NewGlobe executives don’t see it that way. I interviewed Shannon May, a co-founder of the company, and Sean Geraghty, its chief academic officer. “I think of it like music,” May said. “There’s a certain order of notes. Those notes have been standardized. They’re on a clef. Piano or forte. The composer is guiding you.” As with musicians, there is room for teachers to exercise creativity while following the script, she said.
Standardization doesn’t drain creativity from students either, Geraghty said. Creativity is hard to quantify, of course, but students in NewGlobe schools perform as well as others in an exercise in which they’re encouraged to think of different uses for a spoon. “We find positive and statistically significant effects on higher order skills,” the Kremer study found.
Figuring out whether students are absorbing the material is so important that it’s written into the script. NewGlobe teachers are more, not less, responsive to students’ needs, Kremer’s team found.
Still, teachers and parents do not always welcome highly formatted education. In the United States, many parents on both the left and the right opt out of standardized tests for their children. More than 20 states have repealed, revised or rolled back parts of the Common Core State Standards Initiative that was introduced with high hopes in 2010.
NewGlobe has changed its business model in recent years. In Kenya, Bridge International Academies educated about 100,000 students at its peak enrollment, around 2015. But NewGlobe’s strategy of low cost private education became a target for teacher unions and some government officials. May says Bridge schools are educating about 45,000 students in Kenya now. It also continues to operate its own schools in Uganda; Lagos, Nigeria; and Andhra Pradesh, India.
NewGlobe is more focused now on bringing its method to existing public schools. It has contracts with the national governments of Liberia and Rwanda and several state governments in Nigeria and India. More than one million students are being educated by Bridge methods in public schools. May said she’s happy with the new approach. “Our interest wasn’t in construction of schools,” she said. “It was in learning.”