Influential Leaders

Stacey Brewer

CEO and Co-Founder, SPARK Schools
Recognition Year(s): 2018
Area of Impact: Education or Academics
School: Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria
Location: South Africa

Access to quality, private education for all South Africans was the inspiration for Stacy Brewer’s SPARK Schools, a blended education model for primary schools that uses technology to reduce costs and personalize the learning experience.

In 2013 Stacey Brewer, along with her co-founder, Ryan Harrison, opened the first school in the SPARK Schools network, with a mission to provide access to high-quality education for all South Africans. From the introduction of a new learning system to the focus on people, costs, and achievements, she created an education model designed to transform industry and bring about positive change. Since its inception, SPARK Schools has implemented Africa's first blended learning model for primary school students.

In this learning model, students split time between digital content that adapts in difficulty to their learning pace and classroom interaction that is based on best practice pedagogy. Technology helps teachers spend more time on group learning, and the personalized approach enables SPARK Schools to deliver high-quality education at an affordable price.

The first SPARK school achieved brilliant academic results in its inaugural year. Preliminary academic results from the first class of 161 students were overwhelmingly positive: 91 percent of SPARK scholars achieved a year and a half of growth in reading during the 2013 school year, and more than 50 percent of SPARK scholars achieved above international grade level standards in mathematics. In the first year of operation, students wrote in the grade- level assessment above them and surpassed the national average. Since then, each year SPARK Schools has doubled the network of families it serves. Currently 11 schools with 400 staff members serve 4,000 families, with plans to expand each year.

It was important to Brewer to make quality private education accessible to more South Africans. Fees are astonishingly low at about 1,600 USD a year—slightly cheaper than government schools in the same areas and significantly lower than the vast majority of private schools in South Africa, some of which charge just over 8,400 USD per year.

In a recent media article about the school, Pierre Aucamp, a coffee shop owner and father of a SPARK Bramley campus student, said the emphasis on life skills and quality of education makes SPARK the ideal choice for his eight-year-old son. “They’re bridging that gap between people who can afford quality education and those who can’t, so it truly is an equalizer,” said Aucamp.

The blended education model drives cost efficiency within the system and personalizes learning for every child that the schools educate. Brewer’s education system allows children to progress faster through their curriculum because they are not waiting for their peers, and more gradual learners are able to get the personal attention from the teacher they need.