In March 2014, EdVillage expanded its work with Vuleka Schools, a growing network of primary and secondary schools that serve low-income children from townships in Johannesburg, South Africa. Working closely with Vuleka’s Managing Director, Mrs. Melanie Sharland, our team led a two-day school leadership workshop for her principals, offered a teacher development module for 50 educators (inspired by the work of Doug Lemov in Teach Like A Champion), conducted a full school review of Vuleka St. Michaels, and met with the central office’s fundraising team. These four activities are aspects of our EdImprovement work in South Africa.
A member of the Vuleka team wrote in an email to EdVillage CEO, Allison Rouse, “We have been so blessed to have you and your team at our Vuleka Schools over the last two weeks. You have given us inspiration and new techniques to work with.”
Vuleka Schools began as a project in 1989 enrolling 59 black South African children. It was created as “a response to the crisis in black education during the apartheid years.” Vuleka was designed to prepare previously disadvantaged children for the rigors of selective private schools that were historically for white students only. Since its founding 25 year ago, Vuleka has grown from 4 classrooms to a network of 9 schools ranging from Early Childhood Centers to a nationally recognized High School enrolling over 1,000 students between the ages of 3 and 19. You can learn more about Vuleka Schools at: www.vuleka.co.za.
Our EdImprovement work is focused on helping Vuleka Schools, 1) improve the quality of the outstanding education they already provide and, 2) scale their impact by serving more students and creating new schools. We leverage the expertise of our staff, consultants, and volunteer instructional leaders from South Africa, the United States, and around the world to accomplish our goals.
A new EdVillage team member, Dr. Joanna Paul wrote, “This multi-faceted trip to South Africa was one of the most rewarding professional experiences that I have had in recent years. Our focus on conducting school reviews, training local review teams and delivering school improvement workshops provided me with the opportunity to learn new skills and practice or hone familiar skills in a new context with a new team.”
EdVillage is excited about our work with Vuleka Schools. In 2014, we plan to support a greater number of public schools through partnerships with districts, the national department of education, and corporate foundations. Stay tuned for more updates!
And, thank you for your interest and support.
The 3.2.1 School successfully completed its first year with over 100 kindergarten students. School leader and EdVillage Global Fellow Gaurav Singh, a Teach For India alum, recently won the Echoing Green Fellowship in recognition of this innovative school model. This summer, with the support of EdVillage, 3.2.1 hosted Juliana Worrell from Uncommon Schools to conduct teacher training as 3.2.1 prepares to expand. EdVillage also worked with curriculum developer TERC to provide their math curriculum free of charge for the benefit of the 3.2.1 students who come from the slums in south Mumbai.
In January, 2013, the Bombay (Mumbai) Municipal School Corporation adopted a public private partnership school model (akin to the charter schools in the US). The BMSC will partner with established low-cost school operators, like the 3.2.1 Education Foundation, and provide public funding for the education of disadvantaged students in Mumbai. The schools will have access to government owned facilities and will be reimbursed for a portion of their expenses. In return, the schools will prepare students for the standard assessments
When EdVillage Global Fellow Gaurav Singh met Dr. Stephanie Smith of Georgia State University, he told her, “We must have you come to India.” Gaurav knew Dr. Smith’s work in cognitively guided instruction was a good fit for the 3.2.1 School he was creating to educate poor children in Mumbai. In founding the 3.2.1 School, Gaurav envisioned a place where students from low-income backgrounds can achieve the same academic results as their wealthier peers at elite private schools. Innovative instructional practices like the teaching techniques Dr. Smith studies are key to this vision.
Gaurav did indeed bring Dr. Smith to India this year with the help of Global Giving donors. She spent a week training the staff of 3.2.1 in cognitively guided instruction (CGI), an approach that helps teachers understand the ways in which children invent strategies to engage with the problems they face in arithmetic. This lets teachers understand the ways children engage with numbers so that the students truly learn. Gaurav is committed to ensuring that the curriculum at 3.2.1 is every bit advanced as the best schools in the world.
Gaurav has furthered his vision of a school with “a focus on problem-solving and understanding versus just memorization” by using the TERC Investigations curriculum used in classrooms in the United States. This curriculum is specially designed to promote a deep understanding of mathematical concepts. Gaurav thought the cost of the Investigations curriculum would be a barrier to full implementation of cognitively guided instruction in the classroom but, with the help of EdVillage and Global Giving, he secured a donation of back-copies of the math curriculum from TERC. With these lesson materials as well as cognitively guided instruction strategies, the 3.2.1 teachers are well-equipped to foster problem-solving skills in their students.
Having worked closely with the staff of 3.2.1, Dr. Smith is excited for what their school will bring to the low-income neighborhood of Crawford Market just north of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminius (the old Victoria Terminus) in Mumbai. She says that Gaurav is using the flexibility offered by a public-private partnership to “introduce a curriculum that will revolutionize what kids in India get.” Impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of the 3.2.1 teachers, Dr. Smith emphasized the value of young teachers who are willing to embrace new strategies. After seeing the teachers excited by a new approach to conceptualizing fractions, she noted, “They aren’t afraid to tackle [difficult material] and become better at the content.” She also stressed Gaurav’s role in building this excitement, praising how he “lets his staff see that this is really important just by his efforts and his dedication.”
