The private school market in developing countries is rich with diversity and variety. This program seeks to work with rising schools: affordable private schools reaching poorer children, or the base of the private school pyramid.
The program defines rising schools as consisting of small, mostly unaccredited schools, crèches and other child-related care facilities located in the more deprived sections of the urban centers, small towns or in the rural regions. Students at rising schools are from low socio-economic status, many at or just above the poverty line. Rising school infrastructure is quite rudimentary, and the pedagogical level is most often low. While these schools provide only the most basic services, they often reach the poorest students and can make up approximately half of the private schools in existence in Ghana and many other countries.
To create lasting impact and a replicable model the IDP Rising Schools program will consist of four key components:
1. Provision of targeted financial services necessary to improve school outreach.
2. Provision and facilitation of trainings to school proprietors, teachers and caterers to improve business management, quality of education, health and safety.
3. Distribution of critical supplies and materials such as curriculum or teaching aids through strategic alliances with partnering organizations.
4. Research and measurement of impact of the different treatments associated with the project.
Inspite of great international awareness of the importance of education in breaking the poverty cycle, a good education remains difficult for many poorer families to obtain. Data show that the world will fall short of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of providing a primary school education for every girl and boy by 2015 if the issue is not addressed. Not only does access to education remain elusive, especially for rural families, the quality of education in developing countries is far behind students at a similar grade level in the developed world. In response to this pressing need, governments and international aid agencies have poured millions of dollars into improving public education systems throughout the world, with the World Bank alone contributing over US$12 billion to education since 1990. Consequently, in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, public school is officially free of charge, although students still have a number of 'hidden' fees (such as textbooks and uniforms).
Because of the low cost of public schools, enrollment has greatly increased, yet the quality of this education remains dismal. Public schools are often overcrowded, with high student to teacher ratios and overcrowded classrooms. Public school teachers are rarely monitored, and because of a strong teachers' union in Ghana (GNAT), almost never fired. In addition, many public school teachers dread receiving a rural assignment, resulting in unhappy and unmotivated teachers. Parents complain that some teachers show up drunk, or sometimes not at all. This problem has had dire consequences for the children in Ghana who need quality education the most.
Parents searching for a better alternative have turned to the private sector. Initial market research by the IDP Foundation has shown that in Ghana almost every private school instructs in English from the very beginning, while public schools start classes in English in Class 4. Parents greatly value this focus on instruction in English. A key reason for the success of these small private schools lies in the network of accountability that exists. Because parents choose and pay to send their children to private school, they demand a higher quality of education and have recourse if their expectations are not met. In turn, the school proprietors are constantly monitoring their teachers and demand a certain standard. This results in a superior education for the children, even if the teachers are less qualified than their public counterparts. Despite the quality of education on offer, private schools face significant challenges. They receive no government funding and registered private schools often do not receive textbooks promised by Ghana Education Service. Therefore, private schools rely on funding from local institutions, but access to this capital is very difficult.
Traditionally, foundations and aid agencies have always made donations, either to governments or directly to schools, as a means to support the education of children in developing countries. Recently, more and more research has shown that aid not only does not work, it in fact hinders the growth of recipient countries. It is the view of the IDP Foundation that aid in the form of charitable donations and grants does not foster a sustainable educational program. Therefore, the Rising Schools program will partner with a local Ghanaian microfinance institution, Sinapi Aba Trust, that will administer tailored loan products to empower the schools rather than create any sense of dependency on the IDP Foundation. Microfinance has long been championed as a sustainable, market-oriented method of providing capital to those in need.
SEEKING: financial resources, best practice information, media and marketing opportunities. IDP Rising Schools seeks to raise awareness on education issues in the developing world through media and marketing opportunities offered by the Clinton Global Initiative.
To effectively reach scale in Ghana and in other developing countries the IDP Foundation will not only utilize existing partnerships with Sinapi Aba Trust Ghana and Opportunity International but is seeking to create strong partnerships in the private and public sectors in the U.S., other countries, and throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, the IDP Foundation looking to collaborate with potential funders and implementing partners such as micro-finance institutions, non-government organizations, and community development organizations to bring this unique model of boosting the development of low-cost private schools to underserved communities in Ghana and the developing world.
OFFERING: best practice information, implementing partners. The research portion of the project will seek to measure the impact of the program on the rising schools involved. Additionally, IDP Rising Schools seeks to create a successful model of sustainable education development that can be replicable in other countries. IDP can recommend implementing partners.