The Self-Sufficient School - A Proposal for Quality Education

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The Self-Sufficient School - A Proposal for Quality Education

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Monday, December 16, 2013 - 9:45pm

By Luis Cateura, Fundación Paraguaya

In many emerging countries, young people face similar situations in terms of education.

Overall, it makes little difference to vulnerable members of society whether they complete secondary education or not.

If they drop out of education at an early stage, they can find some kind of subsistence activity to help them to earn a living.

Technical training is an option, but it is very expensive.

Fundación Paraguaya’s self-sufficient schools model aims to provide an opportunity for young people who would otherwise not be able to afford this kind of training. We aim to eliminate poverty by teaching young people the practical skills and techniques they need to be employable.

The method involves learning through doing, selling and earning. The training offered to young people involves theory and many hours of practice in the field.  This makes it possible to ensure that students are actually acquiring the skills they are learning.

Future employees

The model has two main focuses. First, it seeks to identify opportunities and a market niche for the services and products that the school can offer. This is an excellent way of building value chains within the community - creating shared value.

Secondly, it seeks to identify the skills that companies require their future employees to have. This also offers a very good opportunity for companies to become consultants to the school.

They do not need to contribute financial resources, just a small amount of their time, and to see it as an investment.

Zero drop-out

In Paraguay, all the graduates of our schools are required to present a viable business plan and are given the option of acquiring funding to implement it.

The drop-out rate in our schools is zero. Visitors encounter dynamic, confident young people with a proactive attitude and plans for their future.

To us, this shows that as long as the teaching is relevant to young people’s needs, it will be attractive to them and they will keep attending.

Entrepreneurial establishment 

In 2003, we took over San Francisco de Asís school in Paraguay when it was at risk of closure due to a lack of funds and subsidies.

From this point on, we began to transform the school into an entrepreneurial establishment capable of generating its own resources and thereby guaranteeing its continuity on a permanent basis.

To achieve this goal, we set up economically productive educational units at the school. This meant that the small market garden, previously used for purely academic purposes, would now be given another use, namely, generating resources to sustain the school.

In addition to promoting agricultural knowledge, the school now also teaches students how to earn money based on this knowledge. This completes the productive cycle: it is not simply about producing more, but about selling products or goods in exchange for money.

Income generation

The model’s unique characteristics became evident once teachers understood their new roles as managers of productive educational units responsible for generating income. This enabled us to increase the quality of the education provided. 

The skills young people acquire from working with a vegetable garden can be expanded by working with a larger garden - generating other experiences that result in greater learning opportunities. 

In the long-term, this ensures that young people acquire the skills required by the labour market and helps them find employment rapidly.

We see that the self-sufficient school model works. It’s now being replicated in more than 25 countries including Afghanistan, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Mali, Nicaragua, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.


Key points about the self-sufficient school model:

  1. The market-based curriculum provides young people with work opportunities.
  2. Relevant education helps provide a way out of poverty.
  3. The school is a catalyst for change in the community and creates a value chain.
  4. The self-sufficient education model is replicated and adapted in various countries in the world.
  5. It turns young people into entrepreneurs.

Editor's Note:

This blog first appeared on Business Fights Poverty, and is part of a three-part Special with Nestlé on Inspiring the Next Generation of Farmers.


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Keywords: Education | Ethical Production & Consumption | Hunger | agriculture | food | food security