1. Do Bridge programmes support national governments to deliver education?
Our parent company supports governments both directly and indirectly. Our Bridge community school programmes believe there should be truly great, truly free public schools for every child. However, in reality, this is far from the case. In many developing countries, millions of children are not in school, and many of those who are, are receiving an inadequate education. Specifically, the Education Commission estimates there are 263 million children and young people not in school and a further 330 million in school but not learning. In addition, UNESCO states that an extra 69 million teachers are needed to achieve the UN education goals for 2030. There is a real need that must be addressed urgently. So, we’re helping to reduce the huge education imbalance between what is available and what is needed right now through our community school programmes. By demonstrating that high-performing schools are possible even on a developing country’s limited budget, we’re empowering governments and others to make informed decisions about how to improve learning outcomes for children. In these communities we’re an education partner, helping governments improve schools and teachers.
2. Are you also investing in traditional public schools?
Yes we are. Enabling public sector transformation is critical and the majority of programmes our parent company supports are public schools. The World Bank, the UN, and The Education Commission, among other global institutions, have stated that PPPs are integral to the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, in particular, quality education for all. In fact, DFID and USAID have both published education frameworks that advocate the use of the private sector to improve education systems. Our programmes and others are investing heavily in developing innovative, affordable solutions to address educational shortcomings in low and middle income countries. There is a global education emergency now, and programmes and innovations that can improve learning outcomes for children, both through direct and indirect government partnerships, should be encouraged to prevent yet another generation of children missing out.
3. Don’t Bridge Community School Programmes make a profit from the parents who choose your schools for their children?
No. To date, we have never made a profit. Our parent company is based upon a long-term investment model and all our partners and investors are committed to tackling the global education crisis in a sustainable and scalable way. We’ll only ever make a profit if we’re successful in delivering a high-quality, affordable education to millions of children around the world.
4. How can Bridge community schools claim to reach the poorest and be affordable?
We locate our schools in some of the poorest communities in some of the world’s poorest countries. The global average fee for our community school pupils is approximately $8 USD per month. The very low fees in our community schools mean that the vast majority (in Kenya over 90%) of the people near our schools can afford to send their children to a Bridge community school. Of course, despite the very low fees, there will always be those who struggle. That’s why we also work in partnership with organisations to provide sponsorship opportunities. A percentage of our pupils are on full scholarships and attend our community schools for free. It’s important to note that many government-run public schools in the countries in which we operate are not actually free – they often charge a wide range of fees for “admissions,” “teacher motivation fees,” “PTA fees,” etc. As such, our community schools are sometimes less expensive than so-called “free” public schools. Parents have the right to choose whether or not to send their children to our schools and decide for themselves whether they wish to invest in education. In the countries where we work, it is not uncommon for services that may be free at the point of use in more developed countries, such as healthcare, to be paid for by people themselves.
5. What independent evidence is there to prove Bridge community schools are delivering good educational results?
There is an increasing body of independent evidence which demonstrates the high performance and learning gains of children in our schools – and, importantly, that the longer children are at our schools, the better their academic performance. In 2021 a rigorous academic study of Bridge Kenya schools and the teaching methods used, led by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Professor Michael Kremer, confirmed learning gains among the largest ever recorded. Professor Kremer and his co-authors found that primary pupils through Class 8 in Bridge Kenya gain almost an additional year of learning (0.89) under Bridge International Academies’ integrated methodology, learning in two years what their peers learn in nearly three. For Pre-Primary pupils, the gains were even bigger. Those pupils in Bridge Kenya gained almost an additional year and a half of learning (1.48), learning in two years what pupils in other schools learn in three and a half years. Over five consecutive years (2015–2019) our pupils have outperformed the national average in the Kenya end-of-primary school exam (KCPE). In 2019, our pupils scored an average of 16 points higher than pupils nationally. This is the equivalent of 0.25 standard deviations or an extra year of learning. Read more about our five years of results here. In Uganda, the Primary Leaving Exam (PLE) is an independent government exam that enables our pupils to be compared with those in neighbouring schools and in schools across Uganda. For three consecutive years now (2017-2019) our pupils have outperformed the national average. In 2019, 80% of pupils who had been at Bridge for five or more years achieved marks in the highest two divisions; compared to only 57% nationally. 74% of Bridge schools had a 100% pass rate. In Nigeria, the UK Department for International Development released the ‘Learning in Lagos‘ report in October 2018. The report findings show all types of children reach high attainment in a Bridge community school. This contradicts decades of global education research trends that demonstrate family background matters more than the school a child attends, in relation to levels of learning. The finding of equity in learning at Bridge Lagos is ground-breaking. In addition, Bridge pupils in Lagos sat the Nigerian national common entrance exam in 2019 and 2020 and excelled, achieving some of the best marks in the country and gaining admission to some of Nigeria’s top secondary or unity schools. Through The Learning Collaborative, Bridge community school programmes partner with a wide range of leading academics and institutions to pilot and assess innovative pedagogical approaches at scale adding to the pool of evidence as to how children learn.
