History of the initiative
Katja Visser’s travels led her to be exposed to different educational settings around the world. However, one particular experience convinced Katja that something needed to change in terms of what children learn at school. While volunteering in Peru, Katja saw the state of the education that many young, less privileged children were receiving. Katja felt that the children were missing out on important topics in their education that would help them develop the life skills they would need for the 21st century.
Thus, the StartUp4Kids Foundation was founded, with the Klas4Klas curriculum being one of the initiatives based in the Netherlands. StartUp4Kids is supported by volunteers that make up the team members as well as members of the board. StartUp4Kids looks to facilitate children’s journeys to discovering their own talents and skills to shape their own futures. In co-operating with partners and schools in disadvantaged areas, StartUp4Kids aims to deliver social and financial education programmes based on methods developed by Aflatoun, a Dutch NGO which offers social and financial education to children and young people worldwide. With this, StartUp4Kids strives to improve the quality of education in general and bring entrepreneurial skills into the classroom, using its specific curricula. Specifically, the Klas4klas curriculum was created to help children increase their self-confidence, discover their talents, see problems as opportunities and manage their own resources responsibly. Through taking a broad view of entrepreneurship, Klas4Klas was developed to create self-sufficient individuals.
Aims and objectives
The aim of Klas4Klas is to turn students into citizens of the world, and the interactive teaching methods within the Klas4klas curriculum help children learn skills such as self-reliance, critical and creative thinking, communication, collaboration and social and cultural skills. Within the rapidly changing world of today, Klas4Klas looks to give participants confidence to make their own choices and take all opportunities available, as well as prepare them for the careers of the future. Klas4Klas is aimed, in particular, at teaching children how to deal with finances and develop socially responsible entrepreneurship. Young people are very open-minded and creative, especially in primary school, and Klas4Klas encourages children to develop interesting ideas for their projects. Children also learn about the two different partner countries, the Netherlands and Ethiopia, and gain a global perspective.
Activities and learning outcomes
Klas4Klas provides a curriculum that teachers can follow and implement in their classrooms. The curriculum was developed for students in the Netherlands and Ethiopia and the belief that children should learn from one another, through sharing experiences and knowledge, resulted in Klas4Klas creating partners, where one class in the Netherlands partners and interacts with another class in Ethiopia. StartUp4Kids hires and educates professional facilitators to carry out the Klas4klas programme. The foundation also trains other teachers that will implement the Klas4Klas curriculum, so that the reach of the methodology can be spread.
The curriculum is based on the Aflatoun programme which incorporates group work and activity-based learning approaches such as project-based learning, and also learning through songs, worksheets, games and activities. Using the content and framework of Aflatoun, the Klas4Klas curriculum gets children to work in teams to set up business clubs and learn to save, manage their money, plan and budget. The activities to be undertaken by each business club is ideated by the teams themselves and proceeds from the business activities go to their Ethiopian partners. This brings the children into direct contact with the running and starting of a social entrepreneurship.
The partner schools in the Netherlands and Ethiopia may meet each other online, and in the case of students in secondary school, students from each country may meet in person when Dutch students travel to Ethiopia as part of the curriculum. These trips are completely financed by their own entrepreneurial activities, such as organising fundraising events, crowdfunding and saving.
Breaking barriers for impact
The years 2020/21 have brought the challenge of COVID-19, thus few children have been able to attend school where the Klas4Klas curriculum would be applied. Furthermore, being an organisation that relies on volunteers and donations means that procuring funding can be a challenge. The competences of current teachers is a further challenge, as they themselves often lack the skills that they need to teach students entrepreneurship. Practicing teachers often do not have time to be able to learn these skills and implement extra activities during class times. StartUp4Kids sees a real need for teachers to be trained in entrepreneurship education and how to teach children through experiential and active learning. Teachers having the ability to use flexible teaching methods so that all students can learn effectively, regardless of ability, is also emphasised.
Regardless of the challenges, schools are very willing to work with the Klas4Klas curriculum and educators are aware of the need for entrepreneurship education in schools. StartUp4Kids also approaches its “warm” leads at schools and schools that have previously implemented the programme and are very likely to start again with a new group of students in the new school year. Thus, ensuring that the Klas4Klas curriculum continues to be taught. StartUp4Kids is also in contact with a specialist in funding for schools to find schools where the programme can be implemented. In the meantime, StartUp4Kids has funding to bring the Klas4Klas programme to vulnerable children and teenagers, in particular refugees, in Vlaardingen and Schiedam in the Netherlands.
The long-term impact of the project, in terms of the small businesses that participants create, cannot be measured yet. However, certain outcomes are clear: after the completion of the course participants find the confidence to speak out, give their opinions, talk to an audience, and have pride in the work that they have done throughout the programme. Increased self-esteem is evident especially in those participants that face challenges – be that physical or otherwise. It can also be seen that following the Klas4Klas curriculum improves the children’s results in class.
One of the most important outcomes to be seen are a snowball effect where participants influence their teachers and parents. Through the completion of the curriculum, it has been seen that teachers have increased their entrepreneurial competences and oftentimes parents are more aware of saving money. In the Ethiopian classrooms, participants have even been inspired by Klas4Klas to open their own bank accounts, which would otherwise not have happened. Klas4Klas has a large and lifelong social impact that affects all stakeholders.
It is clear to others that the motivation of those working with Klas4Klas is driven by the social impact that they create, thus there has been much support for the programme from individuals and organisations that see the value in what Klas4Klas is trying to achieve. Support for the programme grows when people see the effect that the programme has on the students and the dedication of the Klas4Klas facilitators to their work.
Looking to the future, StartUp4Kids is working to find funding for schools in the Netherlands to implement the Klas4Klas curriculum, as well as looking to created tailored curricula for schools. StartUp4Kids aims to continue improving education systems in schools and bring the competences of entrepreneurship and other 21st century skills to its participants. Moreover, StartUp4Kids hopes to further involve parents and teachers in this goal.
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Image credits: Klas4Klas