Six Reasons Why Micro-Schools

May Rewrite Future Education

Is it possible to start a school using 30 million, or does it require 3 billion? Is it possible to rethink education using an innovative method in a group of 20, or should we drop it altogether under 200 children?


Every school needs a receptionist. Naturally, since around 400-700 children learn together in a huge building with several classes and teachers – people rarely know each other at this point. The teaching staff consists of 40-70 teachers. Those teaching the same student can rarely talk to each other. Building construction costs several billion forints, with the wi-fi itself costing hundreds of millions. Schedules for all 40 classes are so complicated that it requires a separate software to operate.

But what if we built a school where only one or two classes’ worth of students go? Parents would know each other on a first-name basis, and teachers could work as a team. All around the world, these so-called micro-schools are growing in number. They are cheaper and faster to operate and adapt easier to the needs of the community. In the 2010s, it first began as a movement in the UK, then in the US to start low-budget micro-schools, and it later gradually spread throughout the world. The movement soon became interlinked with the practice of promoting lively, artistic activity and exploration-based learning as opposed to the traditional lecture-based educational model.

Homeschooling is increasing worldwide

Micro-schools are also regarded around the world as the community alternative for homeschooling. The spread of homeschooling differs by country, but the number is growing everywhere. For instance, in the US, about 4% of the children (2 million) are learning outside of school. Initially, it was religious communities or those wishing for special alternative education who chose homeschooling, but today, the need to find new ways besides public education grows ever stronger.

There are different estimates for homeschooling in Hungary, but it is probably around 10,000-40,000 families (2-5%) who seek their children’s education outside of traditional school systems. Even in 2014, HVG wrote that homeschooling is increasing, and pathfinders are growing in number.

Homeschooling has multiple disadvantages. From the parents’ perspective, it is important to note that they have to invest a huge amount of time and energy into organizing their children’s education, especially under the age of 12 when they have yet to travel alone. This might be the source of the need for organizing students outside of school into communities.

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Micro-schools typically operate in smaller groups and diverse class years - Fotó: Budapest School

An Airbnb-model for education has been created

The first to react to the rising need in New York was a startup company in Brooklyn. Cottage Class combines traditional community learning with club experience by creating a model similar to Airbnb. According to the founder, Manisha Snoyer, they closed a gap by uniting the parents seeking a teacher for their children and the teachers aspiring to teach. A year after their foundation, they started operating in Washington D.C. alongside New York.

Through the platform, teachers may create their own classes for the parents to choose from. As of today, the platform is used regularly by more than 400 people, and this number is constantly growing.

CottageClass amassed 240 thousand dollars from investors and they are currently improving using the TechStars startup incubator program. The number of private students in New York doubled throughout the past year. CottageClass aims to help the parents of homeschoolers to delegate most of the learning material to the teachers provided by them. Smaller groups are easier to handle – this enables more efficient learning, resulting in more time to be spent together as a community.

Snoyer’s idea revealed itself while she was working her teacher job. “As a teacher, the most frustrating thing in school was constant discipline” – she emphasized. “There are many struggling with behavioral disorders, and in case of larger classes, I have no other tool than to instruct them to stay silent.”

Alongside her work in school as a teacher, she held private classes for wealthy children in Manhattan.

Snoyer claims that CottageClass could mean a new solution not just for children but for teachers as well. They are liberated by the opportunity to create their own syllabus and teach as they see fit, which means it is not only the preparation for exams worrying them.

As the future of CottageClass, she mentioned the creation of online products both enjoyable for children and inspiring for teachers to enjoy teaching once again.

“Most children had social anxiety disorder and depression. I have seen several children start to vomit at the thought of exams, and numerous parents cry worrying about the SAT exam. Countless children collapsed spiritually under the weight of having to go to school.”

Snoyer claims that CottageClass could mean a new solution not just for children but for teachers as well. They are liberated by the opportunity to create their own syllabus and teach as they see fit, which means it is not only the preparation for exams worrying them.

As the future of CottageClass, she mentioned the creation of online products both enjoyable for children and inspiring for teachers to enjoy teaching once again.

Six reasons for founding a micro-school

And if organized private learning fails, here are 6 reasons for teachers, parents, and legislators to think about what micro-schools are good for:

Flexibility. Micro-schools change quickly, as it takes significantly less time to receive feedback on their operation. This way, the time for both the feedback and the answer becomes shorter. Generally, operation starts with a test period. In Germany, they created the experimental school model for this purpose, and in the US, 4.0 School Organization helps to prepare educational professionals for testing their ideas by starting an afternoon school or a smaller learning group.

Opportunities. Micro-schools often create new opportunities for community learning using diverse topics, new experience-based learning, and specific career outputs. They are able to place learning in new environments and pay visits to museums, libraries, or partners in the corporate sector more often.

Relationships. Micro-schools typically operate in smaller groups and diverse class years to help with forming close relationships between students and teachers. In the 2-3-room establishments of Wildflower Schools, both learning and administration takes place in identical spaces. Teachers make autonomous decisions about the operation day by day, and as such, they react to the children’s needs and express their teacher’s vision – thus integrating the demands of both the children and the families.

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"Every single child finds something they are good at, which makes them happy and gives them purpose" - Fotó: Csímár Kamilla

Location. Micro-schools can connect to their local environments easier using their local presence. Through these community experiences, children can vastly improve their cooperation skills, become more open-minded towards complex challenges, and test their entrepreneurial spirit and social sensitivity. In Budapest School’s establishment in Újlipótváros, the children are currently sewing a lunch bag which they plan to offer to local cafés to reduce the amount of material used for sandwich packaging in the future.

Authorizing leadership. Micro-schools may emphasize a teacher’s leadership role. In the past few years in Wisconsin, they have opened four new micro-schools for teachers who were ready to achieve fast changes and make their dreams come true. They created a learning environment where even new teachers find it easy to integrate.

New goals. Schools such as NOLA Micro Schools are developing new learning strategies. NOLA helps its students to work on making the world a slightly better place. “Every single child finds something they are good at, which makes them happy and gives them purpose. We assist them in finding their own goals and guide them along the way.” LEADprep operates a smaller network of secondary micro-schools near Seattle. They are using everything at their disposal to strengthen the children’s leadership skills and determination.

Micro-schools are the perfect experimental ground for new educational innovations: it is possible to test new goals, new methods, new tools, new leadership models, and new community connections with low risk and lower costs compared to larger investments.

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