Making the best standard practice in every class

Pupils at a free Bridge Partnership School for Liberia | Copyright: Bridge International Academies

Her pupils come from families among the poorest in Africa, yet her pupils learn twice as much as pupils at other Liberian public schools. Maggie Moore works at Bridge International Academies. She is not alone. In fact, she is a typical of teachers at Bridge’s Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL), a wildly successful collaboration between Liberia’s Ministry of Education and several private school operators. Pupils in free Bridge public primary schools have learned in one year what students in other public schools learn in two years, according to recent results from a randomly controlled trial conducted by an independent research team.

The reasons behind learning more and faster

Maggie Moore’s pupils learn more and faster for three simple reasons: time, resources, and support. Bridge helps her by providing adequate instructional time, quality instructional materials, and explicit guidance for her teaching. Bridge is designed to deliver a consistent, high-quality education to all students. So, while Maggie Moore is certainly special, every one of her colleagues receives this same backing.

Instructional time – kids need time to reach the high standards of their national curriculums. Bridge’s PSL schedule is from 08:00 until 15:30, while Liberia’s typical schedule is 08:00 until 12:30. It’s not just schedules – teachers need to show up and when they are there, they need to be teaching. Bridge doesn’t just hope – it monitors attendance and lesson completion.

Quality instructional materials – each national curriculum is ambitious. It takes an entire team at Bridge to develop instructional materials to help each teacher help their pupils achieve the knowledge and performance goals set within the Liberian national curriculum. Details about development, ongoing research, quality assurance, and improvement.

Explicit support and guidance – Bridge uses very detailed lesson guides to encourage quality, evidence-based instruction. This ensures consistency and guarantees that all students receive high-quality instruction. What some people call “scripted” does not necessarily mean rote learning. In fact, at Bridge it is quite the opposite. Bridge lessons help teachers, at every point in their career, understand how some of the world’s best instructors introduce concepts, provide students time to practice, and give feedback to students that advance their understanding.

Bridge also supports instruction through feedback to teachers. Senior Academy staff observe teachers every day and give them feedback one-to-one on:

  1. Motivating all pupils to behave and try hard
  2. Following the lesson 100%
  3. Checking on each and every pupil's performance
  4. Responding with clear feedback, every time

Bridge teachers are enabled through technology. In their hand they have an e-reader that downloads and holds top-notch lessons which have been designed, tested and refined by teachers and academics. At the same time, every school leader can track staffing and pupil attendance via their smartphones. The syncing of these devices with the in-country head office helps us know which lessons are being completed, which are not, and how to improve our processes and products.

These principals are similar for Bridge nurseries and schools across India, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Uganda. It’s an evidence-based formula that is adapted and applied for varying government standards with similar strong results. In Kenya for instance, Bridge pupils have surpassed the national average in their end of primary school exams, three years in a row. In Uganda, 93% of Bridge graduates passed the end of primary school exam in the top two categories (Division 1 or 2), while only 56% of graduates achieved this nationally.

Across Africa and India around 100,000 children benefit from this scientific approach to education six days a week.

What is Bridge International Academies’ secret formula?

Bridge International Academies has taken the best of the teaching profession and made it standard practice. The model allows the best lessons for helping students achieve learning goals to become the lessons that all students receive. While these best lessons are great, Bridge is continually working to improve them. Bridge uses data to better understand what really works in classes and modifies the structures and lessons accordingly. The practice of continually improving from a high standard has even made Bridge pupils more successful than their more wealthy peers in other schools.

Maggie Moore described the system in a pragmatic way, saying, "You get to stay within the confines of the curriculum. Bridge gives us the resources needed for the kids to understand what they are learning. For example, if I talked about the Liberian hippopotamus, the illustration is in the book so the kid would see what I am talking about. Not many schools can boast of this and itis something that I am proud of."

Maggie Moore enjoys teaching at Bridge. Mostly, she just wants her students to learn well and have great opportunities. Each year, she gets better at doing just that.