Ark opens first school in India

The first ever school outside of the UK run by an academy network opened its doors today as Ark expanded its network to India.

Ark is setting up a network of primary schools in the country with the first located in south Delhi. The aim is to provide a rigorous education in both Hindi and English to 8,000 of India’s most disadvantaged children. Educational standards in Delhi are dismal, particularly for poorer children. Over a third of school-aged children don’t complete primary school in India, and of those who do go to school, more than half leave without even basic reading or writing skills. The average family income is £75 per month, and many of the children attending Ark’s school will be the first of their families to go to school.

The school, which will be called ‘Ark Lajpat Nagar III’, after the district it is located in, will work through a government partnership with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation and will be free to attend. Though many parents currently choose to send their children to private schools, Ark believe this school will provide a high quality alternative. Already, over 100 children have applied to join the first cohort of kindergarten and year 1 classes. Admissions are deliberately targeting children from the city’s poorest communities. For many of the children enrolled this will be their first experience of formal education. Others will join from underperforming government schools, where huge class sizes and learning by rote are commonplace.

Longer term, the objective is to demonstrate that a public-private school model could be effective in raising educational standards with the aim that the approach could be adopted by the Indian Government and administrations in other developing countries.

Kruti Bharucha, Director of Ark India, said:

“Our goal is not just to provide an outstanding primary school in South Delhi, but also to demonstrate the impact that innovative and successful educational approaches can have on the Indian education system as a whole.

“A lot of work has gone into this opening. In a timeframe of just one year, we’ve gone from deciding to open a school in India, to finding and renovating a building, developing a curriculum, hiring teachers, enrolling students, and opening our doors. None of this would have been possible without support from Ark’s central team, and an incredible amount of dedication from our team in India. They have had to contend with a record-breaking heat wave, a lack of water facilities, language barriers, and even unruly monkeys  who are known for breaking into unsecured classrooms in Delhi! But perhaps the biggest challenge was convincing local parents to trust an organisation they have never heard of with the education of their children.” 

Ark has been providing support to educational programmes in India since 2000. 10 million pupils study at schools which have adopted an Ark school assessment framework equivalent of Ofsted in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. This is now being rolled out to other states. In addition, Ark has been providing support for a voucher system enabling disadvantaged children to claim their right to free education as well as developing a phonics training programme to improve standards of English teaching.

The school is adapting Ark’s approach to running schools in the UK in the Indian context and have translated their ‘six pillars’ into Hindi. It will operate in both English and Hindi, providing a phonics programme to promote early literacy using a model known as ASPIRE. Ark has partnered with a Jaipur based NGO called Bodh Shiksha Samiti to develop a Hindi curriculum, and will be using the ‘Mathematics Mastery’ programme based on best practice from Singapore to develop early numeracy skills.