Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bring red flags, lots of red flags – part V: the Tesla of education companies is also...

[This buzzword-filled and often somewhat patronizing (particularly at the beginning) New York Times Magazine account of entrepreneurs and Ivy League grads from the USA rescuing the poor children of Africa from poverty and ignorance is so filled with disturbing details, portents of disaster, and indications of general bullshit that we will need to take more than one pass at this.]

As mentioned before, the people behind the Bridge have promised the moon both in terms of social good and investor returns. These incredible achievements will supposedly be possible due to tremendous innovations in the way children are taught and businesses are operated.

However, given what we've seen so far, the company is largely devoid of ideas that could be called new by any stretch of the imagination. From the scripted lessons to the hook'em and collect account management, this is all numbingly familiar. What's worse, the business practices often tend toward the sleazy. In addition to the previously mentioned (horrible facilities, nasty collection techniques), the company engages in that veritable litmus test of corporate evil, the low-level blanket noncompete.

Yes, the Tesla of education companies is also the Jimmy John's of education companies.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment