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Bill Gates to invest $1.7bn into failing US education system

Bill Gates is investing US$1.7 billion into the US education system. Source: Shutterstock.com

Bill Gates – the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist – has pledged to invest US$1.7 billion into US public schools over the next five years.

Gates announced the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is putting the sum into the public schooling system in the hope of helping to reduce educational inequalities.

Gates told CNBC: “Melinda and I made public education our top priority in the US, because we wanted to do something about the disparity in achievement and post-secondary success for students of colour and low-income students.

“That inequity persists today, and we are just as determined now to eliminate it as we were when we started.”

Bill Gates is to invest US$1.7 billion in the United States public school system. Source: Shutterstock.com

The Washington Post reported the foundation has previously invested $3.4 billion into US public schools. The money was used to develop the Common Core State Standards; an initiative that sets a quality benchmark for mathematics and English language development.

However, some of Gates’ policies have not always been well received. He initiated large high schools being split up, and utilised data collection of test scores being used to rate teachers. But these ideas were criticised for not working universally across all schools, according to The Washington Post.

In the latest investment, Gates recognises the change needs to come from educators: “We will focus on locally-driven solutions identified by networks of schools, and support their efforts to use data-driven continuous learning and evidence-based interventions to improve student achievement,” he told CNBC.

“We believe this kind of approach – where groups of schools have the flexibility to propose the set of approaches they want – will lead to more impactful and durable systemic change that is attractive enough to be widely adopted by other schools. Giving schools and districts more flexibility is more likely to lead to solutions that fit the needs of local communities.”

Gates also intends to continue to support the Common Core State Standards, as this ensures all students graduate from school with a basic skill-set to help them progress in life.

Sixty percent of the $1.7 billion investment will be directed toward public schools, reported The Washington Post.

However, Gates also believes charter schools are important for children with special needs.

Charter schools are publicly-funded but privately-owned schools, so they have the managerial flexibility to cater for students with special needs.

“Our emphasis will be on efforts that improve outcomes for special needs students – especially kids with mild-to-moderate learning and behavioral disabilities,” Gates told CNBC.

“This is a critical problem across the education sector and we believe that charters have the flexibility to help the field solve this problem.”

Gates also intends to make a long-term change by investing into research regarding educational disparities in the US.

“Our role is to serve as a catalyst of good ideas, driven by the same guiding principle we started with: all students – but especially low-income students and students of colour – must have equal access to a great public education that prepares them for adulthood.”

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