How Bridge International Academies Use Data and Creativity to Bring Education to Underserved Communities

Data plays a crucial role in every type of business and institution as it helps analyse information and integrate solutions to potential problems. Just like business owner Lydia Caldana, having accurate data helped her create innovative solutions for clients despite setbacks like budget constraints and the global pandemic. These innovative solutions are applicable in different fields, even in the education sector. As one good example, Bridge International Academies (BIA) has used data to create solutions to global educational problems.

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1. The beginnings of Bridge International Academies (BIA)

Shannon May found herself across the globe, working as an English teacher in a village in rural China as she pursued her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. She witnessed first-hand the kind of challenges children go through in government schools that lacked the proper resources.

Unfortunately, she later realised that these challenges in the educational system was the reality all over the world, not just in China. Data from UNESCO points out that more than 617 million children across the globe are not reaching minimum aptitude levels in reading and mathematics.

To help be part of the solution, Dr. Shannon May co-founded Bridge International Academies in 2008 with the goal to provide high-quality education to children from poor families all over the world from

2. How Bridge International Academies was funded

Dr. May’s aspiring project to help improve education for children caught the eyes of two American icons – Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Soon after, other investors were interested in giving a lending hand, like the Omidyar Network. Currently, BIA has raised over $140 million (€123.69 million) and is still going.

3. How BIA produces results

By using creative out-of-the-box thinking, BIA brings educational solutions to underserved communities in Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Andhra Pradesh in India, and Nigeria. The teacher guides used by Bridge International Academies are structured to improve learning outcomes using technology. One core principle to BIA’s education model is in the teacher guides. BIA prepares master lessons for all their teachers, so their teachers all over the world teach a standard lesson plan.

BIA also allows students to learn through feedback. Students are allowed to make mistakes for which they receive feedback to guide them as they attempt to do the task again. All teachers are trained to use these principles at all levels of education

4. The results Bridge International Academies can produce through their institution

With the standardisation of lesson plans through the help of technology, the teachers can focus on teaching their student more effectively. The techniques and principles BIA used have also resulted in having a more dynamic classroom. A strong teaching philosophy that is adhered to during every class is based on a three-step process ‘I do, you do, we do’ – which is highly conducive to encouraging full teacher-student engagement.

One prime example is found in Liberia, where BIA offers a three-year program called LEAP – Liberia Education Advancement Program. Evaluations and assessments of the program found that students in the LEAP program show an increase in learning of 100% compared to students in schools not taught by Bridge programs.

5. Data and entrepreneurship

BIA publishes standard lesson plans digitally to each classroom and uses real-time data to get daily learning assessments from students, so that the planning team can study how the students enjoy learning and improve their lesson plans as needed. With the proper use of data, the students’ learning potential is optimised and not a day is wasted.

At the moment, BIA educates approximately 300,000 kids every day in six different countries around the world. Their exemplary use of data gives today’s underserved children a better chance of becoming our leaders in the future.

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