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Note: As you read this summary, over 150 Ghanaian students that used to be at-risk of dropping out of school or failing school entrance exams are now studying, teaching and receiving free tutoring and scholarships this week in order to build themselves a better future.
Exponential growth is a mathematical term defining when growth increases more and more rapidly. Imagine that growth in numbers of educated children in the world’s most neglected areas. Imagine the impact socially and culturally as more and more children have access to continued learning and become tutors themselves. That is what we strive for in Exponential Education – the exponential growth of education passed down through different generations that sustainably strengthens communities in developing countries worldwide.
The Problem: In Ghana, over 60% of Junior High School students are unable to pass the High School entrance exam. That means these kids are unable to receive any further education. Those that do pass often have to drop out of High School prematurely because of their inability to afford their high school fees ($15 USD per trimester). If they do graduate, most students can’t possibly afford to continue onto University. We now know that education does not just affect those who receive it; it also ripples out to affect an entire community. Reports from the World Bank, USAID, the UN, and many educational institutions show that education, especially the education of women, is one of the fastest ways to increase family GDP, reduce the infant mortality rate, increase family health spending and assure the education of the next generation of children. In other words, everyone in Ghana benefits when more children stay in school.
Exponential Education has found a way to help all three levels of schoolchildren success and advance their education. We do this by helping the students help each other. We take five High School students and pay them a small weekly stipend so that they can stay enrolled in school. In return, they each tutor five Junior High School students. That means, five High School students are providing free tutoring to twenty five Junior High School students, which leads to more Junior High students passing the High School entrance exam. At the end of ten weeks, the most accomplished High School student tutor receives a scholarship of $300 USD. Thus, we bridge the gap - getting more Junior High Students into High School, helping more High School students stay in school, and helping more talented students attend college.
Today, Exponential Education has worked with over 23 schools throughout the eastern and central region of Ghana, and, to date, the program has now given over 23 college scholarships, provided over 104 high school students with tuition assistance, and given free tutoring in math and English to over 575 junior high students.
Our first guaranteed impact is improving students’ level of basic education. We provide junior high students’ with free tutoring that builds better math and English foundations in order to help them pass their junior high exit exam. Exponential Education selects high-achieving high school students and matches them with five struggling junior high students. The high school students teach math and English, but also act as role models and mentors to their younger peers. The children not only gain a better mastery of math and English, but learn about community spirit, how to think outside the box, and help them begin to think critically. With the development of solid life skills, students’ math and English scores improve over 200% on average during the ten week process. Exponential Education’s first goal is to give a head start to these children, and provide the base for a better future – not only for the students, but for their communities.
The second guaranteed impact: We ensure that more high school students are able to stay in school. After a child passes the exit exam, and continues to high school, the obstacles do not disappear. School fees often cause high school students to dropout prematurely. In exchange for their tutoring, Exponential Education provides high school students stipends that can be used to pay for their school fees. 5 high school students per program can earn up to $6USD per week. After ten weeks, the stipend, equivalent to over a year of their high school tuition, ensures that students are able to stay enrolled in high school.
The third guarantee is helping high school students continue their education for a chance at a brighter future. We offer 1 out of 5 students a scholarship worth in total up to $300 USD, an amount equivalent to almost a full year of University tuition and can be used for furthering their academic career. The scholarship winners are chosen at the discretion of the program manager running the program (who can witness qualitative measures such as general attitude and effort) and use a fixed criteria rubric to select the scholarship winner. The rubric includes but is not limited to; their attendance, tardiness, if they came prepared to tutor with lesson plans, if they followed our instructions, preparedness to lead games and activities for the children, and the progress of their specific students.
After a scholarship winner is chosen, the winning student is able to wait to claim their scholarship for up to four years. Once claimed, the scholarship check is written only after detailed correspondence with the student about where the funds would go and to what institution. Afterwards, the check is printed by the bank and written directly to the educational institution desired in order to provide accountability of funds.
The last and perhaps most important impact Exponential Education are the immeasurable ripples of change, empowerment and growth within a community. These gains include high school students developing leadership skills, gaining teaching experience, and becoming empowered to change their community. Junior high students are able to connect to a relatable community mentor. They develop critical problem solving skills and start to believe they can change their own path and the direction of their community. The community itself will be able to produce more junior high and high school graduates, and with a focus on women, eventually communities will benefit from lower death rates, higher literacy rates, higher health spending per family, and a higher general quality of life in the long run.
The scalability of the program is contingent upon the low cost; only $500 USD*. Only $500 USD provides one High School student a full scholarship for higher education, four High School students the ability to stay enrolled in High School, and twenty five Junior High School students with free tutoring by older peers in their local area who understand their culture, community and educational needs.
Currently, Exponential Education works in over fifteen locations throughout Ghana, serving over 680 children. Exponential Education has 4 main sustainability pillars that contain different funding platforms and strategies for expansion.
The first pillar is the building of programs directly under our jurisdiction. These programs are run by our directors in country, and are financed through donors, grants and fund raising events.
The second pillar uses ecotourism and foreign volunteers to build, run and sustain programs. These volunteers fund raise through their own social network in order to provide support for their travel costs and our programs. The volunteers are usually students, and will be hosted, housed and monitored by Exponential Education and participating communities. With extensive collaboration from our team, these students will run Exponential Education programs under our guidance and oversight. They are also encouraged to be creative, and run workshops and other activities that enhance the education and skills of their students.
The third pillar is the expansion of our programs through a dollar by dollar matching scheme in conjunction with the Ghana Peace Corps office. These Peace Corps volunteers are qualified candidates that are familiar with remote villages in Ghana and are able and willing to raise some funds to implement their own education project in their village. We will match their raised funds dollar per dollar, giving Exponential Education to spread to twice the locations at half the cost. Although our partnership and initiative is focused on Peace Corps volunteers, we are open to match funds and train other organizations that contact us and qualify on a case per case basis.
The final pillar includes formalizing and marketing our Exponential Education tool-kit, a free online resource that any organization can use. This tool kit will provide directions to formalize their education sector with step by step instructions on how to create an Exponential Education program. Organizations do not need any permission or qualification to use any of our resources or tool-kit, and are able to implement as much of our program as needed if desired.
By funding our program, our organization will be able to scale rapidly through our four program pillars and affect the lives of thousands of children. We can make a crucial change in not only the lives of the students, but in all the communities hosting our programs.
* Depending on influx of students, sometimes program costs may fluctuate to $560USD to accomodate over capacity.