Education That Pays For Itself Conference 2011

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Education That Pays For Itself 2011 - a unique international conference on financially sustainable education - took place 25-27 October 2011 at La Bastilla Technical Agricultural High School in the Jinotega region of Nicaragua.

This pioneering High School - a great example of Education That Pays For Itself in practice - serves several disadvantaged communities in the rural north of Nicaragua and is increasingly funded by business ventures it owns that also serve to provide great learning opportunities for its students. 

The 2011 conference theme, “Sustainable Education, Transforming Outcomes for Students” aimed to emphasize the ultimate goal of all education – creating positive change for students - an aim all too often forgotten when schools measure their performance based on enrollment levels and exam pass rates.

Conference Diary

Day One: Networking!

ParticipantsOver 70 delegates from 24 countries arrive at La Bastilla Technical Agricultural High School in Nicaragua for the fifth annual Teach A Man To Fish conference. The excitement is contagious, as people begin to network and connect immediately, setting the tone for the next days of exchanging ideas and learning together.

Following the national anthem and some opening remarks from the director of the school Yelba Valenzuela, Nik Kafka (Teach A Man To Fish) and Markus Fischer (FEER) welcome delegates and explain what "Education That Pays for Itself" is all about. Then it is straight into the first session “Latin Leaders” with Luis Fernando Sanabria (Fundación Paraguaya) and Douglas McMeekin (Yachana Foundation), followed by a question and answer session with Steve CarverKatherine & RobertAfter the coffee break the speed-dating session is a great success with people matching up their skills and needs to help one another, before then starting work on writing their own business plans.  

The afternoon breakout sessions on Integrating Entrepreneurship, Income Generation and Education moderated by our experts, allow delegates to explore in depth the issues surrounding sustainable education and start to suggest solutions to common problems.

The evening provides another opportunity for networking and ends with dinner and a cultural presentation by the school choir and students.

Day Two: Brainstorming!

Ideas MarketplaceIt's a beautiful sunny day to start off with our morning activities comprising nature walk in the reserve, a tour of the school businesses or coffee tour of the farm.  Back at the conference everyone demonstrates their enthusiasm and entrepreneurialism at the Ideas Marketplace, showcasing their schools and projects or just exploring and learning about other people's work. There is fierce competition to see who can earn the most beans, our marketplace currency. The stalls selling products from the primary and secondary school enterprises earn a great sum of money for the schools!  

A Forum on Fundraising over lunch turns is a prime opportunity for delegates to ask questions to professional and experienced fundraisers and get tips on how to make their grant applications more successful.

In the afternoon Martin Burt (Fundación Paraguaya) presents the innovative system developed by the Fundación Paraguaya to measure and reduce poverty starting with students and their families and the special curriculum developed to target key areas. He mentions the importance of ´learning by doing and selling´ and emphasises the benefits of students participating in marketing and sales to gain skills and confidence, noting that a school which pays the student to learn will have very low dropout rates!

Keeping it simpleWe then have the Words of Wisdom sessions in which delegates present for 5 minutes about their project and what they have learned from it. After some great presentations we move on to the session on School Replication Initiative, in which Yelba Valenzuela (La Bastilla), Celsa Acosta (Fundacion Moises Bertoni) and Steve Carver (Win Win Group) share their perspectives and answer questions on replicating and adapting the model to different contexts.

The day ends with dinner and a local band Grupo Bongo providing the entertainment, while delegates from Paraguay and the United Kingdom show off their performing skills ! 

Day Three: Goal-Setting!

Coffe TourAfter breakfast delegates have the chance to do another activity such as bird watching, coffee tour of the farm or excursion around the school businesses. The morning Peer Consultancy Clinic gives people a chance to put their problems to a panel of experts from across the world - Martin Burt (Fundación Paraguaya, Paraguay), Douglas McMeekin (Yachana Lodge, Ecuador) and Robert Miranda (Fundación Origen, Chile) – and learn from successes and challenges their schools have encountered.

Flying forward


We also have some excellent Words of Wisdom presentations from Ibis Schlesinger (Ties To The World), Jeremy Terhune (Puentes) and Helena Edwards (Fundación Fabretto). To wrap up before lunch Rachel Dale (Teach A Man To Fish) runs a question and answer session with a Student Panel made up of 5 current and former students to understand what this type of education means to them and how would they improve it further.  

The conference wraps up in the afternoon with delegates making their commitments and setting goals for their projects, before reflecting on "What do we need to win?". After closing comments the first group of participants leaves while those remaining retire to the Ecolodge for a well-earned final dinner and  relaxation!

Don't miss out on future Education That Pays For Itself conferences, to receive news of upcoming events be sure to join the Teach A Man To Fish Members' Network or subscribe to our quarterly Newsletter now!

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