6. How qualified are Bridge Community School teachers?
In our community schools, teachers are employed by Bridge directly. Each country in which we operate community school programmes has different qualifications and requirements for teachers. We adhere to and sometimes exceed, all of them. We run a carefully designed training programme at the outset for all teachers in Bridge community schools—novice and experienced—where they are trained to use the ‘Big Four‘ teaching skills and associated teaching techniques. We continue to support our teachers with continuous coaching and professional development programmes both inside and outside of the classroom. The training is focused on our teaching philosophy and how to use the teacher tablet effectively, conduct interactive lessons, lead small groups and 1-to-1 instruction, and deploy a variety of effective teaching techniques. Many teachers struggle in low and middle-income countries without any support or feedback. There are thousands of government-certified teachers in countries like Kenya who are waiting to be called to join the government civil service. Community schools enable teachers to work in their communities until they are allocated a government job – providing employment for teachers who would not otherwise have employment and providing experience in the classroom which they can then take with them to public sector schools.
7. Why do Bridge Community Schools use teacher guides?
We’re focused on using the most effective and proven methods to deliver quality education to pupils. Teacher guides (sometimes called direct instruction or scripted education) are widely recognised as an effective delivery method of instruction in numerous academic studies, including Hattie, 2009; Lemov, Woolway, and Yezzi, 2012; and Killian 2014. As such, it is used across the world by multilateral agencies. Because of their success, teacher guides are a cornerstone of USAID early-grade literacy programs in Africa, such as Tusome in Kenya, and are utilized as an effective form of educational delivery. A 2017 study from RTI International found “high levels of tablet program utilization, increased accountability, and improvements in learning outcomes.” They are particularly effective in developing countries where even teachers from certified training programs struggle with core knowledge competencies. In Uganda, for example, eight out of ten state primary school teachers can neither read nor solve basic primary-level mathematics questions. Learning is a science. Teacher guides empower all teachers with lessons that have been carefully designed based on the latest pedagogical research and insights. This means better-prepared and supported teachers who can focus on teaching and more learning for the children who need it most.
8. How do you make sure all Bridge School buildings are safe?
We ensure that all of our community school buildings meet local standards and legal requirements. We believe that school performance should be measured by outcomes, not inputs. We don’t focus on the aesthetic appearance of our schools, but rather on the teaching happening in our classrooms and the learning gains our pupils achieve. Keeping our community school buildings simple also helps keep costs low for parents.
9. Do Bridge community school programmes teach the national curriculum of individual countries?
Yes. In all Bridge community schools we only teach the national curriculum of the host country.
10. How do Bridge Kenya Schools ensure pupil safeguarding?
Bridge Kenya has treated safeguarding as its most important priority since it was founded and has class leading policies and practices. Bridge consistently reviews its safeguarding processes and established a Critical Incident Advisory Unit (CIAU) specifically focused on safeguarding. It constantly reevaluates its child protection policies with the support and guidance of legal & child protection experts. In 2020, Tunza Child Safeguarding evaluated the impact of Bridge Kenya’s programming and the strength of its safeguarding policies. The review was based against the internationally recognised Keeping Children Safe (KCS) Standards that are recommended by UK FCDO, Save the Children, and UNICEF. The Tunza Report certifies that Bridge Kenya policies and processes focussed on safeguarding pupils exceed those outlined by the Kenyan Government, and recognizes the significant positive impact that Bridge Kenya has in child safeguarding through a proactive reduction of risk factors and dedication to increasing protective factors. After a comprehensive and independent investigation and analysis, of both Bridge and the wider sector, the Tunza Study concludes that Bridge Kenya employs effective health and safety systems and outperforms peers in creating a safe learning environment for its pupils. The study recommends that Bridge policies and procedures be shared and adopted as best practice. Bridge is a founding member of the Child Safeguarding Association of Kenya.