Financially Self-Sufficient Schools

A financially self-sufficient network of secondary schools which give low-income students the opportunity to receive a quality education while learning practical agricultural and business skills through operating real microenterprises on campus.

CEI Plus Status

Program Results Status
Monitoring and Evaluation Reporting
DeliveryFundación ParaguayaUpper secondary

Fundación Paraguaya began as a microfinance institution and later extended its services to include entrepreneurial and business education for youth and low-income women. In 2002, Fundación Paraguaya applied this knowledge to transform a failing private school into what would become the model for its Financially Self-Sufficient Schools network- the San Francisco Agricultural School. Later Fundación Paraguaya extended this model to three other schools in Paraguay and more recently, established an office in Tanzania.

The purpose of Self-Sufficient Schools is to give low-income students from primarily rural areas the opportunity to receive a quality secondary education for little cost while learning practical technical and business skills. To achieve both of these goals, the model relies on teaching students to operate real businesses, which eventually generate enough income for schools to become financially self-sufficient. 

Every school operates under the "Learning by Doing, Selling, and Earning" methodology, which gives students hands-on experience in operating on-campus microenterprises. Students learn not only how to produce efficiently but also how to package, sell, and market their products while gaining exposure to real world market pressures. Students spend half of their time in the classroom (learning both traditional academic subjects as well as business skills) and half of their time in the field. The schools are generally managed by principals with business backgrounds who re-train teachers in business theory.

The microenterprises not only pay for the schools' operating costs but also finance teachers’ bonuses so that everyone has an incentive to perform well.  The San Francisco Agricultural School operates over 15 agribusinesses (from a vegetable garden to a rural hotel) that generated $300,000 in its fifth year, enough to make the school fully self-sustainable.

What is most innovative about the Financially Self-Sufficient Schools network is the rate at which it has expanded across the world. A separate partner NGO (Teach a Man to Fish) was founded on the premise of scaling up this model. Generally the model is implemented by an NGO to turn around a deficit-ridden school, although the framework can be adapted to different settings (a coffee plantation in Nicaragua for instance established a school) as well as subjects (polytechnic and hotel schools).

Fundación Paraguaya also provides guidance and technical assistance to help interested organizations with experience in education adapt their model through a continuum of support mechanisms. These include online guides (School in A Box) for teachers and principals, e-learning courses for schools interested in replicating the model, and field visits to Fundación Paraguaya's schools. To share best practices Fundación Paraguaya and Teach A Man to Fish hold an annual conference where implementers can exchange ideas and interested NGOs can learn more about the Financially Self-Sufficient Schools model. 


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