Social Enterprise in the Vicinity: A School for a Minority

Posted on April 11, 2012 in Entrepreneurship

By Tarun Cherukuri:

I travelled down to Brooke Charter School in downtown Boston on January 19th. One of my motivations to do this was to reconnect with a great school institution. To see for real that achievement is possible. To dream that it can be replicated in India as well.

Laurence Woo, the Director for External Affairs, was courteous enough to do a tour of the school and answer all our questions meticulously. In many ways, it did not surprise me that having 98% kids from minority backgrounds and 78% kids who qualify for free lunches, the school has managed to get an almost near perfect 100% proficiency on the Massachusetts State Exam in English and Maths. For those not familiar with the US context, Massachusetts has the most advanced curriculum amongst all the states.

It has all the DNA of well-run charter schools I had visited before like KIPP, North Star and Leadership Academy. A visionary principal, dedicated and highly driven teachers with autonomy, continuous and collaborative learning structures, core values underpinning the culture of the school and an air of achievement.

Having been a teacher myself with Teach for India, it is almost a habit that you pick up. You know within 5 minutes of being in a school, if it exudes a culture of achievement. Take a look on the faces of the kids, the urgency and purpose of every school teacher and official, and the strength of the words the walls convey. All I needed was even less than that. What followed was an exhibition of many people who woke up and did what they loved for a living performed at their work.

The fundamentals are not difficult to recreate in India if we can figure the financial aspect of supporting schools and our methods of enforcing accountability. Autonomy without accountability invariably leads to creative corruption in India. Accountability without freedom leads to stifled creativity.

A great note to end on is the core values of Brooke. They surely know what comes FIRST and practice them real hard.

This reminded me of the core values of my own classroom at Teach for India. In strange ways, the similarities and contrasts in the choice of core values and their articulation reflect US and Indian way of life.

Happiness is our goal

Hard work is our only shortcut

HUM is equal to ONE

Honesty is our language

Humility is our dress