Having spent 38 years teaching in a traditional classroom, i.e., desks in rows, chalk board demonstrations, text books, homework, an occasional 16 millimeter documentary or film strip, I am mildly intrigued by white boards, power point, individual student lap tops, not to mention charter schools, home schooling and/or free electronic public education from K – 12. The latest educational phenomenon to peek my interest is the Bridge Project, a “for profit” educational program created and produced by two young Americans now being used in several African countries.
The Bridge Project provides a low cost alternative to public and/or private education. For a low fee, parents may send their children to a Bridge school where the classes are smaller and cleaner than public schools; where the teachers arrive on time; students wear uniforms; teachers use wifi to connect with a central curriculum from which each day the teacher teaches from a scripted lesson received on an electronic tablet. The lesson is often accompanied by flash cards. The students do not have electronic tablets nor text books. The students do have pencils and note books. They may take notes to help remember certain concepts. However, the primary method for student retention of information is oral repetition.
The technology is new, but the learning method of the teacher teaching and the pupils repeating is as old as the method used at the University of Salamanca, Spain nearly 1000 years ago. So far, this old method of teaching and learning seems to be working. Comparing test scores with students attending public schools indicate that students attending Bridge schools are more successful.
In the African countries where Bridge schools are available, parents, most of whom work at jobs such as cooks, bus drivers, police persons, nurses, etc. make sacrifices to insure that their children are accepted and remain in those schools. They are not concerned with such things as higher level thinking skills or art appreciation. Their vision for their progeny is that they are able to compete successfully in whatever fields are available to them upon graduation. The parents will provide cultural appreciation at home.
Personally, I like these parents. I hope that their children will not disappoint them.