October 26, 2015
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has made a name for himself with winning business ideas. He understands how to engage people, bring them together and give them what they want. Now, with the help of his wife, Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg embarks on an entirely different business model. Private school.
The Zuckerbergs’ new K-12 private school, “The Primary School”, in Palo Alto, California functions as a private, nonprofit educational institution. One different twist: the school offers healthcare services to every student, from birth to graduation.
On a recent Facebook post, Zuckerberg explained, “It’s a new kind of school that brings education and healthcare together.”
According to various media reports, the school will be free, geared toward low-income students and funded by a donor advised fund. One report stated the school may even offer prenatal care for students registered prior to birth.
The healthcare at the school will be administered at an on-site clinic, in partnership with the Ravenswood Family Health Center, located near the school. In addition to student care, Ravenswood will offer comprehensive health and dental care to their entire families.
“Health and education are closely connected,” said Zuckerberg, “When children aren’t healthy, they can’t learn as easily. Many kids and teachers across the country deal with the consequences of poor health in classrooms every day.”
Chan, in addition to being his closest partner, is also Zuckerberg’s perfect partner for this endeavor. A pediatrician, Chan once taught elementary school science. The couple has been developing the initiative for the past year. In a Facebook post, Chan said her own educational experiences motivated her to “find a better way of caring for and educating children.”
As with Facebook, Zuckerberg plans to start small and grow organically. When it launches in 2016, Primary School will only offer classes to four-year-olds as well as support programs for parents of infants to two-year-olds. The school plans to add a grade each year, so this incoming class could, eventually, become the first graduating class.
Some have said private schools are the wave of the future. Others decry the movement toward less public education. The jury is still out, but, regardless, ideas that work in one place can work in others, even if they have to be adjusted to fit specific infrastructures. There’s no doubt educators will line up on either side of this issue, but the side with the most effective messaging will win the future of education in America.