Founded in 2009, Bridge International Academies – investors include Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg – are challenging ‘the long-held assumption that governments rather than companies should lead mass education programs’.
Bridge’s Goal is to (eventually) educate 10 million poor children in Africa and Asia and to make money by expanding its standardized, Internet-based education model. The Wall Street Journal reports that:
“an army of teachers wielding Nook tablets and backed by investors including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg is on a mission to bring cheap ($6.50/month), internet-based, private education to millions of the world’s poorest children in Africa and Asia. In Kenya, 126,000 students are enrolled at 400+ Bridge International Academies that have sprung up across the country since the company was founded in 2009…The Nook tablets are used to deliver lesson plans used by teachers (aka “scripted instruction”), as well as to collect test results from students to monitor their progress.”
The Nook Tablet is at the heart of Bridge.
“All class plans, tests and additional materials are uploaded on it. Teachers manually enter test results through the tablet, and every piece of information is stored electronically. Bridge also monitors teachers through the tablet. For example, if a teacher doesn’t sign into the tablet one day, Bridge can call the teacher to find out why…
All Bridge’s systems have been designed with the view of getting to millions of students.”
Shareholder Greg Mauro, a partner at California-based venture-capital firm Learn Capital LLC, likens it to running Starbucks, with standardized systems and procedures that can be replicated across new locations. He says this American-run, Nairobi-based education startup could seek a stock-market listing in New York in 2017.
A criticism of the scripted teaching model is that there could be a lack of individual needs being neglected, but Bridge says:
“Just because the class is scripted doesn’t mean the tablet is restrictive..Children do interrupt with questions, teachers do go off script.”
A 2013 report commissioned by Bridge by an outside research firm indicates Bridge students score better in literacy and numeracy tests than peers attending nearby public schools.