Like many US charter schools, 3.2.1 is using these education innovations to help underserved students close the achievement gap. After visiting with members of the community, Dr. Smith remarked that the families who enrolled their children at 3.2.1 are “thrilled that their conditions could get better.”
The first 3.2.1 School opened in June 2012 serving 90 kindergarten students. The school will grow one grade per year all the way to grade 12. There are also plans to open more 3.2.1 campuses in the next few years.
Dr. Stephanie Smith, an expert in cognitively guided instruction in elementary mathematics, is currently an associate professor at Georgia State University.
In 24 hours from now the 3.2.1 team will welcome our first set of parents and students into our school.
In 24 hours our future students will meet their teachers who will explain to the tiny kindergarten kids that from now on they will do whatever it takes to even the odds for them.
And, in 24 hours a long held dream would become a reality.
I started dreaming of starting a school about 630 days ago in the September of 2010. Since then it’s been an incredible journey. It started with me skipping Teach For India placements and figuring out how to get to the US to study the education reform movement. And then to many crazy months of fundraising, selection interviews, acceptance to the fellowship, and starting legal work on the school and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) partnership.
In June of 2011, I finally landed in the US – 6 months of incredible learning, going to almost 15 cities, visiting nearly 40 charter, public and private schools, having more than 200 meetings with exceptional leaders and then coming back completely exhausted and insanely excited.
After that the India journey began in December 2011. Hours spent daily either at the government offices to find empty school buildings or meeting potential funders. Along side this spending weeks to figure out the complicated legal requirements for opening a school.
Simultaneously, recruitment became a priority and it required many weeks of effort to get our founding teachers and staff members.
With all this the nights were spent in going through legal documents, making contracts, designing marketing strategies and making budgets, 5 year plans, 10 year plans, operational plans, instructional plans.
The weekends went in working on crafting our philosophy, vision, mission and model, defining our instructional framework and our support systems, finalizing our curriculums and assessments and making policies and official documents.
And I also sneaked in a trip to Finland (one of the world’ best education system) in the middle of all this.
I was very lucky to find an exceptional team along this journey who have truly made this dream their dream. We spent many evenings and nights in the past few months meeting, understanding each other, sharing our beliefs and forming a common vision all the while balancing multiple commitments.
All this lead to a 4-week training institute which was planned and executed in house. We had long, deep discussions on everything from philosophy to international best practices. We spent a lot of time learning lessons from exceptional leaders and organizations in diverse fields like technology, sports, psychology, brain research, performing arts and medicine. We got exposure to great systems and organizations, studied the latest in cognitive science and behavioral psychology, poured through the works of giants in the field of education, analyzed exceptional schools and school systems and then worked on creating all the resources required to setup a school. We finished our institute last week.
And this leads us to now – today when we are one day away from starting our school we feel elated about these 3 big things:
1. We feel lucky to have an incredible team, which is very talented, passionate invested. Also, they are an extremely cool bunch of people to hang out with.
2. We have had a really successful training institute, which has set us up for success in the future. But also aware that it was the honeymoon period of our journey and the real challenges will start when we open our doors to nearly 90 crying 5 year olds.
3. We have managed to recruit about 90 kids and plan to push this number higher in the coming weeks. This is despite severe challenges of starting recruitment months after neighboring schools had started and convincing skeptical parents.
I want to end with this long report with this:
Gratitude is a very important value of ours so I am very grateful that now I can say our journey instead of my journey. I am grateful for all you wonderful people who have supported us on this journey. We are standing on the shoulders of giants and we are extremely grateful for that. We are grateful to the parents who are trusting us with their kids. And we are very grateful for having found that rare and holy thing – passion.
Tomorrow is a big for us. Wish us well dear friends!
Your donation to EdVillage helps support aspiring school leaders like Gaurav Singh develop and launch high-quality schools that serve children form low-income communities around the world.
The Jungle Jamboree at the Akansha School within the Sitaram Mill Compound Mumbai Public School was a filled with excitement as the KG and 1st standard students performed for parents, teachers, and community members at their end of year showcase. The event highlighted the culmination of a year of learning with students performing skits, songs, dances and poems – all in English – showing off all they had learned over the course of the year. A group of parents performed a special dance to show their appreciation for the teachers and staff.
After the performance, guests were invited to visit the classrooms where students waited at learning stations to answer math and reading questions from the guests. A year ago, these young learners hardly spoke a word of English. These interactive learning demonstrations showed that after a year of hard work, the students are now able to converse confidently with guests in English and apply their learning to different situations, not just recite memorized material. The students from impoverished neighborhoods in India are well on their way to a quality education to prepare them to reach their highest potential in life. The event highlighted the rigor, high expectations, joy and community involvement that makes this school an outstanding educational opportunity for undeserved students in the neighborhood.
Down the road, the 3.2.1 School was conducting teacher orientation as it prepares to open its doors to 120 KG and 1st standard students. With your support, the school was able to secure a reputable math curriculum from the TERC Company.
Your donation to EdVillage helps us further the work of the Akanksha and 3.2.1. Schools and share their best practices and learnings with like-minded school networks around the world. You are ensuring that more students from low-income communities receive a great education and for that, we sincerely thank you.
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