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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CEI approaches in actionDeliveryChains or Networks of schools/centersSchool supportComprehensive curriculumEntrepreneurship skills
Model details2002Not-for-profitVocational/technical skillsComprehensive curriculumEntrepreneurship skillsActiveLong-term projectOther
Initially schools are subsidized, then financed by earnings from on-campus microenterprises until they reach self-sufficiency. As boarding schools, tuition covers rent, food, and other additional living expenses.Teach A Man to FishJunior Achievement
Students generally come from rural families who do not have the economic means for their children to attend quality schools. However, in recent years the model has proven to be replicable in non-rural areas.
The majority of these students come from chronically unemployed families and poor communities far from urban centers. Selection criteria specifically target low-income and minority populations. The four schools established in Paraguay primarily serve the children of Fundación Paraguaya’s microfinance clients.
Fundación Paraguaya operates 4 schools in Paraguay and 2 schools in Tanzania. The model itself has been replicated in 60 schools across 26 countries through Teach A Man to Fish. Roughly 150 students attend each school.May, 2013
In 2002, Fundación Paraguaya took over the San Francisco Agricultural School which became the model for the Financially Self-Sufficient Schools network. Fundación Paraguaya then established the Mbaracayú Educational Center in 2009, an all-girls school in the Mbaracayú Forest Reserve, and the Belén Agricultural School, which trains out-of-school children in agriculture and rural tourism. With the support of the Nestlé Foundation, Fundación Paraguaya is now developing an additional school for low-income, out-of-school children in the Department of San Pedro, one of Paraguay’s poorest rural areas, which will be completed in July 2013.
In order to further disseminate the the model, Fundación Paraguaya created a separate NGO based in the UK- Teach A Man To Fish, which has helped to build a network of over 3000 institutions and people that are interested in the Financially Self-Sufficient Schools network. There are now 18 schools in Latin America and Africa that are adopting the model, and many more that are in the early stages of preparing a school business plan and/or establishing on-campus microenterprises run by students and teachers.
In 2011, with financial backing from MasterCard, Fundación Paraguay established an office in Tanzania to implement the Financially Self-Sufficient Schools model in 5 Tanzanian schools and a “Business Club” program in 20 public secondary schools.
Other dissemination efforts include the launching of an e-learning, 1-year course to provide technical training and guidance to potential and current implementers of the Self-Sufficient Schools model with participants from Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Colombia and Haiti. Fundación Paraguaya has also enrolled international students from Haiti and other countries at their model school, in hopes of spreading the model to new countries.
- Establish a fifth school in Paraguay and maintain/ reach full financial self-sufficiency at each of the current schools within the fifth year of operation.
- Strengthen entrepreneurial education in the Paraguayan national curriculum.
- Consolidate Fundación Paraguaya’s office in Tanzania with 5 schools fully replicating the model, and 20 schools partially replicating it through Business Clubs. Further spread Fundación Paraguaya’s entrepreneurial education programs across Africa.
- Continue to disseminate the self-sufficient schools model through e-learning courses, technical assistance, annual conferences, school visits, and workshops.
Monitoring & EvaluationYes
Ability to reach the poorGraduation or promotion ratesEmployment ratesTeacher attendanceStudent retentionIncreased enrollmentYes
The San Francisco Agricultural School has attained self-sufficiency for the past 5 years and generated $450,000 this past year. Belen- 35% self sufficient, Mbarcayú- 50% self sufficient.