low income communities defined as having mud walls or floors at home, or no access to electricity. These results are remarkable, but they are especially remarkable for a program operating at a significant scale.
I’d love to do a Hosanna shout for Liberia at this point, but a significant opportunity remains. The NewGlobe education model is working, and they are within striking distance of reaching fully 25% of learners in Liberia, but in order to close the final lap and finish the race, NewGlobe needs to raise some additional donor support.
A dream opportunity for effective altruists, I am hopeful that NewGlobe will accomplish their goal to reach scale and bring down the cost/pupil to a level that the government can afford. In 3 years time, I hope to say I was part of the team (albeit a very small part) that helped transform education for an entire country.