Maybe what we’re really looking for is you.
In our time here, we’ve been encouraged by so many offers of support for Achiever Academy. It is our hope that through our blog posts and videos, you have come to know a little more about why Achiever Academy is such a special place, especially in this exotic and often dark land of southern India. But most importantly, it is our prayer that you have been moved to learn how God is working in Mahabalipuram each and every day to change lives and offer hope for a brighter future.
A sign on the playground of Achiever Academy reads:
“If you are planning for a year, plant rice.
If you are planning for 10 years, plant trees.
If you are planning for 100 years, educate a child.”
Indians value education above all else because they have recently come to understand that education is the passport out of poverty. This is a relatively recent value-system that has developed only within the past 20 years or so and therefore, most have suffered as a result of a poor educational system. In the ...
As visitors to India, Jim are I still learning and are always eager to engage locals in conversations about the truth about the education system here. In the past 6 years, we’ve consistently heard the same responses to our questions and here’s what we’ve come to understand as an accurate picture of the education system here in India. As you read, remember, it’s 2011.
Generally, there are two types of schools: government schools and private schools. Most private schools are Christian-based, but still adhere to most government school low standards & philosophies. Some private schools are better than average and some can be quite good, but these schools are extremely expensive and the coveted available seats are reserved for the tiny minority of privileged and wealthy upper caste members. For the overwhelming majority of the 1.2 billion people in India, low quality, government or private schools are the only option.
Here’s what we understand about the typical government or private Christian school in India:
- Class sizes range from 90 – 120 per class (even 3, 4, 5 yr. olds) with one teacher
- Formal education begins at 3 years of age (Pre-K) and continues through 12th grade
- School day is 7 hrs. plus 3 additional hrs. of tutoring at home, even for 3 yr. olds. Tutoring may be provided by teachers, older siblings, parents, etc.
- Little individual teaching occurs in the classroom. Students work through workbooks, largely on their own. Many report that teachers don’t care about learning – if students learn, they learn. If not, teachers don’t care.
- Schools don’t use objective-based curriculums to identify skills and mastery. They mostly follow the workbook sequence and while the books are not bad, there is not an obvious scope and sequence and no identifiable skills, no phonics, no narrative or expository writing, no games/activities, no manipulatives, nor writing skills practice.
- Critical-thinking and problem-solving are not taught. Students are taught rote memorization and expected to do exactly what they are told. Learning occurs through massive repetition.
- Many students receive harsh punishment in school (including “beatings” as described by local villagers) beginning at age 3. Christian-based schools are some of the worst offenders.
- Education for Special Needs children is virtually non-existent. Most are not accepted into government or private Christian schools
- Students must pay for books, uniforms, transportation. If they can’t afford these, they can’t go to school.
- English is offered as a separate class but is seldom mastered since all instruction is in Tamil or Hindi
Achiever Academy has become highly respected in 5 years for its unique educational philosophies, including:
- Teach with love to every child, every day. This is monumental to a child who lives in this culture that does not openly demonstrate love to their children
- Teach with strategies for developmental needs of students
- Educate the whole child – academics, arts, physical, emotional
- Educate students with physical or mental special needs, regardless of socio –economic background, religion, caste, etc.
- Mixing castes in school breeds a future of acceptance and compassion
- Maintain high standards of behavior, including the parents
- Employ instructional strategies unique for India: activity based learning, values based goals , phonics, everything taught in English
- Transportation, books, & uniforms provided for needy students
- Tuition scholarships available for needy students with 51% of seats reserved for underprivileged
Achiever Academy is a happy place where children feel loved and cherished each and every day. They excel academically despite what Americans would consider harsh conditions. There is no air-conditioning despite insufferable heat. Classrooms are crowded with no room for individual desks or shelves. They have very few learning materials and a few old computers. There is no cafeteria, no grass, and if they leave their school bags outside the classroom, the monkeys will carry them off. And yet this is a positive, happy place. Here there is joy. Here, lives are changing. Here there is hope.
Will you help?
One of the critical needs is for Pre-School educational toys. Achiever Academy understands the importance of creative, early-learning play as a solid foundation for intellectual and emotional development. Further, children who engage in educational play at a young age learn the English language faster and more authentically than any other method. But we have a severe shortage of educational toys for the 3 & 4 yr. old classes. In a small, hot room, twenty 3 yr. olds sit around an empty table, trying to understand the teacher who speaks in a language foreign to them. They need to learn English. They need to play. They need you.
We are looking for individuals across the U.S. to join us in collecting pre-school educational toys for the Pre-K - Kindergarten classes. Recently, we received a very generous offer from one of our blog readers who is a flight attendant and wants to help transport any donated items from the U.S. to Achiever Academy. With shipping rates so expensive, this is a HUGE gift!
Now we are looking for 5-6 individuals across the U.S. who will contact their churches, schools, friends, or their local Wal-Mart with the goal of collecting new or gently used educational toys. It may be as simple as asking them to clean out their toys shelves and donate less desirable ones while new ones take their place. Perhaps you would be willing to contact your Children’s Ministry team with a request for a donation to Achiever Academy? You may collect 5 or 50 – all are greatly appreciated, just like your willingness to serve. Once the toys are collected, you may contact us and we will arrange for someone to pick the toys up from your location and get them to Achiever Academy. We expect it to be a very simple yet very important donation of your time with no personal expense to you.
Suggested toys may include (but not limited to):
· Wooden puzzles
· Stringing Beads
· Lacing cards
· Building Blocks
· Dramatic Play Costumes
· Planes, Trains, and Vehicles
· Farm & jungle animal toys
You may also be familiar with a few excellent sources of such educational toys. Take a look at these online vendors and search “pre-school educational toys” for more ideas.
Are you the one of the partners we’ve been praying for? If you’re interested in collecting toys in your area, or have questions, please send us an email using the “Contact Us” link at the top of this page. If you are touched by this call for help yet feel this is not the right project for you, will you please join us in praying that God will move others to help? Together, we can change lives.
Achiever Academy is a ray of hope for all who are called to serve and learn in this positive place. All over this region, throughout many villages, Achiever Academy is known as the place for quality education. More importantly, it’s known as the school where children are loved. No wonder they sing with joy.
To God Be the Glory,