How Digitally-Driven Education in One School Network is Fueling Learning in Africa

In a world characterised by technologies that blur the lines between digital and physical, education needs to evolve rapidly to meet the demands for a new type of knowledge worker. “Digital education is vital to the country’s future; we cannot succeed by clinging to an outdated and broken educational system. It’s time to adapt and rethink how we share knowledge, learn and teach in the digital era,” claims Pierre Aurel, Strategic Project Manager at e4.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at how Bridge International Academies (Bridge) have been future-proofing its pupils through a digitally driven mindset in delivering high quality education to its partner communities since 2009.

Giving Access to Education and Education Experts

According to UNESCO, more than 617 million children worldwide are not achieving the minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics, 202 million of which are found across Sub-Saharan Africa. The lack of necessary resources in government-run schools posed challenges to its students, stripping them of the chance for a better life. This harsh reality, which founder Shannon May confronted first-hand, led to her starting Bridge. The organization is guided by its strong belief that every child has the right to high quality education. In the last 13 years, its data-driven and evidence-based digital learning systems have provided life-altering education programs to underserved communities in Africa and Asia.

Digital At Its Core

The impact of the digital skills gap has been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic so much so that the World Economic Forum emphasizes that today’s requirements go beyond digital literacy – requiring the ability to participate and thrive in an increasingly digital economy. This is why in Bridge Uganda, digitalization is omnipresent in every step of the learning system:

  1. Teacher Selection Process – With Facebook Advertising as one of the recruitment channels, Bridge Uganda recruits dedicated community school teachers. The majority of whom come from the local community in which they will be teaching and act as role models to the communities they serve.
  2. Teacher Training and Pupil Engagement – Teachers are provided with “Teacher Guides”. These handheld devices are equipped with a software that displays lessons, and records attendance and assessment scores. This software also allows teachers to track lesson pacing and pupil comprehension in real time. This gives them the ability to tailor-fit their lessons in better response to the pupils’ capabilities, allowing for data-driven, effective learning.
  3. Academy Management – Bridge Uganda has a smartphone app that allows Academy Managers to seamlessly sync their academy’s tablets and track teacher and pupil attendance, among other features that allow for more efficient institutional monitoring.

Letting the Data Talk

Uganda’s students collectively lost 2.9 billion of monthly learning time, following a nearly two-year shutdown caused by the pandemic, reports VOA News. To facilitate a return to school, support programs like Bridge’s became even more necessary.

Nobel Laureate in Economics Michael Kremer and four other scholars published a working paper to evaluate how Bridge Uganda’s digitally-driven education program helped its pupils. They reported that “enrolling at Bridge improves student learning”. They emphasized, “the test score effects in this study are among the largest observed in the international education literature” – a further testimony to the effectiveness of Bridge’s digital-centric teaching techniques. Primary school students enrolled at Bridge “gained 2.89 equivalent years of Kenyan schooling after being enrolled at Bridge for two years, an additional 0.89 years compared to pupils enrolled at other schools over the same period.” Pre-primary students “gained 3.48 equivalent years of schooling, an additional 1.48 years compared to pupils enrolled in other schools,” the study found.

The biggest testament to the program’s effectiveness is the national Primary Leaving Exam. The result of this exam determines the tier that secondary school pupils will be admitted to. The 2020 results published by PML Daily show that Bridge Uganda pupils have performed exceptionally well for the fourth year in a row. Many pupils from the school have achieved marks in the sought-after division 1 and 2 categories. With the stellar results of the national PLE, it seems like there is more to gain should the local government of Uganda decide to adopt the digitally driven education program being rolled out by Bridge.

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