Maybe you’ve heard the name “Family Academy” or seen Facebook pictures of little kids pointing at numbered cards, but how much do you know about Family Academy?
Before we explain the program, let’s first talk about the educational needs we’re trying to meet. As the Philippines government has expanded their educational reach, we have, happily, seen a decline in the need for kindergarten education. At the same time, we also have seen another need spring up.
While all children now have access to education, ultrapoor children can still struggle after entering the classroom. They are more likely to be absent from school, go to school hungry and to have low expectations for their futures. Nearly half of poor Filipino children do not graduate from elementary school.
On the other hand, ultrapoor mothers and fathers are busy trying to provide for their families and often feel ill-equipped as parents. They struggle with not knowing how to discipline or engage socially with their children, let alone help them learn basic reading and math skills. 46% of ICM parents never finished school themselves! They often don’t have the confidence to help with homework or foster a love of learning in their children.
The increase in school attendance is consistent with global trends. According to New York University and Innovations for Poverty Action, more children than ever before are gaining access to education. The next step is to ensure that, when children do go to school, they are getting quality education and are able to learn.
This is where Family Academy comes in. The goal of Family Academy is to help prepare children with the skills they need for school while at the same time empowering parents to be their children’s first teachers. Family Academy coaches visit homes to work with the families in a comfortable, familiar environment. The coaches first model an interactive math or phonics game to the parents and then observe while the parents teach their kids. Not only are the kids getting the educational support they need, but these games provide a great way for the family to bond.
While ICM continues to conduct more research on the impact of the program, the current results are very encouraging. At the beginning of the program, participating children were tested on their math and phonics skills, and at the six week mark, they were retested to track their progress. In the last group of participants, we saw a 97% increase in their math skills and a 148% increase in phonics skills!
Besides the educational potential we see, we’re also excited about the change in mindset we’ve seen this program bring. Children, some previously scared or reluctant, are becoming excited about learning in class. Parents’ aspirations for their children are changing, viewing their children as smart and having the ability to go to college. Families are spending more quality time together.
As children begin their educational journey, we aim to give them the best start possible, all while continuing to pursue our goal of strengthening families. Exciting stuff!