In Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor’s home country of Peru, education is lagging. The billionaire businessman wanted middle-class kids to have an alternative between pricey private schools and destitute public schools, but no option existed.
So, in 2011, with the help of design firm IDEO, he created one.
Innova Schools are the product of that desire. They rely on blended learning — a form of education that uses technology and guided independent study — to get kids thinking creatively, flexibly, and critically. In turn, families pay only $US130 a month in tuition.
The model is getting international attention, most recently as a top-prize winner at the International Design Excellence Awards.
Check out a tour of the school below.
Dotting Peru's landscape are 29 Innova schools serving nearly 20,000 students in the K-11 system. Each building is modular. The walls and chairs are movable and the spaces are designed for teachers to shift lessons quickly and easily.
Nearly a quarter of Peru's 8 million kids attend private school because the public school system is in such bad shape. Schools can feel like jails, so Rodriguez-Pastor worked with IDEO to make Innova feel as open and expansive as possible.
In February of 2015, Innova became the largest private network of schools in Peru. The school's goal is to inspire kids with modern technology and self-discovery.
Each school day at Innova is broken into two sections. Kids spend half the day in smaller, 30-person classes focused on problem-solving and collaboration with minimal teacher input. The other half is for independent learning, using sites like Khan Academy and Time to Know.
From the start, IDEO and Rodriguez-Pastor agreed Innova had to look beautiful. Parents had to feel confident their kids were learning in a high-quality environment. As part of its mission, Innova also prizes recreation and sense of humour, which means that learning isn't a rote experience. Kids have fun, too.
Part of that holistic education includes time for socialising. Innova frequently brings the classroom outside so that kids aren't overwhelmed by their frequent use of laptops. The method is working: In 2013, 61% per cent of Innova second-graders reached proficiency in federal maths exams. The national average: 17%.
Innova insists that kids need to be self-directed if they're ever to succeed. As a result, each child participates in the school's Innovation Program, which gets them all thinking about one social challenge. At the end of the year, students present their solutions together.
A major hurdle for Innova has been convincing parents the model works. Singing songs and fiddling with laptops might not seem like the traditional picture of learning, but Innova points to the numbers. In both maths and communication, Innova's standardised testing scores are several times higher than Peru's national average.
Innova demands excellence of its teachers, too. Putting together a school system so quickly meant many teachers needed training, so Innova designed the Teacher Resource Center. It's a catalogue of 20,000 lessons, put together by veteran teachers for the younger teachers to study.
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