Bridge International Academies aims to offer millions an affordable, high quality education option
Diana is a class 6 prefect at a Bridge International Academy school in Nairobi. She recently joined the school after an unhappy experience at a different school in Mkuru kwa Njenga, a slum in Kenya’s industrial area. “The school was okay, but the teachers were absent sometimes and did not teach all the subjects. They rarely marked my homework," said Diana.
According to a 2013 World Bank study, Diana’s experience is not unique. Kenya’s teachers are either absent from school or are not engaged in teaching 47 percent of the time, the study found. They teach an average of two hours and 19 minutes on the days they are present.
IFC is helping to create alternatives. IFC and CDC have provided a combined $16 million in equity investment to support the expansion of Bridge International Academies, a provider of high-quality primary and pre-primary education for children from poor families. The funding will support the company’s plans to expand into Uganda, Nigeria and India. Bridge has set a target of reaching one million children and creating 33,000 jobs for teachers over the next decade.
“Bridge provides quality education for a minimal fee of $7 per month, targeting households earning less than $2 per day,” said, Shannon May, Co-founder and Chief Strategy and Development Officer at Bridge International Academies. Her hope is to provide families like Diana’s with an affordable, high quality education that will keep young children in school.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, for IFC’s $10 million investment, Jean Philippe Prosper, IFC Vice President for Sub-Sahara Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, said, “Private education is making a significant contribution in emerging markets by complementing the efforts by governments to provide education to the poor. IFC believes that by supporting transformative projects like Bridge, educational standards be improved and more children from low income homes will gain access.”
The Bridge model is not just bringing large numbers through its doors but improving quality of education. The model uses innovative technology to standardize everything from content development to teacher training. To address the absenteeism that is common in public schools, Bridge is building a cadre of motivated and accountable local teachers that also draw on low-cost technology deliver dynamic, scripted lessons prepared by a world class content team.
The Bridge team is conscious of its need to monitor results as it seeks to make a much larger impact. May said, “With the increasing rate of enrollment we need to maintain quality at Bridge by administering tests by independent third party evaluators. So far the results indicate that Bridge students perform better than other private low-cost schools,” In 2015, Bridge will receive Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) results from the first cohort of students.
By the end of June, 2013, IFC’s portfolio of active projects in education was $651 million with $50 million invested in Sub-Saharan Africa.