The Baalabalaga School cross-subsidization model

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The Baalabalaga School is a unique, equal-opportunity private school located on a specially designed campus in Dharwad. The school employs a unique financing structure whereby it requires each student’s household to pay as much as they can afford, and the school funds the remainder of each student’s tuition. This cross-subsidization scheme has allowed working-class parents to enroll their students in the school from a young age and involve themselves in their education through secondary grade levels. The school operates on the belief that students benefit from more than the state-mandated curriculum but rather from participatory learning in a variety of enrichment subjects such as art, music, and daily-life lessons.

The Baalabalaga School aims to prepare its student for a holistic and self-conceived lifestyle by providing curricula personalized to the interests and energy of each of its students. Built on the idea that students learn best when they directly experience what they want to learn, Baalabalaga’s teachers incorporate experiential learning into each of their classes. Students study snakes in class by handling creatures under close supervision, and students are taught how to organize and execute special events and cultural celebrations at the school. Annual excursions to social-conscience-raising sites such as orphanages, historical monuments, and other schools invite students to interact with their peers and with sociopolitical issues outside the typical classroom setting.

Furthermore, the school promotes peer-to-peer and family-incorporated learning structures. The latter, which the school calls the “Teacher-School-Parent Management Triangle”, invites students’ parents to participate in campus upkeep, fundraising, and resource gathering. Parents are asked to lead school field trips and serve as student mentors. In return, students and staff coordinate parent appreciation events year-round. Children are encouraged to participate in co-curricular activities such as dance, vocal and instrumental music, theater, visual art, and home-based skills classes such as sewing or cooking instruction. The school has an on-site library for after-school learning and supplemental literacy options.

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