Bridge Academies top Nobel winner’s Africa schools study

Bridge International Academies. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A Nobel Prize-winning economist has found that slum-based low-cost Bridge International Academies Kenya achieved one of the largest learning gains ever measured by a major study in Africa.

The study led by the 2019 Nobel Prize-winning economist Prof Michael Kremer found that underserved children receive 53 percent more learning at the pre-primary and primary school levels at the slum-based low-cost schools.

The study found that after two years, primary school pupils in Bridge International Academies Kenya are nearly a whole additional year of learning ahead of children taught using standard methods.

“This study shows that attending schools delivering highly standardised education has the potential to produce dramatic learning gains at scale, suggesting that policymakers may wish to explore incorporation of standardisation, including standardised lesson plans and teacher feedback and monitoring, in their own systems,” said Prof Kremer in a statement.

“For pre-primary children, two years’ learning in a Bridge International Academies Kenya school was the same as three-and-a-half years in another school.”

The study says 82 percent of Grade 1 pupils at Bridge Academies were able to read a sentence compared to 27 percent of children in other schools.

Bridge Academies Kenya opened its first school in 2009 in Mukuru, Nairobi. They employ more than 5,000 teachers, a third of them licensed by the Teachers Service Commission.

The school says it has educated over a million pupils in Kenya since 2009.

The study was launched by the Nobel Prize-winning economist to heads of state and education ministers at the Education World Forum, the world’s largest gathering of education and skills ministers, hosted by the UK government in London.

“Enrolling at Bridge reduces dispersion in test scores, having larger effects for pupils at the bottom of the test score distribution than those at the top,” said Prof Isaac Mbiti of the University of Virginia who co-authored the study titled ‘Can Education be Standardized? Evidence from Kenya’.

The study titled ‘Can Education be Standardized? Evidence from Kenya’ was authored by Michael Kremer among four other scholars.

It evaluated the Bridge International Academies’ methodological approach to teaching and learning.

The study was funded by the World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund and with support from Omidyar Network’s education initiative, which spun out to become Imaginable Futures in 2020.

Professor Kremer is a University Professor in Economics And Public Policy at the University of Chicago and the founding director of the Development Innovation Lab at the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics.

Prior to joining the University of Chicago, he was the Gates Professor of Developing Societies at Harvard University. He was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2019 for work on alleviating global poverty.

The organisation seeks land in Nairobi slums like Mathare and Kibera where it sets up low-cost schools. A typical Bridge school sits on a half-acre plot.

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