There are many outstanding private schools in Kathmandu, informed by advanced educational theory and implemented by dedicated, knowledgable teachers. But even though these schools are a bargain by US standards, their cost is beyond the reach for most Nepalis.
On the other hand, public, or government schools, are underfunded and have few books or other materials, too few teachers, and generally limited resources, especially for the needs they try to meet. In one school, students said that their dream was for a school bus.
In this context, the Collaborative Schools Network (CSN; collaborativeschools.info) offers an intriguing alternative model. It is essentially a public/private partnership, not unlike some charter schools in the US. The CSN brings expertise in the form of two Teach for Nepal (TFN) alumni. These are young people, skilled in math, science, and English, who have devoted two years to living and working with village schools. In addition, CSN can hire additional teachers and provide funding for equipment such as books, computers, and even a smart board.
The Collaborative Schools Network adopts and manages existing public schools and transforms the education they provide to some of the country’s poorest children. It currently manages three schools. Since these schools are already funded by the government, CSN can leverage for greater impact.
The TFN alums teach, coach the government teachers, and lead a school improvement process. This includes parent relations and management to ensure that students arrive on time and stay until the end of the day and that substitute teachers are available. A temple nearby provides free midday meals for primary students.
As they say,
Our aim is not just to improve a few schools, but to transform the public education sector in Nepal, by proving that public schools can be successful with the right support. We are outraged by the chronic failure of public education in Nepal, and are driven by a simple motto: We put students first.
Among the impacts are that there has been a 220% increase in the number of students in three years, a 17% increase in student attendance, equating to an extra day a week, and 94% attendance at parents meetings, compared to 30% nationally.
Yesterday, Susan, Biswash Chepang, a teacher at King’s College, and I visited the first of the Collaborative Schools, Shree Jana Uddhar secondary school in Budhanilkantha. The school shows signs of the 2015 earthquake and might be considered spare in terms of its facilities.
However, there is a good spirit among the staff, teachers, and students. Everyone seemed committed to student learning. We met with TFN alum Rajan Maharjan, Principal Hare Ram Khatri, many teachers, and students. They were welcoming to visitors and demonstrated to us a school that is working well.
The Collaborative Schools Network is an excellent model for school improvement.
See the video below, featuring a student we met. Can you watch it without both a tear and a smile?