Bridge International Academies is a chain of over 300 low-cost private schools in Kenya with approximately 100,000 students enrolled. Bridge has designed an “Academy in a Box” model, which seeks to deliver high quality education through standardization. Bridge invests heavily in developing a robust curriculum created by experts in the education field. The curriculum itself is standardized and transformed into scripted lesson plans, which include step-by-step instructions detailing what teachers should do and say during any given moment of a class. Teacher scripts are delivered through data-enabled tablets, synced to headquarters, enabling Bridge to monitor lesson pacing, record attendance, track assessment scores, and update or add lesson scripts in real time.
Lesson standardization enables less qualified teachers to deliver lessons of a higher quality than their level of experience would otherwise allow. Teachers come from the local communities and receive thorough training in delivering the Bridge curriculum. In this way, Bridge seeks to contribute to the local community by driving job creation. Bridge’s curriculum is based on government standards, with a greater emphasis on basic literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking skills in the early grades.
Bridge employs technology in order to reduce the time spent by teachers on non-instructional activities, decrease the overhead costs required to run an academy, and increase the quality of education delivered. For each academy, only one employee is involved in school management, known as the Academy Manager. Many of the managerial and non-instructional activities usually undertaken by an Academy Manager (for example billing, payments, expense management, payroll processing, prospective admissions, etc.) are automated and centralized through the Academy Manager’s smartphone application and teacher tablet application, which are all interconnected and connected to Bridge’s headquarters. This systematization allows Academy Managers to focus on overseeing instruction and building relationships with parents and the local community.
Through its use of technology and scale-driven approach, Bridge is able to keep costs low, offering primary school tuition for $6 a month (average fees as of 2014). These fees are 70% lower than other low-cost private schools in the communities in which Bridge operates, and allows 85-95% of families in these communities to afford to send their children to Bridge Academies, according to Bridge's own research. Bridge is currently developing a sponsorship program to support those students who still cannot afford the tuition. Bridge executes extensive research and scouting before buying property and opening academies in new locations, to ensure it is opening academies in high-need communities, and where the academy only needs to capture 5% of the catchment area in order to be successful.
Bridge International Academies maintains focus on a child’s development and learning outcomes while scaling rapidly within communities and across countries, thanks to proprietary, centrally-managed, and data-enabled systems. These systems leverage WIFI-enabled smart phone and tablet technologies for community engagement, parent and teacher communication, instructional delivery, pupil and teacher attendance and learning assessments, and operational cash management and procurement.
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CEI approaches in action
Tuition (parents must also pay a one-time registration fee and termly exam fee)
Bridge International Academies operates solely in communities where families live on less than $2 a day. They have a large research department which conducts household surveys and other quantitative studies throughout all of its target areas in order to ensure that schools are built in areas where high-need populations will be reached.
Bridge was founded in 2007 and opened its first Bridge International Academy in January 2009 in the Mukuru slum in Nairobi. Bridge began by offering kindergarten, Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3. By the end of its first year Bridge had 299 students enrolled across two academies and had launched mobile payments for academy fees. In 2010, Bridge opened 8 more academies in Nairobi, reaching 1,341 students enrolled by the end of the year. 2011 saw Bridge’s first significant expansion outside of Nairobi (to Naivasha and Nakuru) and 28 new academies added. Nursery Class and Class 4 were also added. By 2012, a total of 83 academies had been established reaching 25,472 enrolled students. Baby Class and Class 5 were added, and the smartphone Academy Manager application was rolled out to all academies. In January 2013, Bridge opened 51 new academies, resulting in a total of 134 academies and 53,216 students.
Bridge now has teams on the ground in Uganda, Nigeria, and India.
Bridge International Academies aspires to be the global leader in providing education to families who live on $2 a day per person or less. In ten years, Bridge aims to have schools operating in at least 12 countries with 10 million students enrolled.
Monitoring & Evaluation
As a result of Bridge's technology-enabled and data-driven approach (facilitated by its Academy Manager smartphone application and teacher tablets), Bridge is constantly collecting data on students' performance, comprehension, attendance, etc. This information is collected after lessons are delivered and relayed back in real time to Bridge's headquarters. These scores can be used to update lesson scripts, which can be sent directly to teachers' tablets for use the next day. Bridge also administers EGRA and EGMA (Early Grade Reading/Math Assessment) international exams to measure the progress of its students. The exams are conducted across a sample of 5,000 pupils from Bridge International Academies, government schools, and other neighborhood schools. To analyze comparative student performance, students are placed into equal bands based on their incoming performance level. This means that the low-performing students at Bridge are compared to low-performing students at government and other schools, while average- and high-performers are also compared to each other. After one year, Bridge retests these same bands to assess the academic progression in their math and reading skills. By tracking pupils based on their starting performance levels, Bridge seeks to ensure that it is measuring the impact of a child’s actual experience in the classroom.
Standardized Assessment Performance - Literacy | Up to 37% higher than government schools (reading comprehension) (01/2013)
Standardized Assessment Performance - Numeracy | Up to 24% higher than government schools (addition) and up to 37% higher than government schools (subtraction) (01/2013)
Standardized Assessment Performance - Other | Up to 42% higher than government schools (world problems) (01/2013)
Measured through qualitative surveys and parents' continued willingness to pay to send their children to Bridge