Designing a school system from the ground up.

Seeing that it is the start of a new year, and education is the hot topic in South Africa at the moment, we thought it wise to showcase some articles on what role design can play to overcome the challenge we face in our context.

Despite an emerging middle class and rapidly expanding economy, the education system in Peru ranks 65th out of 65 countries. Innova Schools knew they could do better. They envisioned a world-class education at an affordable price for Peru’s underserved youth, but they couldn’t do it alone.

Excited by the challenge of building a school from the ground up, IDEO designed Innova’s entire K–11 learning experience and strategy. After months of fieldwork, prototyping, and deep collaboration with the Innova team, IDEO developed the curriculum, teaching strategies, buildings, operational plans, and underlying financial model to run the network of schools. Our mantra was: affordability, scalability, excellence.

“I was blown away when I visited Innova. It was beautiful, open and modern. It was inspiring to see an affordable school deliver an education that would rival schools in the richest countries” —Sal Khan, Founder, Khan Academy

This comprehensive approach to system design ranks as one of Latin America’s most ambitious privately funded educational projects. In February 2015, Innova Schools will be the largest private network of schools in Peru with 29 schools, almost 20,000 students and 1,200 teachers and growing. The schools offer students a quality education for about $130 a month. Peru’s Ministry of Education administers a national test of second graders for math and communications in all private and public schools, and Innova’s 2013 performance was three times the national average in math and two times the national average in communication.



1. Develop self-directed learners

The new Innova Schools use a blended-learning model based on “solo learning” and “group learning” that combines teacher-led, project-based learning experiences in small groups with self-directed digitally-based learning. Teachers monitor students’ work online and offer personalized, data-driven guidance. Parents can view their children’s progress online as well.


2. Multi-modal buildings

Dynamic learning environments require a smart campus design that allows for flexibility. Innova Schools’ community spaces, media labs, rooftop study areas, amphitheaters, and cafés are optimized for flexibility: packed with furniture on wheels, movable walls, and efficient uses of space to allow for different modes of learning.

“The future of our country rests on our ability to successfully educate the next generation. IDEO helped Innova design a school model that brings international quality education to Perú.” — Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor, CEO Intercorp


3. Support teachers

In a country that struggles to produce enough high-quality educators, Innova offers its staff an online Teacher Resource Center, including a database of more than 18,000 custom lesson plans based on the new pedagogical approach. The TRC helps teachers learn their craft and gives them a chance to connect across the network.

4. Integrate the business model

The business model of Innova was developed simultaneously with the school experience. While driving toward affordability, we leveraged the economies of scale that come from building a network of schools, and centrally built tools such as data systems to allow the network to learn together.

“Our collaboration with IDEO helped us realize that design thinking could be a tool for our daily work. Schools require constant innovation and design. IDEO’s work set us up for years ahead.”— Jorge Yzusqui Chessman, CEO Innova Schools

Through the definition of new roles and a newly-aligned set of values, Innova’s central office has become a much more nimble and creative organization. The human-centeredness of the new system helped Innova internalize how design thinking and continuous innovation can become integral to managing this growing network of schools on a daily basis.

In other words, the work allowed Innova to do exactly what they’d hoped for—build more schools that give Peru’s next generation the chance to compete in the global economy.

Originally on IDEO, Read more

DI blog curated by Pierre du Plessis, a trend analyst and popular public speaker