Shannon May

Organization: 
Bridge International Academies
Country: 
Kenya

Bridge International Academies is a chain of nursery and private schools in Africa delivering high- quality education for just $5 a month on average.

Focus: Education
Geographic Area of Impact: Kenya
Model: Social Business
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 80,742 (2014)
Annual Budget: USD $ 11 million (2013)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 73% (2013)


Background
Presently, the education system is failing the 2.5 Billion people living on less than $2 a day. Classrooms are overcrowded, learning materials are scarce, and teachers are unresponsive and often abusive. In Kenya, teachers are either not in school or present but not teaching 45% of the time – and teach for only 2 hours
and 19 minutes on the days they are there (World Bank). Failed by the system themselves, 65% of teachers could not pass a test based on the curriculum they teach (African Development Bank). On top of this, school fees (some sanctioned, some not) are expensive, averaging $2-12 a month. Not surprisingly, 75% of
families are actively searching for a better academic alternative (Bridge data).


Innovation and Activities
Bridge International Academies is the world’s largest chain of primary and pre-primary schools, working tirelessly to bring world-class education to the poorest of the poor, democratizing the right to succeed. Bridge does this by leveraging experts, data, and technology in order to standardize and scale every aspect of high-quality education delivery. This includes everything from how academies are built to how teachers are selected and trained, how lessons are delivered and monitored for improvement, and more. For example, all Academy Teachers use computer tablets to teach. These tablets deliver pre-written lessons, which accompany a range of books and practical learning tools, which have been developed by distinguished Master Teachers at Bridge International Academies’ headquarters. The tablets also track lesson pacing, lesson completion, and pupil assessment scores, which can be used to improve future classes as well as outline growth areas for teachers’ professional development. This method drastically raises the content knowledge of Academy Teachers, ensuring they’re always prepared for every class and teach each lesson in full, and puts pupil learning at the centre of every decision Bridge makes.

As of January 2014, only 5 years into its operation, Bridge already boasts 259 academies in Kenya
employing over 3,000 people and educating approximately 80,000 pupils (that's 1% of the children in
Kenya!). Thanks to economies of scale, Bridge is able to deliver this at a cost of only $6 a month on average (a fee 90% of poor families can afford). Bridge pupils score an average of 35% higher on core reading skills and 19% higher in core maths skills than their peers in neighbouring schools based on USAID-designed exams administered by a third party. In 2014, Bridge will expand its operations to Uganda and Nigeria. By
2025, Bridge plans to be educating 10,000,000 pupils in over a dozen countries.


The Entrepreneurs
Passionate advocates of education and issues related to global poverty, Jay and Shannon co-founded Bridge International Academies in 2008. Prior to Bridge, Jay was founder and CEO of Edusoft, the leading educational software company providing assessment platforms to US public schools districts. He holds a BA in Computer Science and Engineering from Harvard University. Shannon is an anthropologist with a BA in Social Studies from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California, Berkley. She has published widely on ecological and economical development, and served as an advisor to multiple international organizations focused on design, development, and sustainable cities around the world.