Two studies in education

Early starts for the children desperate to pass their 11-plus

It is 5am. In Billericay, Essex, a 10-year-old girl opens the door of her mother’s car and walks up to the front door of a detached house. Stephanie Williams, 26, is waiting to greet her.

The pair are about to embark on a two-hour tutoring session that is a part of an intensive 18-month programme. There is one aim: that next month the girl will score a mark on her 11-plus exam high enough to win her a coveted place at one of Essex’s grammar schools.

The reason that they are starting so early is because it is the only time Williams can fit the girl in. She has been so inundated with requests from parents desperate for their children to gain entry into a selective school that she is holding two sessions before school and three after. That means that she starts coaching at 5am and finishes at 9pm. Williams, who runs the S6 Tutoring Academy, also administers a mock exam for 40 children once a week, works through the weekend – and boasts a 100% success rate.

Perhaps that is why parents are lining up to pay £100 a session and up to £5,000 a year for her coaching. “I’m booked up until the end of 2011,” said Williams, who at 26 earns more than the headteacher at her old school. One couple have re-mortgaged their house to afford the tuition and one mother has three jobs. And it is not just in Essex.

Looks like there’s a market for Asian-style cram schools in England. Then there’s this guy:

The ‘youngest headmaster in the world’

At 16 years old, Babar Ali must be the youngest headmaster in the world. He’s a teenager who is in charge of teaching hundreds of students in his family’s backyard, where he runs classes for poor children from his village.

The story of this young man from Murshidabad in West Bengal is a remarkable tale of the desire to learn amid the direst poverty.

… The 16-year-old has made it his mission to help Chumki and hundreds of other poor children in his village. The minute his lessons are over at Raj Govinda school, Babar Ali doesn’t stop to play, he heads off to share what he’s learnt with other children from his village.

At four o’clock every afternoon after Babar Ali gets back to his family home a bell summons children to his house. They flood through the gate into the yard behind his house, where Babar Ali now acts as headmaster of his own, unofficial school.

Lined up in his back yard the children sing the national anthem. Standing on a podium, Babar Ali lectures them about discipline, then study begins.

Babar Ali gives lessons just the way he has heard them from his teachers. Some children are seated in the mud, others on rickety benches under a rough, homemade shelter. The family chickens scratch around nearby. In every corner of the yard are groups of children studying hard.

Babar Ali was just nine when he began teaching a few friends as a game. They were all eager to know what he learnt in school every morning and he liked playing at being their teacher.

Now his afternoon school has 800 students, all from poor families, all taught for free.

Two young teachers, driven by different reasons, both making a difference. I know who I admire more, much, much, much more, and why — what about you?

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