Education in Developing Countries FAQs

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 being 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 which 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. Over six consecutive years (2015–2020) 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 2020, for the sixth year in succession, Bridge Kenya pupils outperformed the national average. Our pupils sitting the (KCPE) scored an average of 21 points higher than pupils nationally, the highest in Bridge Kenya history. This is the equivalent of 0.51 standard deviations, or more than two years of additional learning.

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, conducting interactive lessons, leading small groups and 1-to-1 instruction, and deploying 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 a 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 that “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 upon 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 make sure 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 the teaching that is happening in our classrooms and the learning gains achieved by our pupils. 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. Are Bridge Schools open in Uganda?

Yes. Bridge schools have always been open in Uganda. For three consecutive years now (2017-19) our pupils have outperformed the national average in the national Primary Leaving Exam (PLE). School licensing is a process not an event in Uganda and we are working closely with the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOE&S). Some of our schools are fully licensed by the MOE&S with the remainder close to completing the process.