One of the UK’s leading academy chains has become the first to sponsor a branch abroad.
Ark, which runs 34 schools in England, hopes its primary school in South Delhi, India, will become part of a network of schools across the area.
Lajpat-Nagar III Primary School has been set up thanks to a partnership with South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), the local government, and is free to attend.
Ark’s involvement with the school, which aims to educate children from underprivileged backgrounds, comes as government schools in the area are suffering falling rolls as parents increasingly opt for private education.
The academy chain, which has been running educational programmes in India since 2000, said the school was “dilapidated and under-utilised” when it took over four months ago. Only nine pupils were enrolled in kindergarten and grade 1, but now there are 120.
Ark said its partnership with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, which it hopes will result in the chain sponsoring a network of primary schools in the area, “could provide a model for education reform across India".
Indian education has come under heavy criticism in recent years: although participation has increased significantly, there are concerns over school quality.
Kruti Bharucha, director of Ark India, said: “In a timeframe of around a year, we’ve gone from deciding to more directly be involved in school operations in India, to finding and renovating premises, 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 struggling with wild dogs and 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.”