The International Co-operative Alliance’s Committee on Co-operative Research (ICA CCR) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) is hosting a research conference from 8 to 10 November 2015 in Antalya, Turkey, as part of the Alliance’s 2015 global conference. In the third of a series of conference blogs, Betsy Dribben, attorney, lobbyist and former director of policy at the ICA, meets three colleagues from Rah-e-Roshd, an educational co-operative in Tehran, which aims to “develop citizens of the world”.
There is a Persian proverb: “One spark is enough to burn a hundred worlds”. This could easily describe the vibrant co-operative Rah-e-Roshd, an educational co-operative complex in the heart of Tehran.
Three managers from this unique co-operative have been attending meetings at the ILO’s Co-operatives-World of Work Research Conference here in Antalya, Turkey, this week. “We wanted to hear about other co-operative experiences and to be around other women co-operators,” one explained.
And co-operators and researchers have also been learning from their Iranian colleagues’ success with their educational co-operative.
In 1985, an idea from a group of young Persian parents to offer their children a good kindergarten experience set the world on fire. The time was during the Iraq-Iran war when childcare was not a priority because issues of safety and food security during war took precedence. Still, some seven mothers with passion as parents were concerned about giving their children the best possible experiences.
The group of friends decided to try to offer their children some summer fun or “escapes” where they could swim and learn. A house with a pool was rented and at the end of the successful summer they thought it would be great to offer a kindergarten. But there was a problem: money was in short supply. So the group decided to ask each parent “to put their salary in” to help run a small kindergarten. Rah-e Roshd, which translates “the way of growth”, was born.
Quickly the kindergarten’s success lit up the world, with 100 children in attendance. As it grew so did their co-operative structure. A family house became the new venue for a while, and older teachers hired provided training for the younger ones. Over the years, teachers have also been trained in theoretical and practical methodology – namely critical thinking and co-operative learning.
Teachers, managers and parents all helped the co-operative thrive.
While there are men involved in the co-operative, women clearly predominate “managing all aspects of the programs from standards for the rooms through curriculum”.
Some thirty years later, Rah-e-Roshd now runs five schools across Tehran, offering education from age 3 through 18 years old with class sizes averaging 24-25 students. The record of this co-operative is very impressive, with some 2,000 children being educated within the organisation
As one of the three school officials here said “it is a model for education”. In fact, some parents, teachers and managers from other areas in Iran come to see how this Tehran co-operative shines in education.
This year the co-operative was voted “best co-operative in Iran for generating jobs (some 600 of them).
“As an educational co-operative we are unique,” said another school representative. The school day is a long one – from 7.30am to 5.30pm for the older students – and teaching objectives are clear: “Our goal is to develop citizens of the world.” School subjects studied include economics, environmental studies, and even life skills besides rigorous academic subjects. Students have permanent access to full time consultants and psychiatrists if they are needed, second language training in English and French as well as computer skills and extracurricular activities. Before graduation every child will have learned to swim.
And in true co-operative style, profits are reinvested in the school “to assist the children’s education”.
Rah-e Roshd is now in its second generation, with former students now in their 30s sending their own children to the school. “It is all about caring and doing something special,” summed up one manager.
In this article
- antalya 2015
- Betsy Dribben
- co-operative school
- cooperative school
- education co-operative
- International Co-operative Alliance’s Committee on Co-operative Research
- International Labour Organization
- Rah-e Roshd
- Toward 2020
- Iran, Islamic Republic of
- North America
- Top Stories
Join the Conversation