Rising Academies - New Schools in Sierra Leone

The Rising Academy Network is a start-up social enterprise seeking to improve the quality of education in Sierra Leone.

The Rising Academy Network (RAN) is a new chain of affordable, quality schools in West Africa. Founded in Sierra Leone in 2014, its mission is to provide the highest quality learning at the lowest possible cost, equipping its students with the knowledge, skills and character they need to survive and thrive in further education, employment and day-to-day life.

In 2014, a team at Innovation Unit collaborated with Paul Skidmore and Steph Dobrowolski to develop a prototype for a new kind of junior secondary school, thinking through the underlying educational philosophy and how this might be reflected in its school culture, its model of teaching and learning, and its timetable. They helped develop an innovative curriculum combining a strong emphasis on literacy and numeracy with higher order skills-building. To do so, the team drew on innovative practices from across both developed and developing countries.

RAN was due to open its first school in September 2014, just as the Ebola epidemic forced all schools in Sierra Leone to close. For 6 months, it ran a free home schooling programme, providing Ebola screening and daily literacy and numeracy lessons to more than 150 children kept out of school by the epidemic.

It was finally able to open its first school in April 2015. Since then, it has grown rapidly. All of RAN’s schools in Sierra Leone are majority female, with girls representing more than 55% of the total student body. Because RAN does not select students on the basis of test scores, it has a mixed ability intake and focuses on enabling every child to fulfill their potential regardless of their starting point. Baseline assessments show that, on average, the literacy and numeracy skills of students enrolling at RAN are five grades below their expected level.

RAN has commissioned Oxford University to conduct a rigorous impact evaluation of its work, tracking students’ progress in both learning outcomes and non-cognitive skills over three years and benchmarking this against a comparison group of students from other schools in Sierra Leone.

As well as its operations in Sierra Leone, RAN has recently been chosen by the Government of Liberia to operate a number of public schools there as part of the Partnership Schools for Liberia programme.

If you are interested in finding out more about RAN or contributing to its work, please email information@risingacademies.com.

Photo credit: Paul Skidmore