The Microsoft Co-Founder will invest the money in public education schools willing to develop and try new teaching approaches

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is no stranger to investing in public education: it has spent over $3 billion on public education ventures in the United States, supporting teacher preparation programs, reducing large class sizes in high-schools, charter schools, and more.

Some of Gates’ previous investment directives – such as reducing the size of large high-schools to increase manageability and quality of education – were criticised by educators as difficult and highly costly to implement.

The $1.7 billion dollars will be distributed as follows: 60% going to traditional public schools, 15% to charter schools, and the remaining money to be invested in educational research and development.

As opposed to Gates’ previous donations which were stipulated on programs of his own development (such as testing teacher capabilities and qualifications), Gates encourages schools to petition to the Gates Foundation as to how they will use the money.

Gates aims for his foundation to serve as a “catalyst for change”

In his keynote address to the Council of the Great City Schools in Cleveland, Gates said: “Every student should get a great public education and graduate with skills to succeed in the marketplace.”

“The role of philanthropy here is not to be the primary funder, but rather to fund pilots, to fund new ideas, to let people – it’s always the educators coming up with the ideas – to let them try out and see what really works super well and get those to scale.”

Gates went on to say that he hoped schools and educators in particular would be key facets of the development process: “The actual tactics about great teaching, about how to reform the schedule, how to get students who are off track on track – those will be driven by the schools themselves,”

“We will let people come to us with the set of approaches they think will work for them in their local context.”