No Need for Second Best Choices in Education for the Poor

For too long the prevailing educational paradigm has been that the rich and the middle classes can access an education that opens their doors to a world of possibilities, while the poor focus on vocational skills. White collar jobs for the rich; blue collar jobs for the poor.

There is a sense of acceptance that, given the scarce resources of developing countries and the challenges that the public sector face, it is unhelpful for their population to demand both access and quality of education. Poor people, it is implied, should be content with the former.

Teach a Man to Fish tackles this paradigm head on. The programme, shortlisted for the Japanese Award for the most Innovative Project’, argues that it is possible to provide access to education as well as quality. It shows that children from the very poorest backgrounds can have the same educational choices as the middle classes; and that it is possible to do this in an entirely sustainable manner.

The model, developed in Paraguay and now replicated across the developing world, combines teaching agriculture and business within school enterprises in order to generate income to cover 100% of costs. It is also able to provide its graduates with post-education follow up support, including a loan to develop their own business plans.

The Financially Self-Sufficient School model has achieved many successes:

1) 100% employment after graduation –which includes further education, self-employment in the family farm, and employment in enterprises along the agriculture and food value-chain.

2) Graduates do not limit themselves to developing their existing agricultural knowledge: instead they focus on the whole agriculture value chain and set their career aspirations to the parts of the chain where they consider they might have a comparative advantage, an innovation, or would simply like to work.

3) A zero drop-out rate –which in itself challenges research findings that show that drop-out rates among the poor are higher than for the rich. Martin Burt, from Teach a Man to Fish argues that this is because the families of the students, and the students themselves, recognise the quality and value of the education they receive.

4) It transforms the students’ personal views on life, and they go on to adopt the aspirations of young men and women from middle or upper classes.

Of particular importance is the replicability of the model. Since its beginnings in 2002, the Financially Self-Sufficient School model has been taken up in over 10 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Fundacion Paraguaya, the organisation behind Teach a Man to Fish, has developed a number of resources and trained a team of professionals that may be easily deployed to wherever there is a need or demand for this approach.

A decision on which of the three Award finalists will receive the cash prize of US$35,000, provided by the Ministry of Finance, Japan, will be made at a special dinner on the second day of the GDN Annual Conference.

See more stories from the GDN 2010 Conference, watch participants’ videos interviews, download conference presentations and papers

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2 Responses to No Need for Second Best Choices in Education for the Poor

  1. Pingback: Awards and Medals! « GDN 2010 Annual Conference

  2. Pingback: » Teach A Man to Compete: Paraguay’s Self-Sufficient Agriculture School | Network News

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