The primary focus of the Bridge Program is on improving our students’ core academic competencies. The Bridge Program’s academic curriculum is centered on an intensive secondary education option with a focus on English and Reading Comprehension, Math, and Project Design and Management.
English and Reading Comprehension
English is the official language of Ghana, yet it is not the primary language of the villagers who speak a number of local dialects unique to this small area of the Western Region of Ghana. Yet, in order to compete in the job market or for a spot in senior high school, one must be a proficient English speaker. The Bridge Program’s English curriculum is designed to push our students to better their reading comprehension, writing, speaking, and listening skills. Taught by native English speakers, the English program helps students become globally aware and allows for an exchange of cultures. The English program stresses the importance of mastering the language within a Ghanaian context because English is crucial for further education and career development.
Although closely tied to our English offerings, a distinct reading comprehension course is also part of the curriculum. The reading comprehension course is taught in the library, and aims to increase literacy while providing a safe and interactive learning environment for students. Those with little or no literacy skills are started on a phonics program, which is designed to familiarize students with the foundations of the English language. As the students’ comprehension levels increase, we encourage them to explore unfamiliar and challenging books. Literacy is essential for success in academics or career growth in Ghana; all our students must achieve a minimal literacy level as a requirement for completing the academic program.
Along with the English as a Second Language and reading comprehension courses, our academic curriculum includes a course on applied mathematics. Most of our students have not gained sufficient mathematics skills in their prior education. Students struggle with basic arithmetic and are often unable to make calculations based on distance and time. Our mathematics curriculum equips students with skills that will allow them to make currency calculations and conversions, learn basic accounting for small business purposes, convert units of measurement, and gain a basic understanding of algebra and geometry. Teaching these skills in an applied context benefits students who wish to become independent skilled laborers as well as those who will continue their studies in senior high school.
Project Design and Management
The students we teach are not only behind their contemporaries in terms of English and Math proficiency; they also struggle greatly when asked to think independently or logically or to plan strategically. Since we are attempting to prepare them to someday open and operate their own trade-related businesses or to obtain employment with companies engaged in such businesses, our curriculum encourages and attempts to develop more advanced and independent thought.
To that end, each student develops a business plan—with three year, five year, ten year, and twenty year projections—for a business tied to a particular vocation. While the primary subjects (English, Reading Comprehension, and Math) focus on language and skills the students will need to know in their chosen trades, the Project Design/Management curriculum is works backwards from that endgame objective and progressively requires more advanced planning and strategic thought.
Of course, given the fluctuating number of volunteers at the School and our goal of creating a wide-ranging program, the Bridge Program curriculum allows for some flexibility. In past years, we have hosted volunteers who have taught basic computing, an invaluable skill in our computer-dependent world. Many of our students enter our program unable to place Ghana on either a global map or a map of Africa; we aim to give our students an elementary understanding of geography. Each student has his or her own journal that is used to respond to prompts based on movies, books, or even imaginary scenarios. Due to these revolving offerings in our curriculum, students acquire a refreshed and engaged attitude towards academics.