Tech-driven teaching school, Bridge International Academy ordered to close in Uganda

Image Credit: Kampala Express

Bridge International Academy is not your everyday Ugandan school since it deploys a different teaching approach (more on this later) than conventional government and private run schools in Uganda. The foundation has been at loggerheads with the education ministry since July that has culminated into its forced closure citing sanitation issues and non-adherence to the national set education guidelines and curriculum

How Bridge International Academy operates?

Bridge International Academy uses a centralized curricula system for all the schools it operates. It currently operates 63 schools in Uganda normally in socially deprived communities. Teachers in Bridge schools are equipped with e-readers or tablets pre-loaded with a custom-developed app that they use to monitor attendance, timing of lesson delivery and student comprehension, which is uploaded daily on a central server and reviewed by the central academic team.

The central academic team then reviews the outcomes to iterate lessons in real time or identify needs to further teacher training. The team also identifies new learning aids to overcome any shortcomings and the collected data is not only used to improve their mode of operation but also contribute to wider pedagogy.

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The Bridge model has proved successful in countries where it operates that now stand at 5 including Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, India and Liberia with results showing that Bridge school going students outperform their peers in neighboring schools, with this found to equate to 0.31 and 0.09 deviations in English and Maths respectively.

Why is the Ugandan government shutting down Bridge International Academy?

Back here to Uganda, a court order was issued to close the schools where students have been paying an average of UGX 80,000 per term over what the government termed as failing of the UPE system besides concerns of recruiting unqualified staff, poor sanitation and the failure to honor national set education guidelines.

Bridge says 50% of its staff graduated from government teacher training colleges and refutes claims of employing under qualified staff whose over-reliance on technology than the standard teaching procedure renders poor quality education to pupils.

The ministry instead advised the affected students to be integrated in nearby UPE or private schools even as the term nears its closure. Official figures put the UPE dropout rates at 68% with a teacher absenteeism rate of 29%, most of whom figures further suggest failed math and basic literacy tests in percentage rates of 78 and 61 respectively, something Bridge has been praised to overcome.  Bridge International Academy has since vowed to appeal the ruling.